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With a deadline looming for implementation of the European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), executives from the exhibitions industry focused on the topic at Transform Europe, a conference for data, analytics and digital in events held in London in December.

The event, organized by AMR International, attracted some 70 executives from the exhibition industry who organizers say came for fresh insights into the commercial benefits and competitive advantage that can be derived from implementing GDPR, a policy that overhauls how companies must handle consumer data.  The itinerary included discussions on how companies should apply a customer-first approach to data and analytics while continuing to innovate to forge business growth.

GDPR is designed to enable individuals to better control their personal data, and countries in the EU must implement its protocols by May of 2018. But doing so will prompt both EU companies and those outside the EU handling private information of EU residents to pass a series of internal checks with regard to what identifying data is processed, stored, or saved. In the exhibition industry, the regulation will impact how show organizers and exhibitors collect and use attendee data.

Denzil Rankine, executive chairman of AMR International (pictured above), urged executives at the conference to embrace the change as part of business going forward. “We know the expectations of attendees and exhibitors are rapidly changing,” Rankine said. “There is no time to be complacent. To stay competitive, organizers need to think more strategically, embrace new technologies and learn from other industries.”

According to officials, GDPR can bring commercial benefits and generate a competitive advantage for those adopting new processes, as GDPR presents an opportunity for organizers to re-think their business processes, map out the data they have and determine how it’s being used. By doing so, event officials said, those in the exhibitions and events industry can improve efficiencies, develop more targeted communication, and secure more customer loyalty, all with clear and transparent data strategies.

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