Modernisation, Mindset and Millennials

By Ash Rowe, Senior Event Logistics Manager at the IET

Hello again event professionals! In this blog I wanted to run through one of the elements I lightly touched on in my previous post. What mindset changes will be required to thrive in the new modern era of event management?

Prior to COVID-19, the events industry was booming. We were seeing unprecedented levels of business in the UK and globally. There were more meetings, more conferences, more summits, more parties and more of just about every kind of event that you could possibly imagine. It was a great time for everyone involved in the profession.

Then, in a turn of events that even The Simpsons were unable to predict, lockdown came along and spoiled the party (pardon the pun). The entire world was plunged into a dark phase of inactivity with absolutely no idea of when or how events would return.

At the time of writing, in the UK we are approximately one week from hearing a Government road map on the arts industry and what this could mean for us moving forward but are there some deeper issues that we need to address before pushing forward? I believe there are, and I would like to cover just a few of them today.

Innovation will bring reinvigoration

The events industry has lagged in the modernisation era. We had been enjoying excellent levels of positive growth and whereas a large number of organisations have been dipping their toes into the pool of technology and modernisation, very few have embraced it to levels that would have prevented a mass industry shut down in the event of a crisis such as COVID-19.

Now that the industry has caught up with the demand for virtual events, our customers have got a taste of what it feels like to be able to attend an event without having to get to the airport and jump on a plane where you’re inevitably sat next to someone who snores just a little too loudly the moment you get up in the air.

This, in my opinion, will continue to exist in our world and the requirement for flexible consumer options will bring about a change of psychology in our market in that people are able to shop around looking for value for money. It will mean that when we are marketing our events, people will search for excellent offers, big promises of outstanding experiences, flexibility and they are also more likely to stick with the brands that they know.

When we plan our events, we need to be looking for “the next big thing” and constantly strive to provide better experiences. Some things to keep an eye on that are on the horizon are 5G which will enable connectivity on a scale never seen before and artificial intelligence (AI) which will predict your user’s behaviour and adjust their experience accordingly. Imagine having a virtual event that can work out what your customer is viewing and recommend other talks or events that are available from your business? Or for a physical event, imagine using NFC name badges where every single scan helps to form a picture of your delegate and recommends exhibitors, talks or even other people that may be of interest. This is the level of customisability that is coming and it’s incredibly important that our industry embraces it so that we are never left behind again.

Collaboration will breed better professionals and healthier people

I must admit if you had asked me 3 months ago if I would miss endless handshakes and those awkward encounters in lifts then I would have just laughed! Here we are though, and I can assure you the next time I’m lucky enough to be in a lift with someone I’m going to have a very exciting conversation! (Apologies in advance to whoever the unfortunate soul is to be on the other end of that)

Something that has been incredible since the lockdown is the increase of collaboration within an industry that has historically had a habit of keeping knowledge within their own four walls.

It’s great to see some of that knowledge creeping out into the wider world and COVID-19 has proven to be the main catalyst behind this change. Why? Because for the first time in a very long time, we’re all in the same boat. We’re all working towards a singular goal.

For the consistent development of our industry, we need to continue talking to each other. There have been hugely increased levels of interactivity on platforms such as Delegate Wranglers and Planet IMEX and long may it continue.

This level of interactivity may also help to build people’s mental health. It’s sometimes hard to talk to people who you see every day but having a likeminded individual who understands your concerns and worries will without a doubt help to build a mentally healthy industry.

Professional development = professional resilience

This one may feel relatively obvious to some people, but I thought it was important to include it anyway.

During COVID-19 and post COVID-19 it is going to be more important than ever to actively seek development. In such a busy, dynamic industry it is very easy for us to say that we don’t have time or we’re too tired to develop ourselves professionally, but this could be the difference between success and failure in the long term.

It is also incredibly important that this development is a two-way relationship. Organisations must develop their talent and individuals must seek development from their organisation. This may come with some additional costs at a very tough time for individuals and businesses, but in the longer term, it is going to be far more important to have a highly-skilled, resilient and agile workforce.

More change is coming…

There are far more industry changes on the horizon, and we need to be open to those changes as an industry. According to the Business Visits and Events Partnership’s 2020 report, Millennials will become the biggest group of business travellers globally as of 2024 and with this will come a vast array of new behaviours and new expectations.

Millennials are known to expect customisation, privacy, technological capability and significant interactivity. In other words, in the Millennial age, it will no longer be enough to put on an event with content, your delegates will need to be part of that content.

This is going to require a drastic switch of mindset for event professionals. We need to view our roles more as experience curators than event managers. This essentially means that we are providing environments for people’s own imaginations or thought processes to excel versus channelling content to a focussed audience.

Think of it this way, you will no longer be writing music for a solo act but for an entire symphony. In other words, each one of your attendees will require their own care and attention to blend your event into a beautiful masterpiece.

Bigger risks, bigger rewards (but accept there will be failure)

One of the biggest things to have come out of the lockdown is that businesses have been forced to take risks in order to survive, and guess what, a lot of them worked!

Risk is going to be a key element of the industry moving forwards and those that embrace it will start leading the way both financially and reputationally. Bigger ideas, bigger innovations, bigger experiences, all these things will attract audiences on a huge scale as they attend either in the virtual or physical space to see the next big thing.

As event professionals, we are constantly striving for perfection. We need to accept that this is going to be a lot harder to achieve as the expectations of delegates in a post-COVID world change and so we need to remember that when success comes, we need to party like it’s 1999 (with social distancing, temperature checks and face coverings of course!).

However, it can’t all be sunshine and lollipops I’m afraid, as with big risks also comes the possibility of big failures. It’s going to be critical to embrace these too. Those that fail and come out of the other side with a grin on their face, ready to address the issues and go big again will without a doubt perform best in the events industry of the future.


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