Big industry conversation with academia shapes new Manifesto at International Confex

The UK Centre for Events Management (UKCEM), Leeds Beckett University and partners George P Johnson have hailed ‘The Big Conversation’ a success, after over 120 delegates engaged in generating new ideas and discussions at International Confex last week.

The Big Conversation marked 20 years of events management in the UK at UKCEM and brought students, graduates, academics and leading industry representatives from across the UK to shape a manifesto on how to develop talent and knowledge for a stronger events industry.

Jackie Mulligan, principal lecturer and director of enterprise at UKCEM and initiator and co-founder of The Big Conversation, said: “This was a great example of partnership to create a timely conversation which highlighted some of the pressing needs we have and the ways we can enhance what we do as educators and practitioners. There were good intentions in the room to start to make the difference by seizing opportunities for internships, industry and academia exchanges and combining our research and knowledge assets.”

Illustrated by a graphic facilitator from Scriberia, the discussion led to the beginning of a manifesto and identified the urgent need for academia and industry to work more closely together to develop structured programmes for ongoing learning post degree.

Event industry leaders, students, graduates and academic leaders urged the students to take personal responsibility for their studies and be pro-active in gaining practical onsite work experience through existing initiatives and internships throughout their studies to improve their skill sets.

Emma Rickwood, a student of Winchester University, described the event as “an amazing opportunity to speak to industry leaders and get an insight into the industry after university”.

Richard Parker, director of Healthcare for AMEX Meetings and Events, who joined the industry panel, said: “The event had the right level of impetus, energy, focus and commitment – it feels like The Big Conversation could well have successfully ignited an industry-changing and industry-developing initiative.”

The event, supported by International Confex, took place in the Apex Room at Olympia where agency GPJ supported the graduate-led UKCEM Event support services to produce a unique setting complete with LED idea trees, coffee pods and graphic visualisation on the day.

Paul Cook, founder of Planet Planit and facilitator of the event, added: “The Big Conversation started at International Confex in 2016 has begun a change process that sees universities and industry professionals working closer together for the benefit of the entire events industry. We hope that there will no longer be debates about ‘Qualification versus experience’, as both have their place and the aims agreed during the event emphasised an end to divisive approaches once and for all.”

Jackie Mulligan said that seeing so many industry stakeholders and graduates at the event had highlighted that there was recognition of the importance of this issue, “and the urgency there is to work to improve collaboration across the board so that academic institutions can further strengthen the competitiveness of events businesses. The next step will be taking forward some of the actions in particular to BVEP and the Events Industry Board. However at an individual and company level, as well as within universities, it is clear that opportunities are being missed and we need to work on how to address this”.

Outcomes from the manifesto will be shared later online.

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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