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A new era of events

A new era of events

Kerrin MacPhie, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association (mia), says we must now begin to comprehend the rising rate of event evolution.

When it comes to the evolution of events, no period has been more prominent than the last 30 months. Whether due to external forces shaking up the sector’s framework or disrupted capabilities inspiring innovation, our infamously fast-paced sector has shifted up a new gear to truly push the boundaries. Now is not the time for the sector to rest on its laurels. Events are still evolving today, at a pace faster than ever before.

Speaking with venues at our new regional roundtable events, it has been inspiring to see the sector so committed towards fulfilling pledges and delivering enhanced offerings, such as missions to net zero and investments into emerging virtual and hybrid event capabilities. What’s on top of the events agenda today may not be tomorrow. However, amidst these commitments, we can often overlook what may be brewing in the background.

As Charles Darwin once said: “the species that survives is the one that is best able to adapt and adjust to the changing environment.” As the sector continues its recovery the needs of different stakeholders have and still are shifting. With such shifts brings several trending topics that should now be considered central to every upcoming agenda.

The metaverse

Bridging the gap between the physical and virtual world, the metaverse is arguably one of the most forward-thinking concepts we have seen in the history of the events space, it’s coming at pace.

It may seem like something out of a sci-fi movie of late, but we are already hearing event professionals taking to their VR headsets as their digital avatars enter the most immersive of virtual meeting spaces.

While the infrastructure of the metaverse is still in its early stages, amidst a phase of heavy development a new army of digital engineers will no doubt be paving the way for new virtual venues, meeting rooms and unbounded capabilities to serve the sector with immersive event opportunities as well as new challenges.

The next generation

We are all acutely aware of the current recruitment challenges the industry has been facing, which we continue to keep close surveillance of. The pandemic has no doubt shaken up internal structures and hierarchies across the sector, with not just job promotions and moves, but also industry peers leaving the world of events to explore new ventures.

While many will rightly be focused on the present, adapting their teams to suit evolving needs and internal changes, we as an industry must also now be considering the future, where the next generation of talent is coming from and how we can avoid the potential for a depleting population of event professionals.

Recent research conducted by PLASA and #WeMakeEvents - based on 1,948 survey respondents in over 40 countries - shows that 74% of event professionals lack confidence in the availability of skilled workers in the future. So, not only do we need to promote and showcase the events industry to inspire the next generation, but we also need to ensure that we can provide necessary training, tools and opportunities to facilitate their development.

To support with this, we are already speaking with universities and educational institutions to see how we can inspire the next generation and drive future career opportunities. Whether providing work experience and placements or subsidising training and education, now is the time to drive such initiatives. We are working behind the scenes to develop industry-level strategies that can help organisations across the entire supply chain in supporting this.

Demonstrating with data

As a sector we tirelessly lobbied for support during the pandemic, quoting our economic contribution and more as a means of encouraging government intervention packages. Similarly, we called for greater recognition of the events industry, which often found itself incorrectly associated with neighbouring industries such as hospitality and leisure.

Gaining recognition as a stand-alone industry is central to putting events high on government agendas and supporting our best interests for the future, including investment and initiatives.

To reinforce this much-needed recognition, it is essential that we can demonstrate the size and scale of the industry to government, and we therefore join our neighbouring associations in encouraging industry organisation’s use of multiple of government’s Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) codes.

Through our conversations with the Department for Digital, Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS), we are acutely aware of the power of data and the need for organisations to not just be monitoring and measuring business performance, but feeding this back to government. Inspiring and demonstrating this process will be key in ensuring that such data is effectively and efficiently harvested, and that it provides a representative reflection of the industry. We are therefore developing systems such as miaTouchstone to support with such processes, making it one of our missions to drive the data and get more organisations on board.

In what can be considered a new era of events, there remains a range of questions that we need to think about. What are the emerging challenges? How is the role of the venue manager evolving? How can we attract new candidates and get back who we have lost into the industry?

These are just a few key focus points that we continue to discuss with senior leaders and our members across the UK regions, and questions that we should all be thinking about today before they face us tomorrow.