What is driving change in the events industry?

‘This is a diverse industry which needs to make the most of technology and every single asset it has’

“What are the forces currently driving progress and change in the events industry?”

Reflecting on the answers, I observed a striking common factor: they are all based on leveraging organisational assets, from data to human or artificial talent, to sustainable materials and care for the Earth’s resources.

Event creators, strategists and planners the world over are under more pressure than ever to conjure up ideas and activations that ignite a ‘wow’ from their audience. Dozens of exhibitors in the Live Zones at IMEX events showcase their creativity and provoke attendees to consider ‘how to wow.’ The demand for creativity is here to stay.

Events industry struggles with the “pressure to delight”

This demand brings a new challenge. “The pressure to delight” as it was described by one event planner recently: the need to keep on coming up with new ways to spark that precious ‘wow’ as events become more varied and experiential. This pressure to delight is driving the industry to seek out even more new creative – perhaps sensational – ways to excite and impress audiences.

For many years at events such as the IMEX Policy Forum, this industry has been working hard to persuade governments to invest in and support the industry as a major sector, directly and indirectly making a large economic contribution. What the industry lacked was strong, striking financial data to quantify it and put its power into perspective – until now.

Business events, including meetings, are now proven to generate $1 trillion in direct spend alone worldwide every year, according to the Events Industry Council’s (EIC) Global Economic Significance of Business Events study. This ranks the business events sector alongside consumer electronics in terms of size and scope.

This research is a powerful and priceless asset that the whole global industry should be sharing and highlighting to influencers outside the market. The EIC’s recent study is thought to be the result of the biggest collaboration on a single project that the meetings industry has ever seen.

How events are becoming more digitally-focused

An EY report asked: ”Is collaboration the new innovation?” It says: “In a world of digital disruption and industry convergence, companies now often find they must collaborate to secure the skills, assets and support they need. Successful innovation, in particular, is difficult for any organisation to achieve alone.”  The events industry has grasped the benefit of this concept and is making the most of it.

The growing use of ‘Instagrammable’ and ‘Snapchatable’ moments defines the social media-led mindset that is driving a new approach to event marketing, design and planning. Many event planners’ first thought now is, “how will this food, this table, this stage set look on Instagram?”  The result? Social media is now leading the design of events and activities, not just the reporting on them.

Facial recognition is another technology that is starting to be used widely in the industry. We’re about to use at IMEX in Frankfurt for check-in at an event.

Sustainability and social responsibility are top of the agenda

The industry, like the world, is now focused on action on sustainability. Replacing single-use plastic drinking bottles and straws is a start. Through its own waste donation programme and the responsible recycling systems at Messe Frankfurt, the IMEX Group now sends zero waste to landfill after IMEX in Frankfurt.

The use of vinyl banners when non-vinyl is also available is an opportunity for change that has been gaining awareness through IMEX chief operating officer Nalan Emre’s presentations at major industry conferences. I expect industry contractors will soon start encouraging event organisers and exhibitors to specify non-vinyl banners and other sustainable materials.

This is a diverse industry which needs to make the most of technology and every single asset it has, while continuing to encourage social responsibility, inclusion and environmental awareness. Overall, they present exciting opportunities to take our industry forward.

IMEX Frankfurt 2019 takes place on May 21-23 at Messe Frankfurt.

IMEX America 2019 takes place on September 10-12 at Sands Expo, Las Vegas.