International Summer University

Time and date for the 2020 International Summer University for the exhibition industry #isucologne will be announced in the due course! Stay tuned!

What is it?

The ISU is aimed at professionals working within the trade fair industry and provides an interactive educational platform for the exchange of strategic and operational knowledge. Industry professionals from around the world form a learning community to discuss themes that are critical to the success of the industry.

Why participate?

  • Gain an overview of present market trends in the trade fair industry
  • Enrich your business network
  • Enhance your professional value
  • Grasp the value of digitalization
  •  Learn to think differently and unconventionally

Vital information

  • Annually changing focus
  • 3 intensive days of lectures, discussions and networking
  • Top-class speakers
  • Highly interactive workshops and industry case studies

What do you get at the end?

Networking opportunities, added expertise and a personal certificate signed by the responsible university professors and the UFI CEO.

11th ISU – 2019

Transforming Exhibitions: Core competencies of tomorrow’s matchmaking

“Personally I am very grateful to have attended this year’s  International Summer University.  Such a relevant and high-class programme to bring together trade fair professional from around the world. The ISU gave me the opportunity to gain insights into the latest ideas and solutions on effective matchmaking strategies and I got to exchange with fantastic speakers. The best practice examples displayed solutions that I can implement in my day-to-day work. I also very much appreciated the networking opportunities with my international colleagues, crucial for exchange and to help spark new ideas. ISU delivered this and much more…!” Csaba Vörös, Exhibition Director at HUNGEXPO – GL Events, Hungary.

Match-making is becoming increasingly important for the success of an exhibition: trade fair organizers are no longer just to sell spaces and services but to bring together the offer with the most qualified demand possible. ISU 2019 gave me the opportunity to listen to experiences from international speakers and to confront myself with a class composed of a very high-level group. The information I learned in three days increased my personal knowledge of match-making and certainly improved my future work. ISU means education, experience, networking.” Alessio Fineo – Project Manager Deutsche Messe, Italy.

As a first-time attendee, I was not sure what exactly to expect from the International Summer University (ISU). Now that I’m back at work, I can say that it was a very good decision to have taken part in these three days in Cologne. I’ve got to know new people from the other trade fair venues with similar challenges and the exchange with them was very valuable for me. At my project, the cybersecurity summit Command Control, we’re about to install a whole new and diverse matchmaking offer for our attendees and I brought back some input and new ideas on how to make it a success. I can really recommend the ISU to my fellow exhibition industry peers and hope they get a chance to attend!Christina Rabl, Conference Manager Command Control, Messe München, Germany.

About the Event

With excellent speakers, university professors, marketeers, ADR professionals and a dream crowd of participants, the 2019 International Summer University was a great success.

The first day of the ISU focused on the changing ecosystem that we operate in, how it affects our industry and how it impacts our success stories. A workshop on agile leadership concluded the day at the Incube8 of Koelnmesse offering great icebreaker for the networking Dinner at KoelnSKY.

Ready to re-inventing our matchmaking strategy, the second day offered plenty food for thought. Lectures, presentations, best practice examples and role-plays kept the participants and speakers on their feet. #bacteriamarketing #opensourcemarketing #contentcreator #startups #negotiation #harvard #venuetour

Tried and Tested: The 11th ISU concluded with excellent best practice examples from outside of the exhibition industry to spark ideas on how to learn from one another. #AI #digitalinnovation #personalchemistry

Programme    Speakers

10th ISU – 2018

Engine of Change – Unleash Digital Potential to Drive Innovation and Sales

The theme was “Engine of Change – Unleash Digital Potential to Drive Innovation and Sales” and the programme included a wide range of
academic content and practical exercises to provide a comprehensive overview of the issues involved.

55 industry professionals from 13 countries attended the programme.

Lectures and workshops focused on top industry issues, such as digitisation, innovation and sales, customer engagement, virtual reality, cross-media
approaches and matchmaking. Special attention was given to data analysis technologies that allow analysts to better recognise customer habits and needs. In addition, speakers highlighted the important role that start-ups and new technologies play in the event industry, and how business models of traditional
companies can be changed to represent resources and innovative standpoints.

The programme finished with an interactive key learning session to combine the perspectives of organisers and exhibitors with those
of digital and communications experts.

ISU was organised by the Institute of Trade Fair Management at the University of Cologne in cooperation with UFI, Koelnmesse and

“Meeting and exchanging ideas with colleagues from all over the world is a valuable ISU experience. You will find new inspiration and above all ideas for continuous improvement.” Patrick Dehner & Florian Weller, Landesmesse Stuttgart GmbH

“The ISU offers added value through the diversity of participating international companies and the combination of theory in the morning and practice in the form of afternoon workshops. Another important aspect was the networking which was taken up again and again during the event.” Holger Friesz, Ungerboeck Systems International GmbH.


9th ISU – 2019

“Cutting-Edge Services – Tipping the Scale for Exhibition Success”

Arthur Tolentino, Head of Sponsorship, Messe Frankfurt Middle East commented: “ISU is one of the most intra-personal and interactive training I’ve attended so far. It is an excellent platform to learn, interact and network with industry colleagues. The organiser put a great job in putting together such an amazing programme and expert speakers from different industries. Highly recommended. Hope to attend again next year for the 10 Year Anniversary”.

Heike Helmrath, Business Development, Kuhne + Nagel, a repeat participant: “Always a nice mix of participants from venues, organisers and exhibition related people at ISU. The speakers range from professors to practising professionals, gives a good overview and keeps it lively. Koelnmesse is the perfect host venue, providing a lovely location for effective networking. A good opportunity to meet and discuss the newest trends of the exhibition industry.

8th ISU – 2018

“Customer Journey – Touring the Trade Fair Touchpoints”




The topics we discussed at the ISU 2016 truly changed my attitude towards customer management. The event was well organised and I had the chance to make use of fabulous networking opportunities.

— Okay Basbug, Foreign Affairs Deputy Manager, World Trade Center Istanbul (Tutrkey)

For me the most convincing aspect about the 2016 ISU, was the combination of networking opportunities, content-related lectures and workshops. In particular, the group dynamics’ and open mindedness of the other participants, as well as the speakers inspired me.

— Oscar Prat van Thiel, Commercial & Marketing Director, Nanjing Stuttgart Joint Exhibition Ltd.(Germany)

I highly appreciated the variety of subjects dealt with at ISU 2013. It was a great opportunity to look at the innovation process from different angles.

Didier Peier, MCH Group (Switzerland)

I received several stimulating ideas for my work at home.

Wu Xiao Feng, Professor Department of Commerce Management (Guilin Institute of Tourism, China)


Pictures from 2015 ISU