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A post Brexit era: Looking to the future of the £20bln UK events industry

Richard Green, CEO and founder, Evvnt looks at the potential impact of Brexit on the events space – including meetings/conferences – and importance of modern tech

The UK has long been a top destination for businesses from across the world looking to host big events. In fact, the country has consistently placed third in the 2015, 2016 and 2017 ICCA rankings as a destination for business events.

There’s no denying that the UK events industry offers great opportunities for planners, organisers and marketers looking to host impressive events and attract international attendees. According to recent figures, the industry is currently worth a massive £42.3 billion to the UK economy – and this figure is growing steadily.

What’s more, it is actually business events like conferences and meetings that account for the biggest share – these two segments together are worth £19.9 billion of the entire value of the industry. It is unsurprising, therefore, that this sector attracts high levels of foreign investment and international attendance.

There is a storm cloud on the horizon, though; with Brexit scheduled for March 2019, all businesses within the events industry must prepare themselves for any upcoming disruptions that could come as a result of the UK’s departure from the European Union (EU). In order to do so, it is crucial that the power of technology is utilised to enhance events and protect the UK’s position as a top destination for events of all descriptions.

The impact of Brexit

As a hub for events from all across Europe, there are some concerns that the UK’s departure from the Single Market could lead it to be viewed as an ‘outsider’ destination for European companies looking to hold large events. In fact, 60 per cent of the respondents to a recent Business Visits & Events Partnership survey said they thought this could be a problem.

International trade and investment are fundamental to the events industry, which relies on strong business connections and trade links. Brexit poses a risk to these established international relationships – indeed, C&IT’s 2016 ‘State of the Industry’ survey revealed that one in five event planners felt that the uncertainty surrounding Brexit was the greatest threat to the industry.

However, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit has done little to hamper the high momentum underpinning the growing UK events industry over the past 24 months. But event organisers cannot become complacent; they must embrace trends that focus on improving attendee experience to ensure the country remains a popular events destination for businesses and consumers alike.

Utilising social media

The massive growth of social media use across all age groups offers promising new ways of advertising events and attracting larger audiences. And with smartphones gradually becoming an extension of ourselves, consumer demand for fast, reliable Wi-Fi is evident.

To illustrate the point, a recent survey by Event MB found that 79% of event planners believe that Wi-Fi availability and performance is still a big issue for the events industry. Businesses organising events must therefore ensure that the venue has a strong internet connection to cater to growing demands.

As a powerful advertising tool, social media can also be utilised to increase awareness of an event and greatly expand audience reach. By enabling attendees to interact with an event in real-time through social media posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – online connections will be able to discover the event, and with luck will be enticed into going to future events.

Take advantage of apps is another great way to create a tailored experience during an event; however, these can often be prohibitively expensive and time-consuming to develop. Luckily, a wide variety of apps have been designed specifically for different types of events and can help organisers create a more engaging customer experience. Pathable, for instance, is great for business conferences as it allows users to bookmark sessions, read about speakers, and participate in discussions online – providing attendees great opportunities for networking.

The benefits of AI

AI can help organisers deliver a highly personalised experience, even at massive events that accommodate thousands of attendees. Event professionals are increasingly expected to utilise tech innovations to keep up to date with developing trends within the industry.

One simple application is utilising chatbots on your event website or app. As chatbots become increasingly sophisticated, they can provide users with a personalised event experience and address the needs of attendees needs both prior to, and during, an event.

Automated check-ins and scheduling also offer convenient solutions to outdated practices – making the process of organising and hosting an event inherently more efficient.

Marketing technology

Marketing an event can often be time-consuming and costly, and typically involves making individual listings to different sites in the hopes of securing ticket sales or registrations. Thankfully, a wide range of solutions exist that can help businesses and organisers reach new audiences and increase the number of people purchasing tickets for their interest.

With most people nowadays discovering events through listing sites and social media platforms, digital innovations such as Evvnt can simplify the process of attracting attendees. As an events marketing platform, Evvnt provides organisers with innovative software that makes sure an event has the biggest possible reach.

Having built up a network of partner websites used for marketing events, the software-as-a-service (SaaS) tool delivers widespread awareness of events by automating the listing process. By completing a single listing, this can then be aggregated among thousands of other sites – saving the event organisers time and money.

As the Brexit deadline approaches, businesses within the events industry would be wise to be on the lookout for new technological innovations that can enhance their events – particularly in light of growing consumer expectations about what events should offer. Taking advantage of technology is a promising way to ensure that the UK retains its title as a top global destination for large B2B events.

Richard Green is founder and CEO at Evvnt, a UK-based events marketing business. Established in 2012, the company publishes events on a network of event listing sites, offering its services in various categories including classes and courses, comedy, conference, exhibition, live music, nightlife, sports and leisure, social, and association.