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IFES World Summit 2024: celebrating 40 years


The International Federation of Exhibition and Event Services (IFES) has concluded its World Summit 2024, held from June 18-22, marking not only the 25th annual IFES event but also the 40th anniversary of the organisation.

This remarkable milestone was celebrated in grand style at a Gala Dinner within the ancient walls of the Castillo Gibralfaro and was attended by many of the past presidents whose leadership has shaped IFES over the decades. Two of IFES’ guiding lights, Torsten Heinze and Justin Hawes were awarded the prestigious Roger Taurant Award a recognition is reserved for IFES members who have shown exceptional generosity in giving of their time, energy and passion to the Federation.

With the theme “Sailing the Seas of Innovation,” this year’s Summit emphasised the need to adapt to our rapidly evolving world and address the challenges it presents. A record number of delegates gathered in the beautiful city of Málaga, Spain, to explore the dynamic exhibition landscape through a compelling program led by experts whose innovative insights provided valuable guidance on navigating this fast-changing industry.

On the evening of June 18, around the 2024 IFES network delegates reunited at Málaga’s celebrated Gran Miramar Hotel. This much-anticipated in-person networking event allowed members to reconnect and orient themselves with colleagues from around the world. Despite the prevalence of individual member interactions over the past year, the annual Summit remains a highlight for fostering personal connections and professional growth. The city of Málaga proved to be an excellent host, embodying the growth and collaboration ethos championed by IFES members and partners.
The business segment of the World Summit began on June 19 with the Annual General Meeting and a thought-provoking panel discussion highlighting how inter-association collaboration promotes industry growth, personal development, and advocacy, benefiting both members and industry segments. Industry leaders Tina Toribaba (Greek Meetings Alliance), Andrew Harrison (Event Supplier and Services Association), and Chris Griffin (The Experiential Designers and Producers Association) shared their valuable experiences and insights.

Committee meetings focused on the IFES Sustainability drive, including initiatives such as the ISO 20121 Training Convoy, Net Zero Carbon Events Initiative, Better Stands and Sustainable Material Database. The ITT (under 40’s young talent) and Education Committees outlined their respective roadmaps for the coming year, which ITT later expanded upon in a workshop on the Future of Work describing how technology and changing industries impact careers for young adults. The Membership and Communication meeting unpacked ways to maximise IFES communication channels, discussed expanding into underrepresented regions, and shared ideas on supporting and growing the network.

Over the following days, a series of esteemed speakers, adeptly steered by MC Han Leenhouts addressed the theme "Sailing the Seas of Innovation," with notable highlights like:
· Futurologist, innovation strategist, philosopher and “professional troublemaker”, Aric Dromi, taking us straight to the core of the Summit theme with his insights into the impact of societal and technological shifts and a deep dive into the opportunities within the exhibition and event services industry,
· Jan Götze of Holtmann+ blowing away any traces of complacency by revealing the transformative power of AI in live events with “Mastering a Perfect Storm,”
· Michael Blackman, managing director of Integrated Systems Europe, showcasing ISE's leadership in innovation and community building,
· Lee Ali, founder of Expo Stars Interactive Workshop, "Navigating Together: Effective Collaboration in the Seas of Innovation" exploring the critical role of teamwork and partnership in fostering creativity and leading successful innovations in our industry.
· Conor Neill offering strategies for resilient leadership during transformative times and inviting us to reassess our ideas of success.
· Guillermo Sevillano of SUMA Architecture exploring integrating ecological and technological elements in design, and
· David Humphreys of Green Circle Solutions introducing the basics of carbon calculation in the events industry.

A focus on Sustainability
As always, IFES's commitment to sustainability was evident throughout the event. The Association offset the get-together’s carbon footprint and presented a Sustainability Showcase highlighting IFES members’ sustainable products, services and best practices with the aim of encouraging faster adoption of sustainability within the IFES community. There were wellness activities incorporated into the program and this year’s beach activities raised funds in support of El Hogar San José de la Montaña, a centre that provides educational support to children and adolescents under administrative protective custody through a residential care program.

Collaboration and Connection
The final day featured "Venues, Organisers, and Service Providers: Unlocking Flexibility through Collaboration" a panel including Michael Blackman (ISE), Mark Serra (Fira Barcelona), Juan Puchalt (Spanish Trade Fairs Association – AFE) and Nathalie Vandeweerdt (The Inside) discussing how organisers and venues can improve flexibility by working closer with service providers – a well-received discussion which is to be continued in the near future. The proceedings concluded with the extremely festive handover to the 2025 Summit host city of Guadalajara, Mexico, amidst a circling mariachi band.

IFES president Philippe Beille remarked, "This year's World Summit not only celebrated our 40 Years of Collaboration but also reinforced our commitment to sustainability, youth development and innovation. The connections made and the insights shared here in Málaga will propel our members and the entire exhibition industry forward."
The essence of the IFES World Summit remains connection. Málaga’s welcoming ambiance and vibrant culture provided the perfect backdrop for meaningful discussions and the forging of lasting relationships. This year’s curated networking opportunities ensured that every participant left with valuable contacts and renewed inspiration for the future.


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