In this episode Mark Felstead introduces Björn Kempe, a German events professional with several stories to tell and projects launching from the ashes of the pandemic’s wildfire effect:
Björn, originally from Halle in eastern Germany, has over 20 years’ experience representing and brokering trade fair deals for organisations in Asia – whether Singapore, Shanghai, Bangkok or Hong Kong – he has seen them all.
He is now living in Berlin and shares his memories and insights here with Mark Felstead. His career has included time working for CologneMesse in Asia and also a stint as MD of Comexposium and, although living in Berlin, is still very much in the tradefair business with a focus on Asia and the brokerage business.
Björn gives his take on how the pandemic passed through the events industry like wildfire but yet led to the sprouting of new green shoots.
“The last 18 months have not been easy, but gave me a valuable break. Because I travel 500,000 miles a year and have 16-hour days. I never had enough time to think about business. It gave me a chance to think about what we are doing and where it is all going, and what sort of fertiliser is needed to make more green shoots grow. Now it is a time to prepare for whatever comes after.” After diving into the hybrid events market and event tech world and exploring the potential of the digital platforms, he confesses he is still very much an advocate of the face to face approach and its superiority.
Björn talks of more consolidation to come in the exhibition industry post-Covid. He foresees four or five global players in five years’ time with lots of smaller players, but believes the entire mid-cap sector will disappear. Face to face will endure because of the random element. “You can never have this on a technical platform. Digital matchmaking elements will improve and become a standard component. Our industry is one of the oldest in the world, two people meet and if they like something, it’s a handshake and they sign something off.”
Björn explains his new book project, the newly completed: ‘The future of trade fairs, events and congresses’ . Twenty-six authors, 13 men and 13 men, all at C-Level within the industry, give their views on the future. And they are all different. “It is like science fiction and everyone adds to the story,” he says, adding: “It gives various perspectives on where our industry might be heading.” ‘Out of the box’, ‘New platforms, ‘Monetisation’ and ‘Digitalisation’ are the four chapter headings.
Björn somehow has found time to work on a financial product – a publicly listed fund. The idea is for it to invest in MICE companies around the world. “Such a fund never existed before and towards the end of the year there will be an internationally listed MICE index,” he promises.
Björn also shares some cultural insights based on his experience in Asia and also some golden nuggets of advice regarding cultural differences between East and West. “It is not always about being direct in business; sometimes be prepared to take a few detours to find a more pleasurable journey and often better results,” he notes.
He is also optimistic about the German capital’s future for visitor uplift. “At the moment Berlin is not Berlin. The tourists are missing and the clubs are closed. It will come; the city is a start up hub with lots of young people. Many German travellers are returning and the beauty of Berlin is the diversity. You don’t feel like a typical German here!”
Check out Björn Kempe’s book project here