The weird, wonderful and innovative quirks of the events industry in Scotland were showcased on Wednesday at the first-ever ‘What’s Trending in Events’ professional development day.

Hosted at Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh, more than a hundred events industry professionals gathered together to get a taste of the emerging themes for events in 2019 – featuring everything from blockchain for ticketing, facial recognition for registration to encouraging meetings planners to consider how delegates might get in touch with their emotions whilst experiencing an event.

World-leading events speakers Linda Pereira, Kim Myhre and Rob Davidson provided an overview of the sector’s direction of travel for the year ahead; the emerging consensus from all panelists was that events are set to become an even bigger component of the marketing mix as audiences increasingly seek the ‘real and lived’ experience of meeting people, sharing ideas and collaborating – often aided by new technology platforms which are enhacing the ability of meeting designers to ‘matchmake’, facilitate engagement and networking.

Myhre, Managing Director of MCI Experience, said how the old world view of corporations – that events were messy, expensive and hard to measure – had fundamentally turned on its head and that now they were regarded as among the best ways to engage audiences new and old, and to provide a tangible ‘experience’ that will sustain a message better than almost any other medium.

He said: “We didn’t really view them as interactive, we didn’t care what the audience thought; we weren’t really interested in whether they were having a great time or not. There was in fact a point in my career where we thought the events industry was going to go away. And then something happened. What happened was we realised we were human and that technology has its limits.”

He added: “The fact is people like getting together, and we’re seeing now a growing demand for experience. There’s more and more attention being focused on how we create great experiences and how we engage audiences.”

Myhre added that technology has actually fuelled the desire for people to get together as they can network before, during and after an event and that was a trend that was only set to grow in the year ahead. He said the old model of events being seen as a logistic planning exercise was dead and that meetings planners should now in fact be called ‘meeting designers’. “It’s all about the way you get people to interact,” he said, and that the question should be “why” are you delivering an event, not ‘how many people is it for’. 

Pereira – Executive Director, CPL Meetings & Events, Lisbon – echoed the need to consider ways of increasing audience interaction, not about putting chairs in a room, and that people attended congresses to exchange knowledge, research and future industry trends. “We have to design the meeting, design the networking, design the interaction. We have to create interesting and unusual conference zones. They are not there to test new technology, they are there to advance the knowledge base.”

Rob Davidson, Director of MICE Knowledge, talked about the importance of creating a ‘beginning to end’ customer journey in order to maximise audience engagement before, during and after an event. “It’s [the event} is longer now, it’s stretching in both directions,” he said. He spoke of how event designers have the opportunity – more than ever through technology – to maximise the “touchpoints” where organisers can interact with delegates to make “that journey longer and mpore effective than normal”. “The old school way was that the customer journey was when they arrived or touched down at the airport, one, two or three days – the lifetime of the event itself,” he added. “It’s about a continuum of sustained engagement; successful events provide that level of engagement.” He spoke also of the value of technology – through mobile apps, gamification and also new registration technologies, such as facial recognition, to maximise the customer journey experience, and to streamline processes.

What’s Trending in Events was broken down into four core themes: Event Technology, Communications, Theming and Well-Being and after the morning break the audience was then subdivided into those streams for a series of 16 immersive, interactive learning sessions with some of the leading suppliers in those markets. For a full run through each supplier follow the EventsBase Twitter feed, which took pictures of each event specialist, including leading LED screen and production technologies, courtesy of event sponsor Catalyst Event Production Services, and many more. 

Judith Wilson, EventIt Director, said: “I would like to thank each and every delegate for attending our first What’s Trending in Events training day. We hope that attendees enjoyed the concept and that it was useful for them as it was for us: seeing at first hand the creativity of an extremely diverse supply chain displaying their talents on everything from hand rolled ice cream, to aliens projected on the ceiling, was a thoroughly enriching experience. I would also like to thank our speakers – who were all excellent and truly world-leading in their fields, to the venue, Dynamic Earth, which shared our vision in putting on such a conceptual and sometimes challenging event. And finally to our suppliers, who were all on top form as they showcased the kind of products and services that can only add to the experience of delivering events in Scotland and beyond.”