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Floors Can Be Intelligent

by Sven Bossu, CEO AIPC

In the preparation for our Annual Conference, I had a meeting with one of our speakers, Wiktor Bourée. He is the CEO of Technis and has been selected by Forbes for its annual “30 Under 30” ranking. His company transforms the floors of convention centers into intelligent platforms. Not only was it an energizing conversation, but it was also a great example of the new type of value convention centers will provide in the future: data.

The theme of this year’s conference is Elevation—it is about re-opening for organized events and bringing them to a higher level. That higher level is not only about providing an excellent service. It is also about supporting the customer in justifying the investment she/he is doing in the event. It was a lesson I learned years ago, when I was running the global financial event SIBOS. During the annual account meetings, the discussions were not that much about pricing, location or advertising possibilities, but on ways how we—as an organizer—could help the exhibitors in securing (or even increasing) the yearly budget required to participate to the event. The key elements were data and speed.  After some trial and error, we were able to deliver a report containing data on the impact of their investments. Some things were straightforward, like the number of views their advertisements got or the profile of the persons attending their conference sessions. Others were more complex, like providing heatmaps, showing the number of persons visiting their booth. This data was then combined with the data the exhibitor already collected, like number of meetings, leads generated, etc. But what made it truly impactful, was that the reports were delivered within two weeks after the event—at which time the budget holders, who attended the conference, still remembered it, which made the “this is why we invested in this event” story even more convincing.

Convention centers can play a crucial role in making stories like these happen, by investing in technology and by demonstrating the value the data collected can bring to organizers and exhibitors, for example by providing reports like the ones mentioned above. In my view, this type of service will become even more important going forward, as executives—especially at corporate level—will need to be convinced again of the value of organized events.

Implementing this type of technology offers at least three opportunities for convention centers. First of all, it allows to create new revenue streams or to secure existing ones. Secondly, it allows to obtain an even better understanding of how the convention center works in terms of flow and how its design can be leveraged to meet the expectations of the customers. And thirdly, the fact that this is data based, also means it can be tracked against performance indicators, both at the level of the convention center, the organizer and the exhibitor.

Like with every opportunity, there are of course some challenges to address. First, there is the selection of the technology to use in a rapidly evolving market. Secondly, there is a governance related to the collection and use of data to be defined and implemented. And thirdly—as demonstrated by recent hacking cases—security is not to be underestimated.

Talking to people like Wiktor Bourée makes you realize that the event market is going through a transformation, which the COVID-19 crisis accelerated. The next normal is a fascinating one, offering great opportunities to those embracing it. Lots to discuss during the AIPC Annual Conference next month.

AIPC, the International Association of Convention Centers, represents a global network of more than 190 leading centers in 64 countries with the active involvement of 1,000+ management-level professionals worldwide. It is committed to encouraging and recognizing excellence in convention center management, and maintains a variety of educational, research, networking and standards programs. For more info, visit aipc.org.

This story originally appeared in the July/August 2021 issue of Exhibit City News, p. 18. For original layout, visit https://issuu.com/exhibitcitynews/docs/ecn_july-august_2021

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