Trade Fairs as Inspiring Business Platforms

Interview with Dr. Jochen Köckler, CEO, about Deutsche Messe AG

Dr. Jochen Köckler, CEO, about Deutsche Messe AG
Dr. Jochen Köckler, CEO, about Deutsche Messe AG

In a world where digitalization and sustainability are not just trendy terms, but fundamental pillars for future-oriented corporate strategies, Deutsche Messe AG positions itself as a leader in the industry. In an exclusive interview with Wirtschaftsforum, Dr. Jochen Köckler, CEO of Deutsche Messe AG, discusses the company's ambitious goals, the digital transformation in the trade fair industry, and the comprehensive measures for promoting sustainability. From innovative digital visitor guides to ambitious climate goals for a CO2-neutral future – Deutsche Messe AG is setting new standards. Dr. Jochen Köckler also provides insights into the challenges and visions for the trade fair business and shares personal highlights of his career, underscoring the close connection between people, technology, and progress.

Wirtschaftsforum: What does the future of Deutsche Messe AG look like in your eyes, Mr. Dr. Köckler? What are the big plans and dreams?

Dr. Jochen Köckler: We have an ambitious and clear vision for the future. Our primary goal is to develop our trade fairs into the leading business, knowledge, and inspiration platforms of their respective sectors. We want the Deutsche Messe brand to be perceived as a leader in digitalization, sustainability, and customer orientation. For this, we rely on innovative and emotionally appealing event concepts worldwide. We link these with first-class infrastructure and excellent service. However, we also want to make clear the essential contribution we as a trade fair company make to society: We bring together people who pursue a common goal: to advance innovations, promote sustainability, and increase prosperity.

German Fair Outdoor Area
German Fair Interschutz

Wirtschaftsforum: The world is online - how is Deutsche Messe AG jumping on this digital bandwagon? Can you name a few cool digital innovations that are coming soon?

Dr. Jochen Köckler: As in all sectors, digitalization is crucial in the trade fair industry to significantly increase customer benefits. Over the past few years, we have already taken significant steps - be it digital visitor guidance via app, as well as other digital solutions that make it easier for visitors to find the right exhibitors.

For the future, we are focusing on digital visitor tracking, for example, to provide our exhibitors with precise information about visitor groups, their movement profiles, and interests. Furthermore, artificial intelligence (AI) will play an increasingly central role in the trade fair business. A promising approach is the use of technologies like ChatGPT to assist in exhibitor and product searches.

Wirtschaftsforum: Sustainability is the big deal - how is Deutsche Messe AG making the world a little greener? Do you have a few examples of how your trade fairs are becoming more environmentally friendly?

Dr. Jochen Köckler: For us, sustainability is not just a buzzword but a central pillar of our corporate philosophy. The goal of our company-wide sustainability project Fair2Future is to become C02-neutral by the year 2035. A particular focus is on the areas of energy, mobility, and waste management. For example, we have been using exclusively green electricity for several years. We are also revising our range of rentable booths by increasingly focusing on CO2-poor and energy-efficient components. Such as recyclable floor coverings, graphic materials, and LED lighting.

German Fair Hannover Messe
German Trade Fair Industrial Transformation

Wirtschaftsforum: What new, exciting places are you focusing on for Deutsche Messe AG? Are there countries in which you would particularly like to organize a trade fair?

Dr. Jochen Köckler: Internationally, we are already well represented. With subsidiaries in Australia, China, Italy, Canada, Mexico, India, among others, and a worldwide network of representatives. However, we want to continue to grow in this area. For this purpose, we have specifically created a new division: "New & Global Business Development". Its core task will be to conceptualize and advance new trade fairs domestically and internationally.

Wirtschaftsforum: What keeps you awake at night, Dr. Köckler? What major challenges does Deutsche Messe AG face, and how do you address them?

Dr. Jochen Köckler: Given the economic conditions and the cost pressure in many companies, participation in trade fairs is scrutinized every year. Therefore, trade fair organizers must be even closer to the topics and challenges of the respective industry to design their trade fairs in such a way that they create real added value for the exhibiting companies and the visitors. It is no longer enough to hold a trade fair once a year. Also, throughout the year, points of contact must be established to keep the trade fair relevant to the target groups.

That's why we organized a new Hannover Messe Conference on AI for the first time in January. This creates a focal point for the AI community and a suspenseful buildup to the Hannover Messe in April, where AI will play a central role.

This, of course, also requires a rethink within our company. The teams must adjust to being part of the communities that meet at our trade fairs to identify the trends and topics of the industry. Only in this way can we tailor every event specifically to the current and future trends of the industry.

German Fair Hannover Messe
German Fair PS Days

Wirtschaftsforum: What will trade fairs look like in 10 years? Do you have exciting visions or crazy ideas for the future?

Dr. Jochen Köckler: I am convinced that the core of trade fairs will not change. People will still want to meet in person in 10 years to be inspired, to build trust with business partners, and to understand complex technologies. This was also shown by the restart after the Corona: People do not want to meet and inform themselves online only.

What will change, however, are the framework conditions. The so-called customer journey will be completely digitally supported and B2B fairs will increasingly have an event character. This will play an important role, especially for the younger target group, which we also want to attract to trade fairs.

Wirtschaftsforum: In conclusion, something personal: What was your brightest moment at Deutsche Messe AG? Is there a project that is particularly dear to your heart?

Dr. Jochen Köckler: Of course, at every trade fair you meet a wide variety of impressive people and high-ranking state representatives, but what I particularly remember was the visit of the then US President Barack Obama at the HANNOVER MESSE 2016. That was really something special.

Strategically, my focus is currently on aligning our company more closely with the customer. For this, a company-wide project is underway with the goal of aligning all processes so that they create real added value for the customer. And all of this in turn pays into our vision: to organize trade fairs that are the leading business, knowledge, and inspiration platforms in their respective industries.