As 2017 comes to a close, we reflect on the biggest issues, concerns and hot topics that plagued Asia’s events industry this year.
1. Changing business models
The events sector, like many industries, has already undergone a huge transformation over the past 10 to 15 years. Technological advances and the rise of digital have meant that much of the pre-event planning work around logistics has been automated. While logistics is still very much a key part of event planning, client demand for a more holistic approach has driven many traditional event agencies to skill-up in areas such as creative, experiential, marketing, strategy, data and technology.
Hyperconnectivity has also led to questions on whether the marketing and events industry needs to reinvent itself—and how—in order to remain relevant in a an increaingly cluttered digital market.
2. Safety and security
Crisis management and duty of care (DOC) redefined the role of event planners in 2017. “It’s now impossible to find a ‘safe city’ to hold an event,” said Kitty Wong, immediate past president of World PCO Alliance, in Taiwan. In March, the alliance released a statement outlining DOC provisions that its partners “must provide for their clients to ensure they manage and minimise the risks associated with organising international meetings” in the face of “an increasingly adverse international climate”.
Cyber security was also high on the agenda, following several high-profile cyber attacks. Earlier this year, AEG-owned festival promoter Goldenvoice revealed that hackers had accessed personal information from users registered on coachella.com, the website for the annual US music festival, including names, email addresses and phone numbers.
3. The rise of (thinking) machines
From voice-activated personal assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa to Tesla’s self-driving cars, humanoid robots serving as hotel butlers and Alibaba using facial recognition to register delegates at its 2017 Computing Conference, artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere.
This year, the events industry has really latched on to AI’s potential—the technology offers planners the ability to enhance attendees’ experiences and build greater levels of engagement.
Andrew Zipparo, associate creative director at Jack Morton Worldwide, China, believes that some of the most promising AI tools for events include concierge apps, deep learning and voice activation. Concierge apps are especially useful for large exposition or conference-style events, he says. “They shrink the interaction scope to a much more personal level, providing exclusive assistance that would be financially inviable, or impossible with human staff.”
4. Talent crunch
Staff turnover and company loyalty is an ongoing issue in Asia Pacific, particularly in the events industry, where high-stress environments and long working hours are often part and parcel of the job. As a result, recruiting and retaining a millennial workforce is a challenge for many event agencies, industry bodies and venues.
“The events industry has always lent itself to fluid teams,” said John Hackett, director of Event Recruitment in Sydney. “But there’s been a lot more emphasis on freelance work since the global financial crisis.”
5. The power of procurement
As event planners are expected to do more with less, playing the negotiation game was an essential part of doing business in 2017. And a seller’s market saw suppliers get a lot more aggressive – with suppliers and venues evolving their service offering.
“In the past, a convention centre was four walls,” said Oscar Cerezales, COO in Asia-Pacific for MCI Group. “But now they’re marketing themselves as one-stop solutions and are competing with event planners to deliver clients the whole chain of events: audio-visual, food, drinks, rooms, entertainment, everything."
When it comes to negotiation tactics, Linda Swindling, a US-based negotiating expert said: “You have to remember, the aim of your negotiation is not to get the best deal, but to deliver a successful event. And to do that you are going to need whomever you negotiate with to uphold their agreement... So being a leverage bully doesn’t work for events."