Olympia London, MD, Nigel Nathan makes his point on the future of the exhibition industry.
2020 has already brought some new challenges to the industry, with coronavirus dominating the news. Whilst we hope this will settle in the near future, sudden challenges are not at all uncommon in our industry. We are constantly adapting to trends, political movements and even the weather.
As an industry, we are an exceptionally passionate group of people who give 100 per cent to deliver outstanding events and attract audiences. In 2019, we invested in our staff’s learning and growth to nurture, empower and strengthen the Olympia London family in wellbeing, and professional & personal development programmes with results reaching beyond our walls and benefitting families, clients and the local community.
We also continued to focus and invest in sustainability. Whilst Olympia London has been sending zero waste to landfill for over a decade, it is only one small step in the bigger scheme. Having cemented this practice, our staff-led initiative, The Grand Plan, is now sharing this expertise with other venues, so we can all thrive and benefit together.
Last year, we launched a programme to eradicate single-use plastic and, in another initiative, the venue has reduced 17 per cent of food waste four months after joining WRAP’s national campaign to tackle the issue.
With sustainability one of the top priorities to an increasingly larger number of organisers, being a sustainable venue is no longer a ‘nice to have’ green credential – it is now good business sense.
Shifting consumer trends also bring opportunities for the industry. Some of the latest reports analysing online behaviour across consumer groups found that Gen Z (16 to 21-year olds) spend more than seven hours a day online. Further, 73 per cent of them said they would make a purchase based purely on a social media recommendation. We are no longer competing with other live experiences and events, but mostly with smart phones.
How do we keep the audience engaged, pause Netflix and come back for more?
Emerging consumer trends and tech are crucial subjects for our industry, and key drivers in informing how we shape events to keep attracting visitors. Marketing, social channels, feedback and testimonials are all effective tools, but I also believe in keeping it as impartial as possible, so for the past five years, Olympia London has been conducting independent surveys with organisers, exhibitors and visitors.
Their feedback has informed the biggest investment plan in our history, which will expand our venue into an event, culture and entertainment destination with added restaurants, hotels and public open spaces.
To ensure our organisers’ expectations are heard, we are now bringing them together with a series of roundtables designed to reveal the customer experience and future of events. We hope these findings will not only be beneficial for the venue, but for industry as a whole.
Listening, adapting and sharing expertise – this is what will keep the event industry thriving and secure our brilliant future.