Kerry Prince, portfolio director, ibtm events
Each passing year, as a new piece of connected technology is introduced with the promise to help us engage at evermore-personal levels online, a big question hangs over live events, trade shows and exhibitions. It comes in many guises; ‘Are physical meetings still relevant?’ ‘Should we just be connecting online to save time?’ ‘Ultimately, can ‘live’ survive?’ While others seem preoccupied by the demise of live events, all the while the events industry looks on and smiles, because we are very much still here, are increasingly relevant and our businesses continue to grow.
Despite of all this new technology, despite of suggestions that the millennial generations don’t do ‘face-to-face’, despite conference calling, Google Hangouts, FaceTime, Skype, virtual reality and holograms, more people than ever are, on a regular basis, leaving their office and travelling, often overseas, to meet, see and converse will real people in the real world. Last year alone, we connected 5,000 event industry suppliers from over 100 countries with 19,000 meetings and events planners, resulting in the ibtm events portfolio facilitating over 120,000 appointments, in person.
Face-to-face isn’t going away – it’s getting stronger.
There are two reasons we still come together to learn, plan, review and celebrate. The first is simply because it’s a side effect of being human. We’re real. There’s only so much emotion we can feel through digital and artificial means. Technology can take us so far, but we need to be there, to sit in the same room, see eye to eye, to laugh, to feel we belong.
The second is because our industry is not complacent. We’re creative and industrious. Rather than ask ‘Will digital technology make live events redundant?’ we ask ‘How can we use digital technology to make our events more engaging, more relevant, more productive?’
So, we now host hybrid-events, where online components are used to enhance the tradeshow, conference or seminar. Smartphones and social apps are incorporated into live experiences, from the early promotional stage, right through to adding value after the show. We’re collecting opinions, sharing content, discovering more information and engaging with show visitors through their mobile phones, with offers and attractions, before and after they meet us at our events. We’re also dedicating space within our live event environments to technology with our ‘innovation zones’ that are designed to support the latest event-tech developments and enhance the face-to-face experience.
You have a chance to help your industry out here. If you hear someone ask something like, ‘Will digital technology eradicate live events and exhibitions?’ tell them, ‘no, on the contrary, digital has given us a new lease of life.’ Then point them in our direction.
ibtm events, part of Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) is the world’s leading showcase for the meetings and events industry with a portfolio of seven global and regional events providing business solutions on five continents. They include flagship annual tradeshow, ibtm world in Barcelona, as well as ibtm china, ibtm latin america, ibtm africa, their innovative ‘pod’ format shows ibtm arabia and ibtm america as well as AIME (Asia-Pacific Incentives and Meetings Expo) held in conjunction with the Melbourne Convention Bureau in Australia.