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A Fresh Look at IMEX 2016: Event Organizations Can’t Ignore Technology

As I just recently joined the event and exhibition industry at Ungerboeck Software, I was thrilled to attend my very first IMEX in Frankfurt. I was fortunate to meet many great event professionals throughout the three days and got a perfect 360° view of the industry.

When I think back on the conversations I had on the show floor, there’s one thing that struck me immediately: The competition in the industry is incredibly fierce. As CVBs fight to position their cities among the top MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Events) destinations, the conference centers need to compete with other venues and locations within the region. It is definitely a tough business!

Everyone wants to promote their destination as the perfect place to organize conferences, congresses and trade shows. Capitals and cities that are rich in culture and history are positioned slightly better than smaller destinations or recently built venues as they have not yet proved themselves on the market. However, each and every MICE destination can be successful with the right marketing and sales strategy.

Technology in the event industry: Popular, yet underutilized

Marketing the entire destination and finding a strong competitive advantage is crucial to be considered by event planners and organizers. Some venues are internationally known for their particularly modern facilities. For example, the Swiss Tech Convention Center in Lausanne works with state-of-the art seating technology that allows the team to change the room to a different seating style within only a few minutes.

And still: If we talk about everyday technology usage, the general feedback I have received from venues and destinations is that they heavily rely on standard office tools such as Microsoft Excel. This both surprises and shocks me.

My career in the IT industry has shown me numerous examples of organizations outgrowing their standard office tools and bringing their business to the next level with the right technology in place. The results I have witnessed are the reason why I love my job. I have seen teams become happier and more communicative simply because they learned how to work more efficiently.

Yes, I am talking about a learning process, because ultimately people become used to a certain way of doing things. I have seen how unhappy employees become about the amount of cumbersome tasks they have to deal with every day. Frustration, lack of motivation, long office hours: The kind of job killers every management should be afraid of.

A future vision on the potential of event technology

So what’s my conclusion from the observations I made at IMEX and where do I see competitive advantages and opportunities for the market players?

Comparing our industry to many others I’ve worked with, I can see that many event organizations are seated at the edge in realizing the potential of using the right management system to reposition themselves in the competitive landscape. I am referring to areas such as: customer centric services, efficient processes, improved trend analysis and using the power of Business Intelligence (i.e. by using historical data) and so on. Working with the right management system usually results in higher sales, reduced costs, faster ROI and, finally, business growth.

Sounds too easy? Well, it isn’t. While some companies are still working with Excel files to manage their spaces and/or their events, others are already using full end-to-end software solutions to manage their entire business. How can both compete? They simply can’t. Investing in technology today will ensure your business continuity tomorrow.

IMEX Event Organizations can't ignore technology

In a nutshell: Once an organization has found their way into clever technology usage, they will undergo a tremendous transformation with these concrete results:

  • Higher productivity rates
  • Less extra hours
  • Communicative, open-minded teams
  • Lower staff turnover
  • Less administrative efforts
  • Higher transparency of costs and profits
  • Better customer service
  • Long-term business growth

CRM and sales success requires clever technology usage

Always remember: It’s all about your customers. The better you treat them, the better your reputation is. And the faster you get back to them, the more likely they are to work with you. Being well-organized and relying on a solid CRM system can help your team in their efforts to build long-lasting relationships with clients. Thanks to recurring tasks and to-do-lists with activities and sales opportunities, sales teams can work much faster and dedicate their time to things that are worth spending time on.

Excel is a great tool when it comes to manage a limited amount of numbers or data in general. But as a manager that needs to make forecasts and analyze what the venue's booking situation will look like in one year from now, what you really need is meaningful data and the possibility to create reports without spending hours between different spreadsheets. Needless to say that the “classic” approach of file storage and disconnected systems is not very efficient when it comes to manage client data and communication.

Again, your focus lies on your customers. But you have to ask yourself this important question: Would you rather pay a sales person that sells or a sales person that is busy formatting Excel spreadsheets or searching your file system for sales relevant information and communication?

In my honest opinion, this is just the tip of the iceberg, why investing into technology will ensure your future growth. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on this topic. Please feel free to leave a comment below or contact me directly at Holger.Friesz@ungerboeck.com