MWC in Barcelona, Forum in Davos, SXSW in Austin, Web Summit in Lisbon, C2 in Montreal (and even the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore)… these are just a few examples of how powerful an event can be in terms of generating economic activity and branding for a city. But maybe even more than number of visitors, it can be amazing at positioning the city, for instance helping Barcelona be World Mobile Capital and stimulating the local startup scene; communicating Davos as a top, safe city for meetings of great minds; or making Montreal a top creative city. Events are beds filled and venues occupied, but also they mean great branding, stimulation of investment projects and collaboration between local and international companies and institutions, international visibility for local players, and sometimes a good legacy for the local community (you may remember the case studies of Monaco a South Africa published here). And more and more cities are realizing this power and trying to capture events. But how will their job have to change in the coming 12 years?
First, what will change in the overall environment?
CSR is (finally!) becoming really important in many ways. Environment challenges could make travel unacceptable unless sustainable solutions are found. The feeling of people being left out of the economic system (youngsters, old people or simply low-income people) poses a challenge for societies now faced with a growth of populist or anti-system groups. There is an undoubted need to bring value to local communities rather than just exploit them, and that may be a KSF tomorrow for destinations: bring event whici leave something to the city.
Competition amongst cities will get fiercer. Cities are in many aspects the centre of modern life and of internal competition. They have developed their specific identity even more than countries. Notions like flexible living with remote work, vertical travel, or global currencies will spur even more competition between them and the idea of extreme mobility. Consequence: cities will fight to be ever more attractive, and events will be a ingredient of that fight: nothing like a cool event to position a city!
We need our identity back. Authenticity, local flavor are fully in (that’s the good news); the bad one is an increased focus on exclusion, nationalism, sometimes even racism. This will make events even more necessary to get people together and open the minds. It will also make events more locally specific. This happens in a moment of increased anxiety and stress, in an ever-changing world full of unknown and where many people feel left out of a frantic change. So this point and the previous one point to conflicting trends: nationalism vs multilateralism; open vs closed, optimistic vs fearful.
Communities, interactivity and discussions, over monologues. This very deep trend will carry on, and not only on online platforms. Brands, governments, NGO’s, and any human group will want to interact more and participate more. Yes, that makes events ever more relevant, as they make people connect, build communities, share…
AI, machine learning… and even enhanced humans. We don’t know for sure how this will impact, and how deep this change will be (or even if we will be able to control it) but for sure any mechanical or systematic task will be automated. And we do a lot of automated tasks in our daily lives… Think for instance in the time spent managing congress applications, coordinating hotels. Wont electronic platforms (AI-powered) handle most of the quotation-management work tomorrow? In this context our work (and the convention bureaus’ will have to involve more value added.
Exponential changes, which we can’t predict. This could be the most important change: we know disruption will come, but we can’t ever pretend to know which one. So agility will be the absolute success factor tomorrow. For DMO’s too.
This sets the scene, being some of the key changes that we can expect in society. And when it comes to event, what will change??? Read on.