June 18, 2024 5:50 AM
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Hooking the Next Event Generation: Business Lessons from ECEF

by Chris Kappes, Exhibit City News


What’s Now? What’s Next?

This was the theme at the Exhibition & Convention Executives Forum (ECEF) held yesterday in Washington, DC, where 280 live event C-suite executives gathered to network and gain insights from industry thought leaders. 

Following the disruptions caused by COVID-19, the live event industry is experiencing a renaissance. Live event metrics are up, and attendees are more passionate than ever about the value of face-to-face meetings after a prolonged period of virtual interactions. For many at ECEF, this is a time of celebration and contemplation. The event’s content reflected this balance. 

Sam Lippman, the long-time producer and owner of ECEF and Lippman Connects, opened the meeting by highlighting key data points that resonated throughout the day: 

  • Live event metrics are up. Events are currently the highest-rated marketing medium for “trust.” 
  • Exhibitor packages are crucial. They help manage budgets effectively. 
  • Customized agendas: Attendees increasingly desire personalized agendas that align with their individual objectives. 
  • Pre-event engagement: There is a growing need for higher levels of engagement before events. 

Ken Holsinger, SVP of Strategy at Freeman, shared new research on attendee priorities, encapsulated in the acronym ELNC (Engagement, Learn, Network, and Commerce). While the Freeman website provides detailed profiles of each component, the goal of ELNC is to offer event organizers and producers a data-driven roadmap for crafting top-tier events. 

Melissa Medina, co-founder of eMerge Americas, exemplified this roadmap in action. The eMerge team have built a 22,000-person event that has significantly boosted Miami’s reputation as a tech hub, generating substantial revenue for the city through year-round engagement efforts. 

Teena Piccione, Senior Director at Google, delivered a compelling presentation on Transformative Change. Her key message was that “hooking the next event generation” requires engaging the “frozen middle” or those attendees who want to be engaged but the event strategy has not done so. She emphasized the need for continuous reinvention to meet event audiences where they are, not where we want them to be. Piccione cited Kodak and Blockbuster as cautionary tales of companies that failed to evolve with changing markets. 

Against this backdrop, Greg Topalian, Chairman of Clarion, shared his bold predictions for the future of events over the next decade: 

  • Consumer-oriented experiences: B2B shows will need to adopt more consumer-friendly approaches to delight attendees. 
  • Cost management: With rising costs, Tier One shows may need to explore alternative venues, including non-traditional buildings or outdoor spaces. New partnerships will be essential. 
  • Hosted-buyer events: These and other engagement methods will become the norm. 
  • Trustworthy content: Events will increasingly be seen as the most trusted resources for content and news, with e-learning platforms growing in importance. 
  • Incremental revenue: More revenue will come from attendees (“fans”) rather than solely from partners. 

 The final workshop, “Begin with People: Designing the Event of the Future,” was presented by Christine Kiesling, VP of Customer Experience at Hargrove from Encore, and Erin Uritus, CEO of Out & Equal. Kiesling emphasized the importance of considering the human condition in event design, which includes fostering a sense of belonging, accessibility, and thoughtfully utilizing “in-between spaces” to enhance the attendee journey. 

ECEF underscored the importance of embracing change and adapting to the needs of multi-generational audiences attending live events. This gathering highlighted that change is not just inevitable but also signals new opportunities for growth and innovation in the live event industry. 

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