How detailed and in what context are exhibitions as marketing tools educated (or are they educated at all?) at universities and business high schools, how does education cope with fast changing marketing strategies of globalized and local businesses, what role exhibitions play in current marketing strategies, how can fairs and exhibitions be integrated into the academic course of higher education of the business intelligentsia of the future?
These were the highlights of the 2nd CEEEF (Central East European Exhibition Forum) in Brno, Czech Republic on February 22-23, 2004 by Centrex Union (in collaboration with Trade Fairs Brno). At this workshop titled as 'Fair Education' university professors, exhibition organisers and exhibition experts of CEE region and beyond (even of EU - Germany, France, Austria, Netherlands) altogether over 60 participants of 11 countries exchanged their views, shared their experiences and spoke of the future collaboration needs.
During this first ever wide ranging European forum of academic circles and of practical approaches focus was directed towards establishing institutional contacts between practitioners and theory, defining scopes of mutual interests.
AUMA CEO dr. Hermann Kresse presented the changing perception of exhibitions and fairs in the marketing communication mix, the strength and challenges and elaborated on the education of fairs in German educational institutional network.
An attempt was made to regard CEE as one region (on the marketing strategies' point of view). Diverse trends of globalised marketing vs. local (sme) opportunities with completely different feedback requirements, controversy over transparency needs of suppliers and buyers, Central East European buyers (visitors) views of the fairs, educational opportunities of the findings were put forward.
Central East European professors from Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine have brought up their current situations and future expectations, their views on the exhibition market and education of fairs. The event gave excellent opportunity to change experiences and finding stimulating ideas.
Education of students as prospective salesman and buyers were discussed at length. Beyond economic students future engineers, agro-businessmen were also highly ranked as target groups. It was positively taken that e.g. in Poznan this education with international perspective was introduced already at one secondary school as well.
Both sides recognised that to educate fairs is needed on multiple levels: to regular and post-graduate students, to exhibition organisers and with high degree to exhibitors and future visitors - how to use this tool. Some exhibition organisers in CEE like Hungexpo and Trade Fairs Brno did and do courses of education for exhibitors (and for fair organisers at their companies.)
It was agreed by the university professors that the present marketing textbooks do not devote more than a few pages to fairs and exhibitions. The lecturers try to pass deeper knowledge to the students by their individual preparations and invite lecturers from among the exhibition professionals. It was unanimous opinion of the need from the part of higher education and the professors were very open for co-operation, accepting of supporting. Some of them raised their desire from the exhibition organisers to develop exact proposals for better understanding or exhibitions and fairs at universities: for providing access to information, studies, personal involvement of exhibition practitioners in bringing theory closer to praxis, in implementing joint surveys, joint marketing award projects, writing exhibition literature for students etc.
It was agreed that it is of immediate importance to reach top heads of the companies, owners and marketing managers - the exhibitors - to reconsider the efficiency of fairs and exhibitions as key face-to-face business tool.
This event / initiative has started a dialogue between the educational institutions and the exhibition industry and will definitely contribute to integrate exhibitions into the higher education course.