It’s Festivalisation Time!

The complete overhaul of the east wing of Messe Essen’s convention centre has taken some time but Oliver P. Kuhrt, CEO of Messe Essen and Andrea Hölker, Project Coordinator for IPM ESSEN, are pleased that they are now in the homestretch to the New Messe Essen. Read on about the do’s and don’ts for a successful trade show and the expectations for IPM Essen 2019.

The countdown is on for Messe Essen’s 36th annual event IPM Essen, which is set to take place January 22-25, 2019. All preparations are on schedule. Ms. Andrea Hölker: “The modernisation of the Messe Essen has taken some years but we are pleased that we are on the homestretch to the New Messe Essen. The last construction phase has begun and we have already been able to utilise large parts of our new site. Feedback from our exhibitors and visitors has been overwhelmingly positive so far. In 2019, IPM ESSEN will need temporary halls for the last time. From 2020 onward, the world’s leading fair for horticulture will then take place in one of the most modern fair sites in Germany, in halls flooded with natural daylight. New ground-level halls will permit two-storey, sophisticated booth construction. Moreover, the next IPM will already profit from the new Service Centre. Located in the middle of the fair site, exhibitors will be given a new central port of call for all their concerns here – immediately before, during and after the fair.”


Kuhrt says that the fair business is naturally very competitive and requires a lot of flexibility. “On the one hand, we are experiencing the festivalisation of fairs. Fairs are becoming events. Here, emphasis is placed on the experience. On the other hand, fairs are increasingly developing into special-interest events. These constitute unadulterated, exclusive trade events with the focus on a clearly defined target group of visitors. We are serving both trends at Messe Essen.”

IPM Discovery Center

Hölker added that people expect a fair experience which is tailored to their first-rate, specialist orientation but one that entertains them at the same time. “A fair must trigger the feeling that you must be involved. IPM ESSEN may probably be cited as a prime example amongst our B2B fairs – a top-class trade fair for specialists from all over the world which, with its exclusive supporting programme (e.g. live shows in the Florist Event Centre), will captivate the public and arouse its enthusiasm. IPM Essen’s new IPM Discovery Centre will place its faith in discovering things and experiencing them yourself as a result of unusually designed booths, tours with experts, workshops, lectures and discussion forums. The visitors will enter, so to speak, their own worlds which they will explore virtually. Here, exhibitors will not present any pure products but will instead show courageous and trendy merchandising concepts. Visitors, predominantly representatives of the retail trade or from garden centres, will thus obtain new ideas, inspirations and clear recommendations for action for POS designing suitable for the future.”

Totally different expectations

Kuhrt acknowledges customising is a subject which has arrived in the fair business, too. “Today, participants in the sector, on both the exhibitor and visitor sides, have totally different expectations with regard to fairs. They would like the most individualised breadth possible in a defined area so at avoid much lost time while attending. This is what customers have become accustomed to when pursuing a digital platform such as Amazon or Netflix.”

With around 98% of B2B procurement customers have already familiarised themselves on the internet beforehand, having already seen 50% of the product before they visit a trade show. IPM Essen clearly states it is  “digital first”.  Kuhrt: “Digital services are playing a greater role in organising fairs, not only for exhibitors but also for visitors. Whether preparation, booking or registration – our customers want to use a quick, uncomplicated and preferably digital service. For our exhibitors, we have set up a central digital platform which can be used to control and order just about everything. There they can maintain and manage their own fair profiles, answer contact inquiries or order car park tickets.”

Digitalisation is bringing convenience to both exhibitors and visitors and new, interesting revenue streams for Messe Essen, for example by marketing new digital advertising spaces. For IPM ESSEN, this means that the 2019 show has already debuted on the World Wide Web.

Fair app

IPM ESSEN is seeing continual growth in the use of digital services – not only by exhibitors but also by visitors. The introduction of a fair app with an integrated list of exhibitors from which you can select your favourites directly, add notes and obtain contact and product information, went down very well. Hölker: “Within the framework of the apps, we will also utilise beacons in our halls in order to point out exciting programme items to the users directly in situ. And the matchmaking function of the website which brings visitors together with exhibitors is being used actively too. Of course, the admission ticket is also available in digital form as a QR code on a smartphone. Visiting the fair has never been easier or efficient.”

A need for trust

However, digital tools are not everything. “Because business transactions are concluded between people,” stresses Kuhrt.”There is a need for trust and that only arises in the direct exchange of ideas in person. For this reason, the principle of fairs will be highly relevant in the future, too. Especially in the ornamental plant sector, IPM ESSEN is indeed a particularly sensual and emotional fair. After all, flowers and plants are easiest to sell when customers can discover their appearance, fragrance and distinct qualities in person.”

Staying true to core values

IPM Essen is highly committed to staying true to its core values and Kuhrt finds it difficult to make a statement about cross-selling opportunities. “Where does it start and where does it end? What applies to one sector does not necessarily apply to another. For example, IPM is a highly specialised trade fair where the top decision makers in the worldwide green sector meet up in order to shape the future. This fair focuses on the element which connects everything, i.e. the plant. In times when 360° events are losing significance, you have to return to them time and time again. But when it is a question of marketing this plant in the best way possible, marginal products are indispensable. With the IPM Discovery Centre, we are explicitly offering concepts which specifically make use of this: plants and barbecue, plants and fashion, plants and furniture etc. Nevertheless, we do not make any claim to wanting to be not only a plant fair but also a furniture or fashion fair.”

Currently competition between trade show organisers is fierce. Kuhrt concludes by saying that the trade exhibition that holds all the cards is “the one which is set up in the most flexible way and is capable of identifying trends and reacting to them, preferably before they even become popular. Our formula for success is: Take a unique concept, add first-class service and a modern infrastructure and finally spice it up with an ample portion of passion.”

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