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There is more to Africa than lions

The IFES mission is to create a stronger understanding about tradeshow marketing on a world scale through networking and sharing knowledge. Firsthand experiences are a most powerful learning tool.

This year’s learning experience location was South Africa. There are 52 million people in South Africa with a wide variety of cultures, languages and religious beliefs. Desmond Tutu coined South Africa as the Rainbow Nation with Cape Town being the oldest city in the country.

English is the language of business, so few were in the dark when it came to communication. Tradeshow meetings and convention facilities in South Africa have grown greatly in recent years.

The business portion of the meeting shared many relevant exhibition industry topics, such as tradeshow activity in South Africa, sustainability movements, exhibit trends and a presentation on tradeshow business in Egypt at the other end of the continent. The success of this year’s meeting was achieved through the strong efforts of IFES board member Justin Hawes of Scan Display, South Africa. The planning and marketing from the team in South Africa paved the way to create enjoyable experiences for attending IFES members and cultures they represent.

Let’s face it, the majority of tradeshow information we are looking for in the expo world can be gathered via the Internet. The one thing the Internet cannot deliver is a personal experience that includes emotion. Exposition industry conferences of this nature create networking opportunities that cannot be duplicated via the internet. Conferences held in unique world locations also offer the attendee a deeper understanding of the people, environment and cultures that cannot be duplicated in any other way. Those who make the time and investment to attend meetings of this nature rank two notches higher on the world expo learning curve.

Here are a few views and impressions from a handful who attended the IFES World Summit:

Did you achieve your business goals?
“I always achieve my IFES goals in networking because I make it happen. I do not simply sit back and wait for business opportunities to come to me. Networking and building trust do eventually generate business – good business!”
– Voicu Sferdianu, Expo Design, Romania

“Our goals for the IFES Summit were both short- and long-term. As a first time attendee, relationships take time to develop and cultivate with both new and old partner relationships.”
– Dara LaMere, 3D Exhibits, USA

“South Africa was truly a sight to see! The camaraderie between IFES country members in the world tradeshow business was a joy to be a part of. The hospitality extended by the South African planning team was amazing! The shared interests between global exhibit suppliers are not much different than those held here in the USA. ECN is dedicated to play a role in helping to connect information and services available through trusted exhibit suppliers and organizations like IFES.”

– Don Svehla, Exhibit City News, USA

“I loved attending and speaking at the IFES Summit and found it to be robust with great content information and industry representation. The professional and cultural diversity of IFES provides a necessary forum for exploring best practices and the exchange of new knowledge in exhibits and events. The World Summit enabled me to really experience the organization in action. The Summit presentations and seminars provided an in-depth exchange, and the integration of local vendors and the lively evening receptions were priceless. Given the nature of my work, it is important to keep abreast of international practices, and being able to meet with representatives from a myriad of countries was very practical as well as enjoyable. I have dedicated my career to developing smart, talented and hungry exhibition designers outfitted for the future of our industry. It was exciting to be able to speak and learn from both IFES and EXSA organizations about our work at FIT.”

– Brenda Cowen, associate professor of exhibit design, FIT Graduate Studies, NYC

If you represent a client for a tradeshow in South Africa, what would you be sure to tell them in preparation?
“The expo centers in South Africa are quite modern but on a smaller scale than expo centers in Europe and the USA. There are many good choices for trusted and experienced expo suppliers. It is best to work with an experienced IFES partner in South Africa.”
– Bruno Meissner, Meissner Expo, Hamburg, Germany

“The number one thing, do not let your expectations get away from you. While certain aspects and places in South Africa are truly at an elite first world level, not everything is. Particularly one needs to be careful with unskilled labor, materials that are perhaps not up to standards or produced in truly environmentally unfriendly ways, and lack of quality infrastructure (highways) outside of urban areas (Cape Town, Johannesburg/Pretoria, and Durban). Anyone coming to S.A. for the first time on a project would be well served by hiring locally!”
– Stephen Benedetti, Heilmaier Messedesign, Munich, Germany

What were your most memorable experiences about South Africa?

“My most memorable experience was listening to one our IFES speakers, Hein Wagner. He is blind and told our group of his achievements in life and how he has managed to go on a daily basis and do things despite his disability to see. Obstacles are in our mind. Being able to trust his peers, made me realize the importance in this, and how this affects our life on a daily basis.”
– Peter Theodorides, Vision Expo, Athens, Greece

“The friendly sights and sounds of South Africa, great food, jumping in a cage with a great white shark, golf along the Atlantic beach with Cape Town in the distance, Nelson Mandela in the hospital, and the whole country in mourning. Like other high end ocean towns, there is a good mix of business and working class. Roads and infrastructure are better than imagined. As an emerging city, Cape Town has many unemployed workers seeking a better life with more money to support their family at home. So it has a similarity to a San Diego coastline city, with a migrant worker population who are poor with many dialects. Locals have a large dependence on tourism to keep a lot of people busy, to a point.”
– Mike Boone, Coastal International, USA

“Without question, the most memorable experience was on the Sunday after the IFES meeting had officially closed. The day started with a Wine Tasting tour through the Western Cape, which was wonderful. But our last stop, at about four in the afternoon, was at a youth home in a suburb of Cape Town. There we met some of the residents and counselors of the home as well as a representative from Food and Trees for Africa. Through this meeting, over 150 trees had been sponsored as a way to off-set our carbon footprint. These trees are donated by Food and Trees for Africa to various centers, such as this one where the kids are given not only the tree itself but the responsibility for nurturing the trees so that they grow and shade the next generation of children. An ancient Chinese saying attributed to Confucius says, ‘When is the right time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. So, when is the right time to plant a tree? Right now.’”
– Stephen Benedetti, Heilmaier Messedesign, Munich, Germany

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