Fernando Fischer was appointed President of RX Americas in November 2020. He tells us why he is proud to lead the company, what excites him most about RX’s digital evolution, and about the joy of returning to live events.

What experiences do you bring to your role as President of RX Americas?

I have been with RX for 5 years now (I was previously President of RX US and CEO of RX Brazil), and I am thankful for all the opportunities the company has provided me to grow. I started my professional experience as a basketball player in Brazil which shaped my life profoundly. Basketball taught me how to face challenges, how to be part of a team, and the importance of determination and resiliency. I am an alum from the University of Rochester and Yale; but, honestly, basketball has provided me with my most important life lessons. Before joining RX I had the privilege of managing seven companies in Brazil, mainly turnaround stories, in many different industries including food service, consumer electronics, plastic, textile, security, and one gaming startup in San Diego. I also had the opportunity to be the CEO of an NGO, which had the primary goal of financially supporting in-need athletes participating in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. I guess it’s a diverse blend of unique experiences, but that’s what we are right?

What makes you proud to lead RX Americas?

Our people! It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to work alongside such talent and to serve our customers in the position that I hold today. As leaders we need to remind ourselves we are here to serve and support the outstanding talents we have in our company. Our team is simply the best. I have no words to thank them enough for caring for our customers and caring for each other. I believe Covid-19 has been the ultimate proof of the resiliency of our industry and the RX family, and it is for our people that I come to work every day.

Covid-19 has had a profound impact on the events industry. How has it reshaped your organisation in the Americas, and what strengths have you drawn from it?

Our lives are based on the expectation of a better future, and Covid-19 removed that from us abruptly, bringing uncertainty to the center of every business and family conversation. This, combined with the challenge of not having our people physically together, has been a test that I had never faced before in my career. In 2020 we had to make a lot of very tough decisions. Now, we are in the final stages of our new organizational structure, aligning the company to create and capture value in a completely different way.  Our sales, digital, marketing and event portfolios are working in synchronicity, with our support areas much closer to our customers. This crisis has made us faster, has helped us to deal with risk like never before, and has allowed us to test products and ideas with a more open-minded mentality. But much still needs to be done. And I know I have to continue to come to work every day to try to make life better and easier for our people, to provide the value that only they can deliver to the communities we serve.

The US, Mexico and Brazil are all now reopen for live events. How are your customers responding?

I like to say that our curve is trending up, but remains bumpy. We had our first event in LATAM in August – IBTM America in Mexico. Brazil is still planning for its first event in October, but with many challenges for sure. As for the US, we were delighted to reopen the doors on JIS (Jewellers International Showcase) in March, and have safely and successfully delivered numerous events since, with a packed autumn schedule ahead.

Although the countries are definitely at different stages, customers are responding in much the same way.  Our larger customers are divided in two main groups – those that have implemented employee travel restrictions and postponed their participation to the next edition; and those who have chosen to go ahead, but in a different, more efficient way, from whom we are hearing positive feedback.  

Our small and medium-sized clients, who rely on events to drive sales, have been hardest hit by the absence of live marketplaces. And those are the ones from whom, when you walk the aisles, you really feel the gratitude and appreciation for all we have done over the last few months. It’s only when you pause and talk to them that you really understand what we do, and why we now proudly say that we are “in the business of building businesses”.

Tell us about a digital innovation from each of your regions that is helping to transform the RX customer experience.

Across the regions, our teams never cease to impress and surprise me. For Mexico, I would highlight their customer centric approach. From the very start of Covid-19, they were able to think about digital from the client’s point of view, creating products and offers in a very simple way, so our customers could easily understand the value they were delivering. Brazil was able to pivot and revisit its offers so quickly that they have already surpassed their digital budget revenue for 2021! The team also created our new ‘Exhibitor Dashboard’, a global tool that is now critical to our digital journey, which enables exhibitors to clearly quantify their ROI in our events and platforms.  One overriding strength of our US team is their speed and testing mentality. We have very quickly created solutions and captured a significant revenue stream. But just as important is their tremendous success in building attendee engagement. To date, over 92K attendees have engaged with our digital initiatives, of whom 53% are new to our database. That’s goldmining, and something we’ve never had before, so kudos to the US team for expanding our communities.

What excites you most about RX’s digital evolution?

The digital evolution is an essential part of the journey we call “customer experience.” We are reinventing ourselves, evolving — and fast. It’s beautiful to see our company adapt, innovate, take risks, test new ways to create and capture value. We are exponentially amplifying the size and quality of our communities, bringing a significant number of new members to these communities every month at a velocity that none of us could ever imagine 18 months ago. Now, the game will shift to conversion of those to the physical events and monetization. RX has created a Center of Digital Excellence and is testing solutions and product offerings globally, adapting best practices with a startup mentality. The new RX branding is also part of this transformation, and it all came from the adversity we have faced with Covid-19. That’s adaptability — probably the most important skill we all need moving forward.

What opportunities can RX Americas offer people looking to progress their career in face to face and digital events?

I want to pause here and acknowledge that this is a subject that keeps me awake at night. 2020 was brutal, but 2021 has seen the evolution of RX into a company where every individual has the opportunity to thrive, and where we progress together. The word that comes to my mind is ‘belonging’; by constantly building trust and engagement, we aim to create growth opportunities for all our talent. We continue to improve our feedback and evaluation processes to advance fairness in our talent development process. We have increased our leadership skills training, and digital innovation has become a focus for constant improvement, both through knowledge sharing and direct talent development. My belief is that RX will become a reference for data, insights and matchmaking. We will continue to create tools, improve processes, hire and develop talents that have the sense of ownership we need to get us there.

What does the future of events look like to you?

I know it’s an oft-heard statement, but Covid-19 was a huge wake up call for our industry. We are pushing forward transformations in 24 months that would normally take us 20 years. There is no other industry that has the power to bring digital and face to face together like we do! Our job is to expand the size of the communities we serve, engage newcomers with the highest possible stickiness level, and convert them to an extraordinary face to face experience. If we build that, our customers will come, 365 days a year.

Originally published in Trade Show Executive.  Read the full article here: https://tse.pub/September2021