This interview with Stephan Forseilles was taken from Exhibition World.

The recently launched ExpoNetwork Academy, an online knowledge and training learning platform designed exclusively for the exhibition industry, is now open and equipping exhibition professionals with the essential skills they require in these times of huge uncertainty and rapid change to business models.

There is a range of courses to enrol in and EW asked Stephan Forseilles – head of the transformation of Easyfairs, about the course he is running as part of the programme and why he decided to participate in the project?

“I have always been passionate about pushing the industry forward in the Digital age and not being ‘uberized’ as it happened to others. Until now I’ve done it through keynotes, presentations, articles and seminars, but ExpoNetwork Academy gave me another option which, I think, is even more impactful. Knowledge has a particularity that physical goods don’t have: sharing it enriches you. Being able to speak about a subject in a didactical way forces you to have a very clear and structured vision of it. So, creating those courses also gives me an opportunity to make time to research and reflect on some topics that I’m interested in. What I share in my courses is just the result of this process.”

What is your particular course about and who is it aimed at?

“Digital’ encompasses a lot of technical subjects: Cloud computing, SaaS, A.I., Big Data… There are numerous courses on those for and from experts. But, surprisingly, very few of those courses aim at explaining those subjects in a simple and business-oriented way for people who do not intend to become experts but instead want to get a good understanding of those topics and why they are so important in today’s business world. As an ex-software developer who moved into management 20 years ago, I think this is a huge gap to fill.

“Think about a CEO who has to make investment decisions in those technologies. Or a board member who needs to influence a company’s strategy for the future. Or a CFO who needs to validate a technical department’s budget where most of the costs are for those areas. They simply cannot make informed decisions without having a basic understanding of those digital concepts, but also how they influence business and strategy. They need to be able to understand how ready (or unprepared) their company is for Digital and how they can move forward. Those are the people for whom I made the course.”

Why do you think it’s important for ‘non-digital managers’ (as you call them) to have a good understanding of what digital is about?

“First, Digital technologies are tools. If you don’t understand and use those tools you won’t be able to compete with others who will. Imagine, for example, that you were a bank or an insurance company in 1970 and you said: ‘We will never, ever, use computers! We’ve always done great without them’. Where would you be now? Still shuffling through paper files or, most likely, bankrupt? It is important that those new technologies are not confined to the ‘IT department’ (that really sounds old-fashioned) because they are not only tools for improving productivity but also doors to new products and business models.

“That brings me to the second, more important reason why it’s important for managers to understand Digital: those technologies are changing the society and those who won’t change with it will simply disappear. Think about Nokia which thought that the smartphone was a niche market, or about Kodak which didn’t want to push digital photography to protect film revenues. That is what being ‘uberised’ means and that is why it is so important that every manager understands what it is about and why it is important.”

What are your ideas for other future courses?

“One of the topics I’m discussing, reading and reflecting a lot about is, of course, online and hybrid events. I would also love to share some of my 20 years of (good and bad) experience in managing software development and engineering teams. The possibilities are endless, as I’m learning every day and I like sharing what I learn.”

Take a look at the Digital Transformation course