At the ABPCO Chairmen’s Lunch and Awards, held this year at the Scottish Event Campus (SEC), the winner of the ‘Best Conference by an Agency Conference Organiser’ was TFI Group, who worked with the Personal Finance Society to create the Festival of Financial Planning.

This was the latest in a number of events that have led the way in a trend that the industry is calling ‘festivalisation’. It’s important to underline that this isn’t a new phenomenon, more a new label from the industry on an existing movement of events which are evolving away from a traditional linear conference structure, and creating programmes with more vivid content, and the ability to tailor it to more individual requirements. 

This is really important. Many conference organisers will have seen technology open up new levels of pre and post event feedback from their delegations, and need to act on often conflicting views of what content should be provided and how it should be given. Like a festival, more organisers are now able to react to more of the delegates content requests. Through a variety of different ‘stages’ (or in this case, break out rooms) festivalisation allows for more diverse content delivery, in more dynamic room set ups, that allow delegates to curate their own agenda at the conference. This is the essence of festivalisation. 

The SEC has evolved its business to embrace market trends of this kind, and the campus layout of the venue is ready made to host events that want to create a ‘festival’ experience. To do so, the organiser needs multiple rooms and stages, but also central breakout and communal areas. The SEC can do this on both a large and small scale, and can combine its iconic Armadillo, SSE Hydro and SEC Central venues, and the outdoor spaces that link them together on the campus.  

It’s worked incredibly well too; brands like ScottishPower Renewables have felt confident enough to create events with multi-faceted seminars and keynotes, optimising the campus set up, and offering different themes that the delegates can explore. When ScottishPower Renewables recently hosted their Annual Staff Conference at the SEC, the organisers took the trend even further by combining formal meeting and presentation spaces with a funfair-style environment in the breakout areas, fully equipped with a Big Top, circus stalls and entertainment, to create an area for downtime between business sessions. Others lay down astroturf, creating a ‘village green’ effect with hay bales, and pathway signage, giving delegates street food, connection areas, or even yoga and tai-chi classes.

The industry is embracing the shift from traditional events, and festivalisation remains just the latest step in conference organisers’ growing confidence in creatively exploring the full capabilities of their event, and delivering the very best experience for their delegates.