The key issues facing the events industry were thrashed out last month during the International Special Events Society's (ISES) Regional Education Conference.
Around 120 delegates attended the event entitled 'Live Communications in the 21st Century' at Novotel London West to engage with industry representatives and discuss topics including the London 2012 Olympic bid, developments in experiential marketing and the latest sector trends.
The conference opened with a keynote address by Mike Power, chief operating officer of London 2012, in which he highlighted the capital's impressive proposals for the 2012 Olympics. Delegates were subsequently asked to vote, via mobile technology Talk IQ, on whether they feel London could stage a successful Olympics. A resounding 97% of the audience recognised that it could.
"We have a city blessed with talent. We will be creating a legacy not just in venues but additional facilities and in terms of infrastructure," says Visit London commercial director David Hornby.
Another issue that arose was investment in vocational qualifications and the virtues of such courses. "The only way students can get experience is by the industry getting involved, treating them not as slave labour but as people wanting to learn," says Graham Berridge, event management degree course leader at Thames Valley University (TVU). "I think ISES could also look at what it can do as it has a vested interest. The input has to be regular however, just dipping your toe in the water is not good enough."
When asked if the industry is doing enough to increase the skills base in the events sector, 63% responded that it isn't. A hefty 20% abstained from committing themselves by voting 'not sure'.
Whether vocational courses offer good practical training was also discussed. "We try to cover general business principles as well as specialist skills and techniques. Our perspective is to introduce events to the students and then foster an interest," says Berridge.
The discussion was particularly relevant as the conference itself was organised by TVU event management students, after being designed by Richard Beggs, ISES director-at-large and managing director of Moving Venue Management (MVM).
"Once people realised the event had been put together by the TVU students they were impressed by the tight organisation," Beggs says. "I really feel this is just the beginning. We need longevity with this and to broaden our plans. There is a need for communication between the two camps and we're happy to be the architect for that."
Beggs confirmed that he offered one student a position at MVM on completion of the TVU course. "This has proved a great way of expanding the team," he says.
The final question put to the audience was if they feel events are increasing in popularity as the most effective live communication available. 65% voted 'yes' and 14% disagreed.
Despite the events market becoming stronger, guest speaker Dr Anja Schmidt-Ott of German experiential marketing outfit Vok Dams says it has become more difficult to navigate. "It used to be so easy, you could just look at the target groups and demographics. Today budgets have halved, measurability has become a big factor and supersaturation has occurred," she says.
Schmidt-Ott insisted that interactivity is key to overcoming barriers.
"There is more focus on the participants and getting involved. Interacting with the audience to create a fuller experience is needed as it is important for people to play a part. There is a need to present some authentic communication that is open, honest and credible," she concluded.
Other speakers to address the conference included Chris Hughes, managing director of Brand Events, plus blind adventurer and motivational speaker Miles Hilton-Barber.