Exhibitions face ‘radical’ future driven by tech
Future exhibitions will have “radical elements” which help bring business people together using technology, an industry leader has predicted.
Eleni Lialiamou, EVP of product management at Informa Markets, believes new technology and the information it brings is a gamechanger in the development of tradeshow offerings.
She highlighted how digital acceleration has hit every industry – even impacting the way we live, communicate and transact – as the main driver behind improvement.
Speaking at the ExpoPlatform Digital Leaders session, Eleni said: “The big question I asked myself is ‘what would an event look like in 10 years? Does it really contain the same components as it does now?’
“The other big element is the generational shift that we as an industry and our communities are experiencing.
“The upcoming view and expectations of next generations who see the world differently, that engage differently even in their professional life, that are used to a different way of how you connect and how you build trust.
“What is really interesting in exploring this space is what is an event going to look like when it actually gets engaged with the next two generations following us.
“I believe it will have radical elements that it doesn’t have today, while at the same time putting the human connection at the centre of it – because that’s what really brings humans together.”
Visit our events on-demand section to watch the Re-imagining event experiences webinar with Eleni.
Informa Markets calls this new tech-driven future format of our industry a Smart Event.
It uses digital tools to increase the value of in-person show for all participants.
She added: “Everything we do is becoming smarter and smarter, in the true sense of being able to optimise the function that it performs.
“It’s either because they get more out of it because it’s efficient or because it really tries to create memorable experiences for us.
“Everything is becoming smart. What that really means is using technology, which has progressed significantly and is still progressing significantly.
“It’s using good information to allow us to make better, more efficient decisions which allow us to form connections.”
New technology as a problem solver
Eleni’s role at Informa Markets sees her working to improve the organiser’s product offerings.
New technologies play a crucial role in gathering information to provide deep insights into what is working – and what is not – at their events.
This involves an attitude of trial and error without fear of getting it wrong, but learning fast to grow.
She said: “One of the big things you do as a product manager is to have an approach of trying things and failing fast.
“You have to have the mentality of being very empathetic and really understanding the problem you’re solving.
“Regardless of how big or small that change is – it could be a very small thing you’re changing on your event up, or it could be an entirely new journey you’re creating.”
Eleni added: “It’s very important to know that not everything is going to work – it’s a foundational principle, you have to be in that learning mindset.
“You’re observing, you’re taking action and then you’re measuring the outcome so that you can take new action.”
This means that sometimes features have to be retired if they have reached a point where they are no longer useful.
Eleni claimed “very good product managers” know their role is also about about removing features and “really understanding the things that truly matter”.
Organisers in ‘position of strength’
At the core of product development is using data alongside human interaction that organisers have the advantage of getting with their audience.
Innovations come as a result of small improvements using insights from both digital and real-life information gathered in this process.
Eleni said: “Innovation is not necessarily a eureka moment. There are examples for so many innovators with the common thread that they were on it for much time.
“It wasn’t that they’re failing in trying to innovate, they were actually constantly testing new approaches and ultimately there was something that worked.
“Innovation is often incremental. Innovation can happen in small things that we don’t necessarily think are big ideas.”
She added: “It’s quality information about our audiences – about their activities, about their products, about critical supply chains and elements of what they do more holistically.”
“All of those are building blocks for a team to actually pull together in different ways that actually then create something that didn’t exist – that is innovation.”
Download our AI Blueprint to learn how you can make use of data science in exhibitions.
Her belief is that exhibition organisers have an advantage over industries who only do business digitally.
That is because they can complement the physical event with technology to build a deeper understanding or their audience – something which is “hard to replicate”.
She said: “My belief is that exhibition organisers are in a position of strength, because they bring people together.
“Some other things that can happen digitally – through information, through technology, through quality data – to help them solve other problems.
“They’re in a position to bring them together, which is a unique competitive advantage versus somebody that could purely allow them to transact, connect or do business digitally.
“That would be one point that exhibition organisers should consider as part of their strategy – they have something that is hard to replicate.”
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