On Tuesday 8th and Wednesday 9th March 2022, we headed to ExCeL London for this year's International Confex. Over 300 exhibitors took to the show floor, whilst 6 stages delivered over 100 fascinating conference sessions.
Hire Space was delighted to once again host the Let's Do London pavilion (you can check out last year's insights here). We welcomed some fantastic speakers for 8 sessions across the 2 days, which all focused on important topics within the events industry, such as accessibility and sustainability. Below, we share the key insights we picked up across the sessions.
Key Themes and Takeaways
1. Make better, greener choices for your events
2. Transparency is key in recruiting the best talent
3. Knowing your worth as an eventprof
4. Where is the events industry heading?
5. The future of event technology
6. Hybrid offerings are constantly improving
7. Event organisers must prioritise accessibility
8. Brand storytelling ultimately relies on in-person connections
Make better, greener choices for your events
The events industry is renowned for its waste. By thinking more carefully about the materials you use and what you can do with them post-event, you can greatly reduce the environmental impact of your event.
Think more carefully about which materials you use and what you can do with them after the event. After COP26, Event Cycle gave 2,000 sqm of fabric to Calluna Upcycling, who turned it into bags which were then sold to raise money for charity. Event Cycle also salvaged 15,000 sqm of carpet from the event, which Spruce Carpets refurbished and used to furnish 1,800 homes within the local community, changing the lives of people from all sorts of difficult backgrounds.
The events industry can make small changes that could potentially have a huge positive impact on the environment. Some tips include:
- Having more of a sustainable focus throughout the planning process, and also factoring in the sustainability of the logistics of the event, such as travel emissions.
- Instead of using branding materials where ink is laid on top of the fabric, use fabric that has had the ink integrated into it, as this can be reused much more easily. You can even use fabric that is eco-friendly, such as fabric made out of plastic bottles!
- Reusing more upcycled wood (such as scaffolding boards) instead of using manufactured chipboard and MDF.
- Utilising community groups. You can make a huge impact on someone's life with your recycled materials.
Transparency is key in recruiting the best talent
The greatest underused resource that employers have is the ability to ask. Ask your team and potential employees what they want and what matters to them, and stop trying to create a one-size-fits-all model - instead create a system that serves them. For example, Hire Space sends out regular team surveys and always provides our employees with the chance to ask questions or have their say.
The more transparent you are, the better the relationships you build. When it comes to the negotiation phase of recruitment, don't oversell and underdeliver - that's when you lose trust and credibility as an employer. It's also okay to have non-negotiables as a hirer too - the things that don’t serve you and your business.
The most important thing to focus on? Communication!
Both employers and employees need to communicate what they're looking for and what they expect, but it also needs to be realistic. When hiring be empathetic, open, and honest, to make sure you’re both right for each other - almost like dating!
Knowing your worth as an eventprof
Corporate planners have learned so many skills during the pandemic, which have, in turn, made them an invaluable asset to many companies looking to include events in their marketing strategies. But what happens when self-doubt and imposter syndrome rear their ugly head? Read the panellists' top tips for knowing your value below.
- Get involved with the events industry and say yes to everything. Attend shows, network, talk to other event profs, talk to agencies, join programmes such as Fast Forward 15, join eventprof groups on Facebook and Linkedin.
- Your network is invaluable. Aim for more collaboration over competition and support one another. Surrounding yourself with great people also helps when imposter syndrome kicks in.
- Journal down your thoughts and ideas and realise that you are capable of anything you set your mind to. Think about why you love events and why you want to be a successful event organiser.
- Consider building a personal brand. Think of it as your shop window, displaying your personality. Be authentic and have fun - you never know what it could attract!
- Have bigger objectives for yourself, in the same way you would with events. Where do you want to be? How will you get yourself there?
"If there's not a seat at the table for you, go and pull up your own chair."
Where is the events industry heading?
We're so much more connected to technology now, which brings new opportunities for events to evolve and develop in response to the new technologies on offer.
There is of course a place for hybrid and virtual events, but it is important to define your event objectives and then pick the best channel to achieve those, not the other way around. Ultimately, we're social beings who thrive on in-person connections, so virtual will never replace in-person, but instead complement it.
Responding to audience demands
Personalisation of experiences is a growing trend in the events world. Festivalisation is about personalisation and the opportunity for an individual to curate their own experience of an event, by choosing from multiple stages and content options. As attendees, we've become much more demanding, so as organisers we need to think about our audience and what will be best received by them. Make sure to always ask for feedback too, as this will shape your events.
Inclusion is paramount
There is a huge opportunity now for the industry to show how we can meet face to face in an inclusive way. There is still so much to be done, and the onus is on event organisers to continue to champion individuals from underrepresented groups. If you're not sure where to start, Diversity Ally has created a great resource for making your events more inclusive and diverse, which includes 5 industry benchmark pledges to implement.
The future of event technology
Event technology has come a long way in recent years. There are all sorts of tools organisers can use, from virtual event platforms to audience engagement to networking. Below, our panel recommends a few tech tools organisers should look into for their next events.
- If you're looking to update your speaking technology, Portl can beam your virtual speakers and give the illusion they're actually there in person.
- Robots are also becoming more popular at events and can be a fun way to serve drinks. You can even get them to 'hold' a tablet so your guests can fill out a feedback form there and then.
- Clipper is a great tool for helping organisers create polished in-demand content. It allows you to automatically chunk up the video into relevant searchable topics.
- SwagMagic is a cool swag tool that enables you to create your own bespoke virtual or physical swag bag. You can set a 'budget' and attendees can choose from a selection of items, which is a much more sustainable option and avoids plastic, unneeded swag from being thrown straight in the bin when they get home.
Top tip? Decide what your event objective is and find the platforms that will respond best to your different needs. Make sure they integrate well together too within your tech stack - ask if the platform has open APIs and whether you have to pay for them.
Hybrid offerings are constantly improving
The constant development of new event technology has enhanced the way we run our events, and Covid has certainly amplified that. This also encompasses technology such as avatars, 3D, and the metaverse. One interesting thing that we've learned is the concept of what 'hybrid' really means - traditionally we treat the live and virtual experience as two separate things, but we need to blend them together.
"You can stand a horse and a donkey next to each other, but that won’t make a mule."
The investment that has gone into hybrid event tech is huge. For example, Disney has appointed their own 'Head of Metaverse' and has said the Metaverse is 'the next great storytelling platform'.
Hybrid is also heading in a greener, more sustainable direction. Venues are limiting the use of plastics, ensuring food and drinks are reliably sourced, and recycling everything possible eg batteries and event materials.
Event organisers must prioritise accessibility
Accessibility at events is absolutely paramount. It's not just about wheelchair ramps or lift access, it's about wayfinding, signage, buzzers, accessible toilets, size and shape of door handles, anything and everything that will make that person's experience the best it can possibly be. Change the whole experience so everyone has the same great experience - people with disabilities don't necessarily want to be reminded that they have a disability.
Staff confidence and training is also important so people know how to approach certain situations, such as dealing with a guide dog or providing a space for someone who might be neurodiverse. These venue changes are cheap to do and could make such a huge difference.
Some helpful tips and resources include:
- Make sure the team planning the event is diverse, as this will help you make more accessible choices.
- Ask for feedback! Audience insights are so important - hearing it straight from the horse's mouth will help you to continuously improve.
- Attitude Is Everything. This is a great resource tool to improve deaf and disabled people's access to live music.
- Equality and Human Rights Commission. This is a really useful reference tool.
"There isn't an end destination to accessibility. It's a journey, realising we're always going to be learning, making mistakes and getting better." Isaac Harvey
We've written up a separate piece on this session as there were so many useful insights, so check that out next!
Brand storytelling ultimately relies on in-person connections
Over the course of the pandemic we've learnt a few things from virtual events:
- How to maximise reach in a cost-effective and sustainable away that is unobtainable at a purely in-person event
- The sheer amount of data you can collect from going virtual
- Enhanced accessibility opportunities
Virtual technology is useful and should complement your event by helping you achieve your objectives, but it needs to be worth it. We ultimately thrive on in-person connections, so when telling a story of a brand, this is crucial as you just can't replicate the same serendipity online.
Brands have spent 2 years changing the way they work. They need to be more involved and spend more time with clients in order to recognise what they need, and not offer a cookie cutter solution. Their needs have shifted and expectations are higher, so our approach needs to reflect that too.
We hope these insights give you some food for thought for your event strategies going forward!
If reading about Confex has inspired you to start planning your own events, get in touch below, and be sure to check out our social media for our behind-the-scenes moments at the show!