“The World Expo is a unique and unforgettable event. There is nothing like it,” says Martina Haglund, Producer at Wolttigroup.

In partnership with Business Finland, Wolttigroup organised the programme for Finland’s National Day at the Dubai World Expo October 2021. Instead of the traditional ceremonies and protocols, Finns created a show that left a lasting impression on Dubai.

“As the happiest nation in the world, we Finns wanted to bring joy and diversity to the forefront with our theme “Sharing Future Happiness.”

The programme was led by pop kantele player Ida Elina and choir Seminaarinmäen laulajat. Ida Elina performed her version of the event’s theme song. Until the very last minute, it was not even certain if permission to perform the song would be granted. The unique programme received plenty of praise and media attention.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Dubai World Expo, or Expo 2020 Dubai UAE, was being held from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022. Altogether 25 million visitors were expected to arrive particularly from the Arab Emirates and other countries around the Persian Gulf, but also from around the world.

Haglund lead the Wolttigroup production team together with Heli Katajamäki and produced a Fiskars Group event for invited guests.

Emotional imprints from experiences

For 170 years, World Expos have been the place for launching the most amazing technological innovations of each era. The telephone, for example, was first introduced in Philadelphia in 1876, and in 2005, the humanoid robot was introduced in Nagoya, Japan. The venue of the Dubai World Expo, Al Wasl Plaza, is currently the largest free-standing dome in the world and will probably be remembered as an iconic event centre.

For Finnish companies, the Expo is a unique place to launch new innovations and to strengthen business relationships in the area. In Dubai, 120 Finnish companies were featured in the Lumi Pavilion coordinated by Business Finland. Finns presented innovations in clean technology, circular economy, sustainable energy solutions, digitality, education and travel. One of the largest partners was Fiskars Group.

Whilst the Lumi Pavilion was open to the entire audience and was part of building the Finnish brand, the events organised by companies for invited guests were carefully considered customer events. Wolttigroup worked for Fiskars Group, implementing an exhibition for invited guests where they can explore and learn new things about everyday life – from a Fiskars angle. Invited guests could, for example, create flower arrangements in Aalto vases with the help of a florist, engrave in Rogaška crystal or spin a digital wheel of fortune and win a Fiskars or Iittala product.

“We wanted to leave an emotional imprint, so we designed the exhibition to engage visitors in activities and experiences related to the various Fiskars Group brands,” Haglund points out.

In addition to providing experiences, the exhibition was a chance to meet customers individually. This is the way to make everyday business unique, and the feedback from customers tells the same story.

However, Haglund learned that the time frame for signing up for these types of events is shorter in Dubai than it is in Finland.

“We usually ask people to sign up well in advance, at least weeks before the event, but here people sign up at the last minute and don’t even cancel if they can’t make it after all.”

Professional culture of making things happen

The Arab Emirates have put a significant amount of effort into the World Expo.

“The environment and the services are unique and the possibilities to create unforgettable implementations are much greater than in Finland. For example, only five years ago there was nothing but desert where the venue is now. Now this is a city with metro lines and motorways,” says Haglund.

Katajamäki has solid experience in organising events in the Middle East, and Haglund visited Dubai beforehand to get to know the area. They found local partners through Wolttigroup’s own contacts and the Expo organiser.

“The local partners are professional and keen to cooperate. Everyone is excited to be working with Finns. The cooperation has been better than I ever expected. Everything has been done as agreed.”

However, Haglund can point out some cultural differences. Certain things are done differently. Haglund explains that, for example, working with the builders is different in comparison with Finland.

“Even though all the planning, including drawings and orders, has been done in advance with the local partner, the builders still have to be briefed about everything again on the site. In Finland, work is usually carried out according to the plans made in advance.”

“You must also be prepared to pay for everything before anything even gets started, whereas in Finland, you usually receive the bill afterwards.”

Things to remember with the World Expo

  • Visit the area in advance to get to know the location and to establish relationships with the local event organisers.
  • Get special knowhow about the country, for example by hiring a producer who has worked there before.
  • Plan your event better than ever before, but be prepared for changes and learn to live in the moment.
  • The World Expo is the ultimate for an event organiser. Make the most of it.

Want to hear more? Contact: martina.haglund@wolttigroup.fi