A look to the future

Maria Schuett, Marketing Manager at Central Hall Westminster (pictured): “I don’t think any of us can deny that the interest and hunger for new technology continues to grow in the events industry. In 2014, this was highlighted by the number of industry events that took place with a specific event tech focus. I am certain that consumer applications, such as Oculus Rift, as currently trialled by Thomas Cook, will cross over to the events industry. Technology is now reliable and real enough to create fully immersive environments to truly experience venues and events. Audience engagement remains a hot topic and there’s still much to explore about how tech can help here.”

Floyd Widener, Senior VP Global Meetings & Events at Carlson Wagonlit Travel: “We anticipate the use of technology in events will hit an all-time high in 2015. Meeting-specific apps are becoming much more common, with use set to increase throughout this year, while hybrid events that mix in-person and virtual elements are expected to gain traction. A renewed supplier focus on cancellation and attrition clauses reminds us of the importance of effective negotiations.”

Fay Sharpe, MD of Zibrant: “Technology will be a key influencer in the delivery of meetings and conferences in 2015. Recently, we have seen a rise in the use of apps to share key information and engage with delegates. These will become far more sophisticated and the challenge for organisers will be ensuring content is strong and functionality flawless; avoiding poor service through careful development and client cooperation. The post-recession landscape is a much tougher one. Clients expect far more ROI from their events. More than ever, organisers need to be creative with budgets, offering exciting and engaging content using innovative delivery methods.”

Paul Colston, Editor of CN: “Wearable technology I expect to transform how we interact with each other during live experiences: and Google Glass, Oculus Rift and Apple watches are some bold first steps. Moreover, what is pioneered in medicine today, with embedded microchips in the human body, will surely come to the conference hall within 10 years.”

Nick Terry, MD of agency Top Banana: “2014 saw clients talk increasingly about ROI, which is great to hear, but with lead times still decreasing and senior management busier than ever, it’s often difficult to get the necessary facetime to make this happen. Crystallising objectives and building trust with the senior leadership team is vital in helping those leaders communicate better at their live events and ensure each event delivers a measurable difference.

The increase of social and interactive elements will mean a growing pressure to deliver authentic, honest communication in an open environment. 2015 may be an election year but political unrest has become a renewed reality in the UK, with clients already factoring in allowances for tax increases, public spending cuts etc. so we don’t anticipate any significant impact here. I’d just voice one cautious note around procurement practices as in some instances centralised, templated procurement approaches fail to recognise the bespoke nature of successful leadership and outcome driven events and will alienate providers from engaging in the process.”

Kerrin MacPhie, Director of Sales of ACC Liverpool: “We are seeing a continued growth in corporate enquiries in both value and volume from big brand names that include multi-national and international organisations, including in the retail and automotive sectors. It’s fair to say that there has been some uncertainty with some PCO organisations over the last 12 months and out of this has come the opportunity for a broader event support offer from PCO and agency organisations specifically for the association sector. There is an emerging trend for large agencies, working across multiple sectors, to focus on and provide a variety of support for national and international associations, from ad hoc to full event management services. The association sector is still strong and continues to look at multi-year deals to ensure they get the venue they want and a good deal. There is now increased confidence for this sector to look even further into the future beyond 2020.”

Dale Parmenter, MD of drp: “Live events will require deeper engagement, more interaction and experiential elements in 2015. There will be more emphasis on ROI and making sure we are measuring this. There will also be more interaction across the sectors. No longer do we have video, digital and live events in isolation. We are all part of a multi-channel delivery.”

Rob Knobben, The Live Group’s Digital Director: “With the rise in smartphone and tablet usage and with their capabilities continuing to grow, I predict event apps will evolve into a new breed. Location services will be key here. Apple have invested heavily in indoor location services leveraging Bluetooth Low Energy beacons as well as adding intelligent mapping technologies. Using Beacons and the power of real-time proximity data, organisers can expect apps to deliver features such as automatic check-in to sessions to manage numbers.”

Michael Hirst, Chairman of the Business Visits & Events Partnership: “The Industry is in good shape. It has set out its stall well, both in producing evidenced based proof of the contribution it makes to the economy and the community and highlighting the key issues in its Manifesto. The present Government is keen to lay out its policy toward the sector in the early Spring which should provide a strong template for the industry to reach its growth objectives. The General Election in May could mean having to re-emphasise priorities to the incoming Administration, but events will in any case receive a boost from the activities in the run up to the election and in the immediate aftermath as companies and organisations adjust to the new government and its policies. All in all a good year ahead.”

Samme Allen, Head of Business Development, Corporate Sales, SECC and Vice Chair of the BVEP: “The rising costs of air travel and F&B prices will have an effect on the sector. While there seems to be consistency among planners in terms of budgets remaining the same or even slightly increasing, the uncertainty in the UK around the general election could cause hesitation in booking events, especially government related. Short lead time is the norm and smart venues will now be working and forecasting with this in the forefront of their business plan. I also think more organisations will look to training, education and retention type events in order to strengthen workforces and save on costs of recruitment.”

Lorraine Butler, Sales and Marketing Manager at Middle Temple: “It appears that any company or building with a spare room or space is hiring it out for meetings and events and this is a trend that will continue. Enterprising it is, but it makes a competitive market more saturated. Alongside this venues compete with developments such as The Shard. It means that venues need to go that extra mile and offer new value for money alternatives.”

This was first published in the January issue of CN. Any comments? Email Zoe Vernor

Paul Colston

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Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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