I had the pleasure of joining the ‘What’s next for event organisers in 2014?’ panel during Confex 2014 with event luminaries Andrew White (Triggerfish PR), Neil McLaurin (MD, Keith Prowse), Fay Sharpe (MD, Zibrant), Richard Beggs (MD, Moving Venue) and Claire Wormsley (Director, Global Conference Network)

The session was based on a number of key questions some of which I thought shed light on the future for events – to share with a wider audience my brief notes are below;

What are you seeing in terms of market confidence? All panel members saw confidence returning to the corporate event market, be it more award ceremonies consuming Champagne or longer lead times for those planning large internal meetings. Cautious optimism seemed to be the theme but certainly ‘things are getting better’.

Do you think that consolidation of businesses will continue? Why? The consolidation of large travel agencies looking to bring event expertise into their business continues to be a significant theme within the corporate market. The panel predicted this would continue as large organisations look for ways to continue growth through diversity. Several smaller firms are finding themselves working together in formal partnership to address the rise of ‘Titans’

Confex panel including Tom McInerney from Etherlive discusses the future of events

Confex panel including Tom McInerney from Etherlive discussing the future of events

In an extremely competitive market, how are you diversifying your business? An even split from the panel here; half were driving their businesses to diversify by looking for growth opportunities in new market sectors and geographies whilst half where creating a heightened level of focus to create very specialist products.

What are your thoughts on degree-level education within the industry? Is it essential? An added bonus? Many of the panel agreed that in reality it doesn’t matter what degree one takes, it’s the commitment to study and learning which stands the student in good stead. Several examples where provided of key staff who studied a range of degrees from Law to English yet enjoy their roles within the events market. Concern was flagged about the amount of event degrees on offer but the panel suspected this was because a large proportion of those who study events in the UK are foreign students who then return.

What is more important to the corporate – quality assurance or cost? A wide ranging discussion here based on several different markets many of whom have broad ranging requirements and budget. In general the consensus was customers need support to appreciate which elements are worth investing budgets in and which costs can be optimised.

An excellent session which was well attended, hopefully those who attended enjoyed the discussions. For anyone who wishes to ask further questions Triggerfish will monitor the #humanlibrary hash tag for a few weeks.