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The AEV Conference: a delegate’s perspective

09 July 2019

Nick Coffey, Senior Account Manager, our roving reporter

It’s July 4th and the Events Industry headed to Manchester, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution (and my home town) for the 15th AEV Conference.  In the fitting surroundings of Manchester Central, restored to former greatness to cater for the next generation of events, we were welcomed by Shaun Hinds, Chief Executive Officer, who, together with his team, did a first-rate job hosting the day.

The organisers were sympathetic to those travelling up on the day with a gentle start to proceedings.  Nonetheless, the conference promised, and delivered, a packed agenda addressing some of the main challenges facing event venues as we charge towards the 2020s.

Here are my main takeaways from the day….

The future…

“The future is uncertain.  We cannot predict what will happen with certainty.  It is therefore vital to be ready for what might happen, and to engineer adaptability, resilience and genuine curiosity into our businesses now.”

Graeme Codrington (TomorrowTodayGlobal.com) talked to us about how adapting to change is a necessity, not an option.  In the last 15 years – four out of the UK’s largest 10 trade shows have disappeared, so today’s star could disappear tomorrow.  How will our venues cater to changing demographics in a time when over half of us will live to see 100?  In a future when Wi-Fi and cheap energy are viewed as basic human rights, how will our event mix and service portfolio change?  

Here are more of Graeme’s thoughts http://www.tomorrowtodayglobal.com/

The Fourth Industrial Revolution

We considered technology.  Real innovation is not just about new products, services or channels to market, but rather the ability to change the business model itself.

DATA (NOT PEOPLE) IS NOW THE MOST IMPORTANT ASSET and it’s more about IA (Intelligent Assistance) than AI (Artificial Intelligence).

Can a machine do my job?  The answer is, or probably will be, yes. Whilst events, like everything else, will become ever more automated there is still the need for the human factor – kindness, empathy, humour to name a few – so we shouldn’t panic just yet!

This leads neatly on to the age-old question of attracting, retaining and caring for our people.  Young people are our future, but what can the “oldies” bring to the party in terms of insight and experience and what is the impact on future careers in the industry?

Do we believe events are less appealing and is it perception rather than reality that leads us to think that talent is attracted to other sectors?  Do we really understand what’s important to Millennials and Generation Z and what skills will we need?  Shouldn’t we take the time to find out, as they are the leaders of tomorrow’s world.

Creating experiences or running events

Event experiences are personal, ask David Hornby @ Why Not Consulting and Kim Myhre @ MCI Experience.  Experience cuts through the noise and with corporations spending up to 30% of their marketing budgets on live events, the size of the prize remains huge.  

“Funky, cool” venues are seen as more desirable, but often they struggle to deliver, so how do AEV members, both large and small, compete with that? How do we maximise the strategic partnership between organisers and venues to soften and enhance our venue proposition and promote engaging event ideas?

Kate Hardcastle - The Customer Whisperer gave us some valuable insight into the customer mindset.  They have high expectations want to be treated with respect, but reliable Wi-Fi and clean toilets alone are not enough - we need to enlighten, educate and entertain as well. Rachel Belam – Head of F&B @ Westfield talked to us about their experience of creating innovative moments of joy and delight by introducing a number of pop-up events at Westfield – ideas that we can transfer over to our events maybe?

The day was brought to a close by Phil Jones, Managing Director @BROTHER UK

Phil started off with the bad news that all companies are dysfunctional, but in the “post Blockbuster world” reassured us all that we can all be successful if we manage the dysfunction better.

Looking at the lessons from the past, Phil urged us to create a compelling story for the future by looking at where we have come from, where we are today and what success looks like in future.

Always weave the unique mix of experience, creativity, innovation and inspiration to build collaborative teams in which we all have a part to play.

So, lots of discussion happening in the Dirty Martini’s After Party and inspiration to take back to the workplace.

 

Well done to all at the AEV.  See you all next year!