”The UK is an example of how local associations can work together to get support and focus from the government around the events industry,” Luca Favetta, regional business director EMEA at the Professional Convention Management Association, PCMA, told EN.
Favetta took on the role at PCMA in January this year. His appointment recognised his experience in the events industry, which spans more than 20 years of owning and managing events across the EMEA region and worldwide for corporate clients, notably Hewlett-Packard.
PCMA has a global operation and members in 35 countries. Its focus has been on the North American market for some time, however, PCMA is developing its practices in Europe and Asia.
“Almost 75 per cent of PCMA members that are mainly based in North America are doing business globally,” Favetta explained. “There was a need to have PCMA present in other regions, particularly in Europe and Asia Pacific, to further develop the association in these regions.”
PCMA held its first event in London, Knowledge Exchange as part of an educational programme that will continue to deliver in 2018. The scheme is aligned with the organisation’s mission to inspire, connect, and innovate the business event community globally.
“Our focus is to enhance the profession in the industry of events, by creating a movement that would engage participants on the importance of the business event for the economic progress, social advancement, personal professional development,” Favetta said, adding that PCMA wants to educate policymakers and citizens about the value and impact of business events.
Commenting on the objectives of the Knowledge Exchange, Favetta said: “It is part of a programme to develop educational assets that are both valuable and relevant to each region.
“We have identified where the gaps are in terms of education, and we launched this programme to become a platform for education exchange amongst a small group of senior business event professionals.”
Featuring a roundtable format, the first Knowledge Exchange held in London had around 20 senior business event strategists discussing the theme of crisis management.
Annalisa Ponchia, CEO of the European Society of Organs Transplant (ESOT), was the main speaker at the event. The organisation had held ESOT 2017 in Barcelona. The event attracted 4,000 people who travelled to the city in Spain only weeks after the terror attack last September.
“Her presentation provided analysis and an opportunity for attendees to learn what they did for the communication strategy,” Favetta explained, adding that there will be a second Knowledge Exchange event at ibtm world which will also focus on crisis management.
Favetta explained that whilst some educational assets are for members only, PCMA offers a wide range of learning tools that are available to everybody, either free or for a fee.
What are the main changes that you have seen in the events industry in recent years?
LF: We have seen the recession hit the events industry in 2008/09. Growth and recovery started in 2012 and the market has been stabilising ever since. Things are improving, but not so fast. Recovery on overall attendance is still affected by reduced budgets.
What trends do you see in the industry?
LF: The use of virtual reality (VR) and artificial intelligence (AI) in events has become more important. I see physical engagement at exhibitions is an important skill to have on B2B, especially corporate events.
Why do you think VR and AI are trending?
LF: Companies are using VR and AI to showcase their products and services on the exhibition floor. It also helps to attract people to their stands.
What can the exhibition industry learn from the conference market?
LF: Treating the exhibition not as the only place for having the integrating link in all marketing campaign and communication. There is still the need for organisers to master a way to integrate the overall strategy with the marketing strategy for the event.
Large-scale organisers might have the advantage to address this; what about independent organiser with a small portfolio?
LF: The recommendation applies to everyone in the events industry. Engagement is a part of event planning that never ends. Customer experience is really about the ability of organisers to keep both exhibitor and visitors interested in the event today and in the future.
What can organisers do to further develop the industry?
LF: PCMA is part of BVEP (Business Visits and Events Partnership), and I was sitting in the quarterly meeting. I could see how local associations should work together to get support and focus from the government around the industry. The UK is leading the way in this field. If you don’t lobby or take the lead it is hard to get the government to focus on the business of events.
Favetta told EN that PCMA wants to help the events industry make this change. “We are part of a movement that aims to engage participants [event organisers and suppliers] with the importance of the business events in all the levels,” he said. “Our work is to raise awareness about the understanding that events are a catalyst that can create progress on the economy overall.”