ExpoPlatform at the Scottish events comeback
EVENTIT was the return to major live events in Scotland.
The ExpoPlatform Team was there in Edinburgh for this landmark moment among hundreds of delegates keen to hear about how our industry is developing.
Meanwhile, the show’s education programme took the form of a new hybrid format – combining face-to-face, pre-recorded and virtual panels as well as masterclasses to give delegates all-round access.
Here, we highlight three of the main topics from these sessions during the event at the EICC on Friday.
Sustainability is a priority
Sustainability was a key issue for many attending EVENTIT, with venues, suppliers and organisers all taking on the topic.
The subject was placed centre stage by even having a room focussing completely on it as part of its education programme.
However, the importance of sustainability for the future of our industry was discussed outside of this area – most interesting as part of the Building Back Better schedule.
Rob Davidson, of MICE Knowledge, gave a “masterclass” session about how to rethink events for Gen Z.
He told the audience this demographic is now the largest age group on the planet, representing 32% of the world’s population.
Rob said: “They want something completely different to guys my age.
“If we continue to design events for people my age then the younger generations will not be motivated.
“They will walk away because they are wired differently.”
He added: “It’s an important generation which is growing quickly.
“Their values are overtaking the values of the previous generations – that’s effecting not only the workplace, but politics and culture.”
Millennials are those who were born between 1981 and 1996 whereas Gen Z are people who were born from 1997 onwards, according to the Pew Research Center.
More than half of the global workforce will be made up of these cohorts by 2025 before rising to around three-quarters by 2030, according to ExpoPlatform analysis of UN population projections.
Rob listed a number of areas which are important to Gen Z and how the world they have grown up has impacted their outlook.
The climate crisis was highlight as a key issue for this demographic, while they are also much keener to “want to make a difference” than enjoy lavish champagne receptions.
He told how the emergence of Gen Z meant organisers now have a demographic which places their ethical values much higher on the agenda than previous generations.
Speaking to ExpoPlatform, he told how event experiences would now have to be built differently to cater for these new priorities.
Rob said: “Sustainability was important for previous generations as well, but for younger people it’s not just a nice-to-have thing it’s a really essential thing.
“They care much more, they have understood something important – which is this is the only planet that we have and we need to look after it in everything that we do.
“They understand that going to a conference is not a holiday from reality where you can consume what you want without thinking about the impact of your actions.
“They’re very attentive to things like energy consumption and recycling.
“But I would go further than that in my definition of sustainability and include the human environment as well.
“They have a very strong social conscience and they see the injustices and they see the inequalities in very sharp focus.
“So they care, they want to do something if they can as part of the event.”
Rob highlighted how ASOS Assemble 2018 embarked on a “festivalisation” process of its showcase event.
This include a party atmosphere, while also including elements which promoted diversity, inclusivity and good causes.
He added: “Savvy conference designers are building that into the event where they are offering the options of doing something which benefits the local population.
“It could be something more sophisticated – if it’s a conference of doctors, actually going into a local hospital and doing a masterclass about their specialisation.
“That’s important to this generation – to make sure they are making a difference and not just drinking champagne and having a wonderful time.”
Digital platforms allow for event organisers to improve their sustainability credentials in a number of ways.
This can include reducing their carbon footprint by transferring elements which can be done successfully online such as networking and education – which was also highlighted as important for younger generations.
Moving some components online can also promote sustainability and accessibility by enabling people to take part who can’t attend in person due to financial or health reasons.
Ignore digital at your peril
The event industry has witness a major shift towards digital technology.
This transformation lagged behind other industries but was turbocharged by the pandemic.
Live shows were put on hold by lockdown restrictions, forcing organisers to produce completely virtual events.
However as we emerge into a more hybrid world, some of this online components have actually proved to be more useful – such as education and increased monetisation opportunities.
The potential of these offerings has seen organisers reshape their budget models to go from being just 2% digital before the pandemic to 25% moving forward.
Kim Mhyre, managing partner of Experience Designed advisory agency, gave a “masterclass” where he compared event planners who ignore this transformation to those who believed TV would not overtake radio.
He told ExpoPlatform: “The truth is that the business model for events has been efficiency – you want to drive profitability by doing the same thing as efficiently as you can, doing it over and over again.
“So obviously – innovating, trying to do new things experimenting, playing around with technology – it may cost you, it’s risk and I think generally businesses are risk averse.
“Change and innovation is inevitably unknown, it is unknown and you are taking a risk.
“I think that a lot of businesses said ‘we’re making money – let’s chill and slow it all down and keep doing things they we were doing’.”
Kim added: “The amazing thing about coronavirus is that it really did create a break in the ground and say ‘hey, maybe we do really need to consider this’.
“When we think about the kind of technology that exists out there now to bring people together, provide better access, be more environmentally sound, create better production qualities – maybe we don’t need thousands of people in one location.
“Maybe they can meet in five locations, maybe they don’t have to travel as far, maybe we can have different content from different locations, maybe we can do things differently leveraging the technology.
“That’s not to say that people don’t want to meet live – it’s just to we can use the technology to enhance that live experience in lots of different ways.”
How hybrid helps healthcare
The closing session at EVENTIT shone a spotlight on how technology has transformed the healthcare event sector.
It involved a three-person panel speaking about how coronavirus halted in-person events at a time when research, collaboration and education is more necessary than ever.
One of the key takeaways from this “masterclass” was how event technology had proved more accessible and useful for professionals seeking career development and educational opportunities.
The speakers were:
- Caroline McKenzie, Open Audience
- Jenny Elliot, Fitwise Management Ltd.
- Lindsey Whitehouse, MD Integrity Corporate Events Ltd.
The panel reflected on what has changed over the last 18 months and how alternate solutions in a virtual environment can help meet this continuing need.
Lindsey said: “What we have learnt is that people do need that personal contact but not everything has to be face-to-face.”
One area which has proved a surprise is the ability to reach new demographics as the costs of attending a physical event have been removed by online technology.
Caroline added: “We have seen our membership grown in a pandemic year – it’s actually driven a number of advances.
“Now, loads of people are coming in – the outreach has been that much greater.
“People want education, people aren’t going to take time to sit a whole day for an education programme.
“They want to be able to drop in and drop out when they want.”
Lindsey claims delegates will now be more selective about which events they will choose to attend.
The audience heard this comes down to making sure there is value attached to attending a live show which they can’t get digitally.
Caroline told the session more senior professionals wanted to attend events in person to “find their buddies”.
However, it was heard up-and-coming healthcare workers are much more attracted to the digital components for their educational opportunities.
She added: “I think in the future things will be going forward in a blended approach.”
Jenny said organisers should be careful when moving towards this hybrid model, as many will have enjoyed a purely virtual format.
She told how it could be seen as “not as good value for money – that’s a knock-on effect of the fully virtual world we were living in”.
A question from Amy Johnston, of Diabetes UK, raised concerns about how to get value for return on investment from digital components.
The panel claimed this had been an obstacle for organisers making the shift to virtual and that the in-person shows were the best area for monetisation.
It comes as ExpoPlatform has just released its Monetisation Blueprint, which includes interviews with leading experts for their advice in how to transform their business models and drive digital revenue.
Download this ebook to learn:
- Trends shaping the digital future of exhibitions
- How to create a ‘monetisation journey’ that includes digital packages
- Training and re-structuring your salesteam for growth
- A Go-To-Market checklist
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