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Dr James Morgan, chair of the judging panel for the Digital Event Awards

Standing out while staying in

As the nomination deadline of 29 January approaches for the inaugural Digital Event Awards, we talk to Dr James Morgan, chair of the judging panel, on what he will be looking for during the judging process.

What is your background in the events industry?

That’s a big question. I have been producing events for over 30 years both in the UK and internationally. My first event was volunteering as the chair of my local colleges’ Rage Day Parade. That was an experience of getting chucked in the deep end, although I was studying Hotelkeeping and Catering at the time – an events qualification didn’t exist in those days so I had to develop my own way of event organising.

I went on to work in Hospitality and focused on mainly on the events side in banqueting departments in hotels.  I had a lucky break when I was recruited by a London-based hospitality, food and drink PR agency to run their client events in the UK.  I broke away after 4 years an started my own marketing and PR business servicing a similar user base, internationally in France, Germany and in the UK. We organised restaurant and hotel openings and re-launches, food and drink brand launches and activations that garnered PR coverage. I even had a segment on the Steve Allen Show on LBC each week doing London restaurant reviews for a couple of years.

In 2005 I decided to go to university and do a degree. I loved it so much that I decided to go all the way to a PhD. So, I ended up after my studies teaching Events Management at the University of Westminster. I have a passion for passing on my knowledge and experience to students entering the industry, and, I still organise events and I am heavily involved in the industry in many ways including writing tech columns for Mash Media, and, over the last 5 years spending time in the event technology area with Event Tech Lab.

Why did you accept the invitation to judge the Digital Event Awards?

Over the last 10 months I have witnessed two things about our industry. Firstly, the resilience of events professionals and the way that many have re-invented their ways of seeing how the industry can progress in tough times. Secondly, witnessing an innovation surge. It’s like nothing we have seen before in the industry. The surge is not only about developing new technology tools but also about event professionals developing new ways of working, designing experiences and marketing them successfully to keep audiences engaged during a very trying time for us all. This drove my motivation to accepting the invitation along with my professional curiosity and wanting to study at first hand all the evidence that we are a creative resilient industry, an industry that can problem solve in innovative ways.

What particularly will you be looking out for in a good entry?

I’d like to see how event professionals and their suppliers have joined up to create engaging and memorable events online, as well as provide their client with a valuable return on their investment, whether in terms of monetary or experience value or both. Another aspect that I will be considering is the way in which the experiences are configured so that attendees are able to easily navigate virtual event platforms and that the engagement tools to make events more participative are built in to the event concept. Lastly, the quality of the content offered by organisers is ‘on message’ as far as their clients are concerned and that attendees see its value as relevant to their needs.  All these success factors should be considered by entrants.

Meanwhile, the full line up of judges has now been confirmed with the following industry experts completing the line up:

Amanda Barnes, chief executive of Faversham House; Julie Driscoll, UK regional director of Hyve Group; Lisa Hannant, group managing director of Clarion Events; Alison Jackson, group managing director of Nineteen Events;  Jemma James, event director of Pageant Media; Evan Gappelberg, CEO of NexTech AR Solutions; Juliet Tripp, deputy head of global events of Chemical Watch; Ben McMahon, managing director of Collaborate Global; Natalie Shattock, senior events manager, EMEA of Morning Star; Samantha Salisbury, events manager of Jonsam Events; Raphael Sofoluke, founder & CEO of UK Black Business Show;  Michelle Fanus-St Hill, founder of The Conference Director & Funktion Venues and Andy Sexton, creative director and founder of 2LK

The full line up of judges, categories and how to enter can be found here.

The entry deadline is 29 January 2021.  The awards are headline sponsored by Showcase and Collaborate Global.