IMEX 12 had some great content this year, with more Campfires and educational seminars than ever. The presentations by Rohit Talwar, CEO of Fast Future Research, really gave us a view of the shape of things to come for corporate events. The key message was that, while the events industry has its roots in travel and tourism, it must re-think the event experience and become strategic partners as organizations grapple with the challenges of doing business in the midst of economic, political and social turbulence.
A 'perfect storm' of mega trends is now combining to challenge every assumption and belief we have about how to succeed in global business....the industry must develop an effective response in order to grown and change.
Key Global Trends to Monitor
The economic crisis, changes in the Eurozone and the Middle East, and the impact of the debt crisis in the richest nations will likely generate a scenario in which the global economy cycles in and out of recession for the next decade or two.
- Shorter, Faster Business Cycles:
Shift from annual to three -six month planning cycles. In response to turbulence, more flexibility will be required from event venues and meeting planners serving the corporate events sector.
- The Emergence of Asia: Asia will become a more important market for organizations around the globe that are seeking to thrive in the midst of turbulence. The meeting and conference industry needs to curate content that delegates improve their bench strength in marketing to emerging markets and industries.
- Renewable Energy Sources:
Organizations need to grapple with sensitivity analysis that provides picture of profitability if energy prices grow by 10%, 30% or 50%. Event venues, conference centers and hotels should be developing strategies to leverage renewable energy sources so that they can become more self-sufficient.
This will impact where and how events are delivered as well as dictate the need for targeted content for different age demographics.
Models for Innovation
- Construction Industry: 15-story, earthquake-resistant hotels constructed in six days through use of pre-fabricated components. Is this a model for timely content development?
- Sports Industry: Delivers high value and differentiated experience for sponsors.
Can the events and meetings industry create premium pricing options and highly differentiated experiences for sponsors and exhibitors?
- Oil and Gas: Shell selling off billions of dollars in fixed assets and renting buildings, leasing vehicles so that it can become more flexible in the wake of economic changes.
Should the events industry use a similar approach to fixed asset management and staffing to become more flexible?
- Co-located Events:
IMEX America 2011 role modeled co-located events by IMEX, MPI, PCMA and SITE.
Does co-location need to go further to drive down costs? Will co-located conferences share common keynote speakers, breakouts, lunch and coffee breaks to deliver higher volume to venues and drive down cost per delegate?
Finally, I leave you with my own breakthrough model, married with some of Rohit Talwar's ideas:
- Reggae Music Industry: Dub mixes and versions of hit records create endless streams of revenue for record producers. Can conference planners re-purpose content to create year-round sources of revenue from events such as special reports, webinars and streamed videos?
The Bottom Line
To reduce vulnerability to economic cycles, the events industry needs to demonstrate tangible ROI to ALL stakeholders, including event owners, sponsors, delegates and exhibitors.
There will be a need to be nimble and draw on models of innovations from various industries.
The biggest challenge will be to prove that the meeting and industry is a contributor to economic development and the knowledge economy, not just a branch of tourism with a focus on logistics.
Photo Credit: Corporate Events, Executive Oasis International