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Future Market Insights from International Venue Leaders

As the event industry prepares itself for the “new normal”, we were fortunate enough to have leaders from four key international event venues come together. During our Industry Summit for Venues, leaders of Jaarbeurs Utrecht, ExCeL London, Palais des Congrès de Montréal, and Palexpo Geneva, gave insight into their vision for the future of venues and what every convention center should be looking forward to in the coming years.

Here are 5 key insights from the panel.

1. Hope & Transparency from Venue Leadership

Albert Arp, CEO of Jaarbeurs (Utrecht, Netherlands), gave us an insight into his approach to ensuring his event venue comes out of the crisis with their people in the best frame of mind. He mentioned the importance of hope and transparency in leadership during these times. In addition to regular communication and updates in bi-weekly “flocks”, Jaarbeurs staff also have access to support in the form of mental health counselling . This is especially helpful if they are feeling stressed about the future of their situation.

Palexpo (Geneva, Switzerland) are facing similar challenges, with their CEO, Claude Membrez, likening this exceptional experience to “being the captain of a ship stuck in a harbor and unable to set sail”. He is putting priority on ensuring his staff know that he is present in the crisis and always available to them.

Both CEO’s agree that there’s a fine line to walk for leaders in being transparent to their employees about the challenges facing their organizations. At the same time, it is vital not to overwhelm them with the burdens they carry as heads of their companies (“Realistic but hopeful” is the way Albert describes his communication approach).

2. Event Industry Lobbying & Communication

Our panelists shared that there are many initiatives being undertaken by stakeholders across the event industry to ensure events can restart as safely and soon as possible. Anna Clover, Head of Event Management at ExCeL London (United Kingdom), said that she is working with venues and associations across the UK to work on communication to exhibitors & organizers as a joint effort.

Likewise, Jaarbeurs are collaborating with RAI Amsterdam to see events back up and running safely in the Netherlands by lobbying the Dutch government. At a time like this, the ongoing supportive relationships between competing venues are in full view secure with the knowledge that the success of the events industry is of mutual benefit to all. According to Anna, the event industry has always been good at sharing information, but is more united now than she has ever seen before.

3. Technology Investment for Hybrid Events

“There’s only one KPI right now: cash.” With such a stark perspective coming from Albert Arp, how is this affecting decisions on investment and for these forward-looking venues?

Francis Lefevre, CIO at Palais de Congres des Montreal (Quebec, Canada) revealed that their budgeted investments are not only going ahead, some have been moved forward to help accelerate the recovery for their venue in downtown Montreal, and setting technology standard for hybrid events:

“Providing new experiences in the convention center will help clients to adapt themselves, offering hybrid solutions will help us reaching out for new clients across oceans, and [IT will] get priority knowing that a new crisis of any kind can happen again. So even if we don’t think it will affect us in the long term we have to get ready. Having cameras in every booth on a show, offering virtual rooms or other kinds of technology will now be a standard for every convention center.”

The key focus areas across all the venues have been to ensure the transition to remote working is as effective as possible. At the same time, they are making sure that they have the infrastructure in place to meet new guidelines and provide value to event planners and organizers who consider hybrid events in their venues.

4. Closer Collaboration

Not only is the industry coming together when approaching the government, but teams like Anna’s at ExCeL are still working in partnership with clients to prepare for holding their events later in the year.

The event industry is increasingly faced with presently unknown guidelines, potentially reduced public transport capacity and the introduction of new technology services. As a result, the role of the event manager will be critical to ensuring everyone is working as one to deliver the events: Event Organizer, Suppliers, and Venue staff.

The desire for people to meet in person has not changed, so it’s critical that event venues are providing their event organizers the right solutions. They need to provide information to their visitors & exhibitors to give them confidence they’re being protected, while remaining flexible as the situation will continue to evolve.

Asked by the audience about whether clients are being given reduced rates to encourage them to return, Anna’s response was right on the money (pun intended). She said: “What’s very clear is our organizers want to work in partnership with us for the benefit of all parties. So we’re not talking about reduced tenancy fees, etc”. Instead, they are focusing on being flexible to accommodate changes to their events, for example expanding or staggering opening times and visitor flows.

5. An Agile & Resilient Industry

As an experienced event professional, Anna Clover confirmed the stability of the event industry.

She said: “As an industry, we’re very robust, we bounce back regardless of what’s thrown at us, we innovate and work at such a pace that we’re constantly evolving and adapting what we do to reflect society. We will come back stronger, and better, and different.”

Having been a partner to the events industry for over 35 years, Ungerboeck shares these feelings and thoughts. We may never have faced a crisis quite like this before, but come what may, we always want to encourage you to look at what’s ahead! Event professionals should not forget to see the potential of what could be, and make your own mark on this incredible industry which brings people together like no other.

Conclusion

Success in the event industry is marked by being able to adapt and react to the circumstances, challenges and climate of the time. Despite the crisis, event professionals should be optimistic. We can evolve as an industry, and as our experienced Panelists clearly agreed, "A crisis always makes you stronger".