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INSIGHT: ‘Curated serendipity’: How we can provide the optimum delegate experience in 2024

13 March 2024

Author: James Rees, Executive Director, ExCeL London


Cast your mind back to the middle of April last year. Tens of thousands of people on the Elizabeth Line flocking to the TCS London Marathon Running Show at ExCeL London to pick up running bags, meet charity volunteers and chat to fellow participants as they prepare to take part in the London Marathon. It highlights to me just how much we, as a population, thrive through human connection and a shared goal.

For business executives looking to advance relationships, it appears to be the same case. It’s about finding like-minded people with a common objective.

With real variety in our expected audiences at a number of events this year - Diabetes UK Professional Conference, European Society of Cardiology Annual Congress and the World Travel Market to name just a few - the pressure is on to ensure we, as a venue, provide the best experience for our delegates. A key focus is how we can work with our clients to tailor experiences to individual preferences, so they can provide something for everyone.

But what are they looking for? We need to understand what delegates want and ensure we leave them satisfied they have achieved their objectives. Only then we can proudly say we have given them the best possible ‘Return on Intent’.


Event with Intent

We recently commissioned research to find out how we can do just that. A key part of our ‘Event with Intent’ insights paper was to ask more than 250 delegates what they thought the best possible outcome was from attending events.

Grasping the tone of what someone is saying immediately, asking the right questions, understanding the role of a future partner or business prospect. People value in-person networking over digital interactions, with over 60% citing networking as their primary reason for attending an event or conference. But what type of networking is most effective in driving real commercial results? And vitally, how can venues and organisers facilitate this?


Curated Serendipity

The answer is what we have termed ‘curated serendipity.’ Networking is about making new connections, learning from leaders, sharing what we already know, working together to develop ideas. But, importantly for those attending events, it needs to feel natural rather than forced. We need to help delegates find people with similar ambitions and objectives.

In this day and age, social media can help make connections, but it can’t replicate the value that in-person networking provides for many of those we spoke to. However, we can certainly use it to augment the in-person experience. At ExCeL, we often utilise LinkedIn – via integration with social media and event promotion platform InGo – to help delegates work their connections and arrange meetings to provide good business opportunities.

Productive conversations come about when we’re feeling comfortable. Whether you’re looking to build relationships or create future business prospects, you want to feel at ease. As event organisers we can manage this via some of the ideas outlined above, but importantly, we can help those already in attendance by making a venue easy to access, easy to walk around, and importantly, easy to find somewhere to eat, drink and talk.

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