Exhibition News November 2018 - Page 67

COLUMN: INDUSTRY VIEW Breaking out of the bubble Dan Thurlow, chair of the AEV Board and director of exhibition sales at the SEC, on looking for inspiration outside of the industry L ow-cost airlines succeed because, as anyone who’s travelled with them knows, they shave costs down at every available opportunity. One stubborn problem these companies faced when first getting their business models aloft was the long turnaround time at airports. Their aircraft and crew weren’t earning any money on the ground, so they needed to land, disembark, embark, fuel and take off as quickly as possible. To whom did they turn? Airport experts, aircraft experts, or logistics experts? No, they went to Formula One racing teams, because they knew all about really quick turnarounds. Sometimes the best answers come from unexpected places, but you have to be prepared to step outside and look around. It may be an apocryphal management training story, but it serves to illustrate an important point that applies to the event industry as much as it does to all others – namely that good ideas can come from competitors, collaborators and even the unlikeliest places. Breaking out of the event bubble is something we’ve done at AEV Conference, when we invited guest speakers in from Birmingham Airport and Tottenham Hotspur to talk to delegates about technological infrastructure, security and customer experience, amongst other topics. But breaking out of our industry bubbles means acknowledging a few home truths too. Audience expectations are changing faster than ever, and as an industry, we need to keep up with the commercial, technological and cultural changes, and lead audience expectations rather than following them. People are time-poor, and events need to focus on delivering an enjoyable experience as much as the standard offering of a concert, exhibition or conference. A well-executed event should provide precisely what the audience needs and wants, but that’s no longer enough. I know that venues are looking much more closely at the ‘experience in the round’, and ways of honing everything from wayfinding to social media to draw the visitors in, make them feel special, and give them an enjoyable experience. Preparing for the future of events has been an important part of the AEV’s activities over the last few years, and as I take the reins from outgoing chair Jeremy Rees, it’s very much a theme I want to continue and enlarge upon. As an association, we’re in excellent shape to take initiatives forward, particularly around nurturing, securing and retaining young talent which is going to be crucial to the continued success of the industry in the UK. “Sometimes the best answers come from unexpected places, but you have to be prepared to step outside and look around” through their eyes, in addition to the default ‘venue view’, and the cross- association working groups we organise have really filled this role extremely well. The working groups bring in event businesses from every corner of the event industry and importantly, guests from outside the industry, to discuss and advise on topics like sustainability, health and safety, and technology. This joined-up approach extends to association collaboration as well, and we’re committed to several joint research programmes like SASiE. We also have cross-association initiatives looking at how best to bring new talent into the industry, how to keep it there and what sort of skill sets we will need to make a success of events in the years ahead. You may know that next year is the AEV’s 15th anniversary and, although I can’t let any cats out of the bag, we will be celebrating this landmark year. But before any of that, in December, we are holding a Christmas lunch for the chairs and vice-chairs of the working groups and the board, and I will be holding my first chairman’s dinner later this month. Watch this space! We have an active membership and an energetic secretariat that is engaging with the members to refine the AEV’s offering to suit the changing times. With such a variety of venues in the membership, it can be challenging to create a suite of member benefits that every member can take advantage of, but the AEV board is well balanced with many different kinds of venue represented and maintains a healthy, outward-looking attitude. The future of the event industry depends on organisers and suppliers as much as it does on venues, and for this reason we need to be able to see future challenges and opportunities exhibitionnews.co.uk | November 2018 59