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"The real coming together of people is irreplaceable"

Dr. Barbara Leithner has been Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Reed Exhibitions Austria since July 2020, and thus holds overall operational responsibility for the in-house exhibition portfolio. Martina Candillo has managed the guest event business of the Messe Wien Exhibition & Congress Center as Director Congresses & Events since 2018. We invited both of them to an interview.

In light of the COVID-19 crisis, what plans does Reed Exhibitions have for the future as operator of Messe Wien, and what innovations and concepts will be offered?

Barbara Leithner: Following the lockdown in the middle of March this year, a remarkable phenomenon occurred – at least in our environment: namely that a crisis can act as an innovation booster. In practice, this means that our existing and established strategy for sustainably transferring the exhibition and congress business to the digital age is already well under way. We are continuously developing new ideas and concepts for how the analog instrument of a congress or exhibition can best be supplemented with the wide-ranging digital options available. It's a fascinating task, in which we're taking a pioneering role in our industry in Austria.

How would you assess virtual or hybrid meetings, what solutions are practicable?

Barbara Leithner: The real coming together of people in the form of meetings, congresses, exhibitions, etc. will very clearly continue to form the heart of the meeting industry in the future. Because it is irreplaceable. But the digital tools will take up more and more space in an additional, supplemental form. So-called hybrid exhibition formats and meetings are being created. They combine the best of two worlds: the essential real getting together of people with all its experiences and sensory perceptions, and the opportunities and possibilities of the digital age. The digital tools, such as livestreams or virtual presentations, also open the way to new target groups that so far – for all sorts of reasons – have not participated in the pure analog event. Messe Wien is equipped with the latest WiFi 6 technology and offers the ideal technical conditions for this.

What characterizes Vienna as a meeting location, what advantages does it offer?

Martina Candillo: Vienna is modern, cosmopolitan, and historically and culturally unique all at once – an exciting combination. Maximum competence in hospitality, a human touch and professional service focus combine with economic power and a visionary city of knowledge with close international ties. It is no accident that Vienna is home to more than 200 multinational companies and the only UN location in the EU, all embedded in one of the world's most livable cities: perfect underlying conditions for a congress destination. The organizers have also realized this and so Vienna constantly ranks among the world's top 3 meeting cities.

The Messe Wien Exhibition & Congress Center operated by Reed Exhibitions is centrally located in the 2nd district and directly accessible via subway line 2 (Messe-Prater and Krieau stations). The neighborhood is home to the Prater, the campus of the Vienna University of Economics and Business, as well as the business and residential area "Viertel Zwei", plus hotels, restaurants and garages. Vienna Airport at Schwechat can be reached in 30 minutes, the city in five minutes. A total of 73,000 m² of state-of-the-art, flexible infrastructure is available.

The completely accessible Congress Center has a total area of 7,000 m² with its own entrance lobby, registration area and cloakroom. Eighteen flexible meeting units and 24 meeting rooms with a range of different uses are on offer.

Since May 2020, guest organizers of Messe Wien have been able to visualize their future congresses, meetings, exhibitions and events with new spatial planning software. The ultramodern digital visualization and planning tool configures a large number of variables and possibilities, so that room sizes and equipment can be perfectly matched to the individual needs of the organizers.

Since 2018, Messe Wien has been Austria's only event center permitted to carry the title Healthy Venue of the World Obesity Federation. Thus, for example, customers can choose from a range of healthy and high-quality food, and drinking water is also provided free of charge throughout the entire site.

Messe Wien Exhibition & Congress Center, Messeplatz 1, 1020 Vienna, www.messecongress.at

You can find more information about planning an event in the Venue Finder of the Vienna Convention Bureau.

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Subject: Recommendation from www.vienna.info