The Changing Face of Meeting and Events in 2014

The Changing Face of Meeting and Events in 2014

A common theme among both industry observers and practitioners over the last five years has been the challenges faced by the sector. As a result of the economic climate, many have felt pressure on budgets, leading to a requirement to attempt to achieve more with diminished resources. However, in early 2014, there is an increasing sense of optimism around the sector throughout Europe and the USA. This is particularly the case in the UK, where along with countries like Germany, an increasingly robust economic recovery is leading to a growth in business confidence. In turn this is leading to an increasingly bright outlook for meetings and events this year. 58.4 billion pounds Despite the challenges of the past few years, the meetings and events industry is now the 17th largest sector in the UK and contributes just under 60 billion pounds of the UK's gross domestic product, three times that of the agriculture industry. Furthermore, it accounts for one million full-time equivalent employees and is now the UK's 16 largest employer. The vibrancy and importance of meetings and events is now increasingly being recognised as a barometer of the economic health of the country. The all round positive news is that there is an expectation of significant growth this year, with industry professionals forecasting a 3.6% upturn. Driving and shaping this growth are a handful of key trends, which are becoming increasingly influential. The Status Quo Virtual meetings are established as an important part of the business landscape. This trend has been fuelled by the growth in low cost, easily accessible technology. However, despite this trend, we believe that face to face events and meetings will continue to thrive. There are a number of reasons for this, but the most important one is that they are one of the most effective mediums for bringing buyers and sellers together. Research indicates that meetings and events are actually the second most effective channel for lead generation (after web traffic). Since the majority of organisations are always seeking new 'business' in whatever form that takes for them, this will continue to ensure the sector thrives. The Great Outdoors Meeting face to face also enriches and deepens the learning experience, in a way that can't yet be replicated online. Indeed it is the unique experiences that events can deliver that opinion leaders in the industry are focusing one. Simon Gidman of Visit England has commented on an increasing trend towards a more 'natural' meeting experience, with venues enabling delegates to get outside more easily or in some cases bringing the outdoors to the delegates. Gidman provides the example of London's newest skyscraper 20 Fenchurch Street. This landmark building will house the 'Sky Garden', an upside down garden in the sky concept that will create a unique event space. At a more basic level, research indicates that 76% of people want to dine in restaurants that serve locally sourced food. This is something that event organisers and venues can increasingly use as a way to enhance the delegate experience, in line with this trend, relatively easily. Content is King Content has been the buzzword across most marketing channels for some time now. It has become particularly important for the events industry, as content is defining the event and its structure rather than the event calendar and structure shaping event content. There are two reasons for this: > Participants expect to have a direct influence on event content > There is an increasing requirement for content to be delivered in more engaging ways Technology is the key driver here. Low cost web based technology, such as, provide new methods of engaging delegates in event and content creation. Increasingly, attendees expect to be able to co-create events, as this increases the chances of making sure that their needs are met. At the same time delegates have enhanced expectations of the way in which content will be delivered to them at their event. The majority are familiar with impactful media such as Vine, delivering engaging content regardless of location, thereby further increasing expectations in a formal event environment. Social media has a key role, here, as it begins to reach maturity in the industry and is increasingly deployed as a method of ensuring the right people get to meet each other at larger events. An excellent example of a new media underpinning the continued success of an established one. *UK Economic Impact Study (UKEIS)

Author: Gary Burgess

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