Are national markets very different, in Europe?
I would say that there are different levels of maturity in different countries, and different levels of complexity in the relationships between players. For example, in the UK, there are 20 different associations and they all come together under the BVEP (Business Visit and Event Partnership), enabling them to speak in one united voice with the UK government, to improve the visibility of the meetings and events industry. In other countries, there are fewer associations that do not operate as a collective strength and sometimes they are even competing with each other.
Cultural behavior has a strong impact on the relationship between players: Northern Europeans tend to be more formal and well organised, while Southern Europeans base their events on less structure and much more personal relationships. The importance of personal relationships in the south also impacts the content of the events and the design of meetings. For instance, in Southern Europe, digital and hybrid technology is less important because face to face interaction is so essential.
Budgets are also different in various markets, and consequently, the level and quality of the customer experience. I ran world tours for HP and SAP, and when allocating the budget, I had to consider the revenue that each country brought, meaning I dedicated more budget to countries that brought more money.
Are bidding processes a problem in many countries?
A lot depends on the professionalism of the corporate client; it is not 100 per cent caused by the country’s culture. Generally, we see more and more procurement professionals with a good understanding of the events industry and this is encouraging. Still, others are treating events like a “commodity” and this does not help fair and professional bidding processes. In my opinion, there is still room for improvement.
What is another area where you see margin for improvement?
Another area that I can think of is ROI and measurement, which impacts both corporates and agencies. Over the years, we have seen an increasing focus on this area, especially on the corporate side. Agencies have a role to play too; they can help Business Events Strategists measure the success of events. Effective measurement is hugely important as it ensures ROI for all stakeholders of the event, including the client, the agency, providers, attendees and sponsors.
Other trends you observe?
We see the customer experience taking the forefront in events. We live in an era dominated by meeting design and technology that offers the possibility to create a personalized experience for each participant. Therefore, it is more important than ever to deliver a unique and relevant customer experience, fully aligned with the event objectives.
As well as this, we are seeing two more important trends improving the sector. One is conceiving events as a community-building moment. We are social beings and we want to connect with like-minded individuals, so events are increasingly recognised as providing the perfect backdrop to do so. Events are also increasingly used to expand the participants’ knowledge by bringing together different points of view and connecting with different peers. People who are not from our industry can bring a lot of inspiration and understanding.
Finally, we see three aspects which are becoming increasingly important for corporations:
- Compliance is becoming more and more important: compliance rules have an impact in all industries, from venue selection, to sponsoring products, to every aspect of organizing the event.
- Impact on data management, with GDPR: data is becoming increasingly important in event management and communication and the new European rule called General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will have an impact on how we manage data and what we can do. This is something the industry is getting ready to adopt at the moment.
- The Geopolitical scene: we live an era of uncertainty and there is more focus than ever on crisis communication and event safety. This has a big impact on how we are planning our events.