Daniella Galante, Digital Marketing & Creative Manager, RX Africa, shares her experiences as a winner of UFI’s 2022 Next Generation event leadership grant and reveals how the NGL’s new talent narrative for the global events industry is already being applied at RX.

In April 2022 I was chosen as one of six recipients for UFI's Next Generation Leadership Grant - with our mission being to devise “A New Talent Narrative” for the events industry. I was invited to attend the UFI European Congress in May in Poland and the UFI Global Congress in November in Oman; experiences that gave us insight into global exhibition practices while connecting us to likeminded event professionals from all over the world.

The Next Generation Leadership grant from the global exhibition’s association UFI, is set to make a difference in our industry. We are six young event professionals, with expertise spanning digital marketing, sales, tech, and events management, and we were tasked to redefine the talent narrative within our industry. It's an ambitious mission - how can we retain and attract top level candidates?

Through the 8-month programme, I was connected with people from a variety of backgrounds and cultures, allowing me to gain valuable knowledge about global exhibition practices and even career opportunities. During this time, I also worked closely with my five fellow grant recipients: individuals from diverse genders, races and countries who all shared an ambition to make an impact within the industry. We had bi-monthly meetings for the first five months, which then progressed into weekly meetings as we approached the Congress – it was quite a task coordinating diaries across four different continents and time zones, but we made it work.

The purpose of our mission ‒ to create a new talent narrative ‒ pushed us to explore more meaningful ways to identify and develop potential event talent. We looked at everything from traditional recruitment and training practices to trends within other industries, as well as the importance of creating a positive workplace culture that fosters growth. To gain the clearest insight into how talent feel about working in the exhibition industry, we worked closely with UFI to build relationships and establish connections. Our expert mentors consulted us throughout, while our HR Working Groups guided us on key challenges and trends within their sector. We wanted to go beyond surface level understanding, so dove deep through an industry survey which revealed what employees loved/disliked most about the industry, as well as verifying if we were heading down a fruitful path or not, from both an internal and external perspective.

After eight months, we were thrilled to present our insightful findings with hundreds of top executives at the UFI Global Congress in Oman and received an overwhelming response! Our session was met with a standing ovation – marking my first public speaking experience as one that I will never forget. The overall journey gave me such meaningful exposure within this industry on an international stage ‒ truly broadening my outlook and knowledge of the global exhibitions culture. This network of passionate people push boundaries, advance industries, and experience immense emotional satisfaction in the work they do – which is why having access to global events like the UFI conferences can be a game changer for any prospective employee looking to discover more about their career path and our industry.

 The knowledge I have acquired through this experience can be applied in many areas of our organisation. To begin with, it is important that we assess recruitment processes to ensure they are equitable and accessible for all candidates regardless of their background or identity; something which could lead to better employee satisfaction and performance in the future. RX is committed to delivering inclusive events, and to fostering an equitable and inclusive working environment that serves the needs of all candidates regardless of their background or identity. I believe this will result in increased employee satisfaction and performance over time. Our dedication to diversity is evident through our exhibitors, buyers, media partners and employees – a collective whose backgrounds strengthen each show experience for everyone involved. At RX everyone belongs!

Additionally, it is essential that we implement strategies which focus on personal development opportunities so that employees feel supported in their exhibition careers by their leaders while they continue to grow their skillset. This is why it’s so important for us to ensure we work on our Enabling Performance (performance evaluation) reviews – this is a powerful tool to enable employees to speak openly with their managers about where and how they want to grow within the organisation.

Moreover, providing employees with mental health initiatives such as flexible and remote working and wellness programmes will help them achieve better physical health too ‒ something which needs to be recognised as part of any successful organisation’s success criteria. RX values its employees' holistic wellness and is committed to helping them in any way possible. That's why they've invested into ICAS, a comprehensive platform that assists with mental, physical, financial, and spiritual well-being. More than providing access to resources for our global staff, RX also strives towards creating flexible work arrangements ‒ something I can personally vouch for! As an immigrant from South Africa relocating all the way to Canada while still working remotely for RX speaks volumes about how they care about keeping their talent happy, no matter where on earth they may be located.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would get the opportunity to ride a camel in the Wahiba Sand Desert, swim in a desert oasis (the Wadi Bani Khalid), eat a Polish croissant (very different to a French croissant) or cycle the streets of Poland.

This experience has taught me a lot about myself – my resilience, determination and my ability to adapt. I faced a few obstacles on my journey to the UFI Global Congress, yet I adapted quickly and persevered through it all. Having just emigrated to Canada before the UFI Global Congress, presented me with a difficult decision - attend or not at all. In order for me to attend the Congress, I had no choice but to fly back home to South Africa right after it ended because I hadn’t yet received my Canadian Permanent Resident card before the event.  This didn’t stop me from pursuing this incredible opportunity – so I spent five weeks in South Africa waiting for a visa so I could return to Canada. Missing out on this opportunity was simply unacceptable – I found a way and I’m so happy I did.

 Watch the 2022 Next Generation Leadership presentation here.