“In-person meetings are really important”

Opines Claudia Kaiser, Vice President, Frankfurt Book Fair, in conversation with All About Book Publishing.

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Frankfurt Book Fair 2021 is all set to be held from October 20-24, 2021 with Guest of honour Canada. After an online event in 2020 due to the pandemic, Frankfurt Book Fair this year present in-person event for the global publishing community. Here, Claudia Kaiser, Vice President, Frankfurt Book Fair, shares her views on the same.

AABP: This pandemic has disrupted the book fairs. How have you adapted to the new circumstances?

Claudia: In 2020, COVID required us to quickly develop a digital fair in just a few months, providing our trade visitors with the ability to continue to conduct business with customers around the world, to engage with experts through our programming, and to even provide opportunities for people to meet serendipitously at The (digital) Hof. This year, we are looking forward to hosting in-person events and meetings while also continuing with our digital program and platforms for those who are unable to attend.

AABP: What has been the exhibitors and visitors’ reactions to a virtual or hybrid option?

Claudia: With a virtual/hybrid fair, we were able to reach far more people from all over the world, giving new attendees the opportunity to watch panels and conferences that were previously hosted only in person, to expand their network, and to continue to make the most of the book fair. Attendees appreciated our efforts to make up for the inability to meet in person.

AABP: Do you think online book fairs are successful?

Claudia: For an international trade fair like the Frankfurter Buchmesse, in-person meetings are really important. Leads or contacts you make during digital meetings are not as viable as the ones you make in a face-to-face meeting. And, for in-person book fairs, you have those chance meetings that are harder to come by in an online book fair. Having said that, we know that many publishers did quite well during the pandemic. Selling rights happens all the time, but building new business is more difficult.

AABP: Once the pandemic is over, would book fairs be the same?

Claudia: Book fairs are still a vital part of the industry. Nothing quite replicates the excitement and energy of everyone coming together in Frankfurt every October. But, it’s hard to predict what will happen after the pandemic. I know many of our exhibitors and trade visitors are eager to get back together in person. And, we hope to continue to engage new visitors through our digital programs and platform as well.

AABP: Do you see the trend for online or hybrid model?

Claudia: Yes, absolutely, hybrid fairs are here to stay for the reasons I’ve given above. We are able to engage with publishers and service providers and authors from around the world who might not have previously been able to attend the book fair. As we continue to get more experience, we improve user experience and develop viable business models.

AABP: What message would you like to give to exhibitors to continue their participation at book fairs – whether online or offline?

Claudia: As I said above, book fairs are still a vital part of our industry. At book fairs, you meet your business partners, you learn ways to improve your business, and you are able to create and build the right and an effective network.

AABP: Do give us highlights what exhibitors and online visitors can expect for FBM 2021.

Claudia: Many exhibitors from over 60 countries have already registered for this year’s fair, although they are not sure if they can travel. Many exhibitors from India have registered, which is very good and surprising. We have heard from everyone that “serendipity” is so important and that is what they are looking forward to again with an in-person fair…the chance meetings that bring opportunities.

This year, we are very thoughtful of providing the same experience for past fairgoers while also adhering to health and safety protocols so attendees feel comfortable while at the Messe.

In addition, we will again be hosting the Frankfurt Conference and other programs online on our website. And, BOOKFEST city returns again with bestseller events, book talks, poetry slams, and other literary events around Frankfurt on all five days of the fair.

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