The familiar call to “turn off your mobile phones” at the start of events is set to become a thing of the past as spectator participation--through mobile devices and social media--starts to become a mainstay of the event industry. This is the prediction of Philippe Blanchard, an industry expert who will provide a keynote address at the upcoming Middle East Special Event and Exhibition Show 2019 from 8-9 April at the Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai. His presentation will be one of a slate of sessions that address emerging trends in events.
MESE is a sister show to The Special Event; both conferences are owned by Informa.
Blanchard, founder of Futurous, explains, “The next 50 years will see the rise of events pitting man against machine, but also increased collaboration between the two, and this is creating a paradigm shift in the event industry.” He adds, “Already, event attendees are no longer simply spectators, but rather de facto ambassadors and promoters of the events through various social media interactions and their respective audiences. Mobile devices are becoming an integral part of the experience. Phones--and the data they are able to harness--will need to be seen as a key component of any successful event. Interactivity, immersive and tailor-made experiences are made possible by these devices and will soon become the norm.”
BIG 2020 COMING Another MESE keynote speaker will be Shaun Vorster, vice president strategy and business integration, programming, for Expo 2020 Dubai. The 2020 World Expo will launch in Dubai on 20 Oct. 2020. Vorster says that Dubai is rising to this technological challenge with gusto; “It’s no exaggeration to say we will be pioneering future technology at an event on a scale beyond anything ever seen in this region,” he notes.
“We’re excited at the potential of marrying an incredible digital infrastructure, including a 5G mobile network, with technologies that deliver incredible experiences for everyone visiting the Expo, whether for business or for fun,” Vorster adds. “These include a cashless payment experience, augmented-reality wayfinding around the Expo, and ‘smart city’ technology that enhances our ability to manage the colossal Expo site. By creating that ecosystem of infrastructure and applications, we’re able to prepare for an event at the cutting edge of technology--with the needs of the visitor at its heart.”
The opportunities and challenges facing the events industry will be debated at length from 8-9 April during the MESE 2019. Seminars will include:
- “Imagining Events 50 Years from Now: Man Versus Machine” by Philippe Blanchard
- “Using Technology to Create a Best-In-Class Visitor Experience at World Expo 2020 Dubai” by Shaun Vorster
- “Middle East Event Industry Outlook: The Year Ahead” by Paul Berger, president of ILEA Middle East Chapter and chief executive officer of Arena Middle East and Asia
- “Spotlight on Saudi Arabia: Market Outlook and Opportunities in KSA’s Event and Entertainment Industry” by Mohammed Tayem, founder and managing director, Entourage Intl.
Some of the fundamentals of traditional events will never change, however, including the importance of strong content in order to attract and maintain the attention of attendees. Alan Kelly, commercial and strategy director at Informa Middle East, explains, “In the UAE’s already over-crowded events market, content is key. Delegates now expect a solid return on their time in the form of key ‘takeaways’ from any event. This could include gaining strong leads, a great learning opportunity, or an understanding of a new industry or market. Without this, delegates will simply not return in the future and the reasons behind past successes will be rendered obsolete.”
PRICING IS KEY As far as the health of the MICE sector in general is concerned, Kelly believes pricing structure is key and remains a big issue in Dubai. “MICE is an extremely competitive marketplace with more and more hotels coming online and so the desire for hotels to only lease their conference rooms with a minimum amount of bedrooms is, in my view, extremely short-sighted,” he warns. “Involving event companies from the outset in event-space planning would also be highly beneficial for hotels. Mixed-use spaces such as design studios and art galleries, offering highly unique and creative event options, are really giving hotels a run for their money. It’s crucial therefore that hotels improve their offering in 2019 and beyond.”