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Mid-Season Musings

by Simon Parker

EN guest editor Simon Parker shares his thoughts on the 19 July lockdown delay, the row over data ownership and the recent rise of launches

I am now past the half-way mark in my stint as guest editor and while as an industry we are yet again picking ourselves up from the floor and metaphorically dusting ourselves down after yet another disappointment, I have enjoyed every minute of it. The news that we can’t effectively re-open until 19 July was widely expected but still cuts very deeply into an already devastated industry.

The case has been made repeatedly that we can, via a risk-assessed process, open safely and help the government in its ultimate aim of getting the country back in business. It was great to see Chris Skieth getting an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list but I am sure he won’t mind me saying that until we are open and have an ongoing, constructive and ultimately beneficial relationship with Government our job at the AEO is not done.

Many of us will have been reminded of the power of face-to-face by attending either or both of The Event Production Show and A-Livex so it seemed almost doubly disappointing when Mash took the difficult decision to postpone Confex. The way that the team agonised over every factor and implication of that decision was a great testament to the teams’ commitment and passion for our industry and that decision was ultimately the correct one for the right reasons.

I am sure the industry will get behind the event even more when it takes place in September. Clearly, this situation isn’t unique to Mash as we have all had to agonise over what is ultimately a subjective decision on what is ‘right’ for our events and their communities given this crazy set of circumstances.

There may be trouble ahead…

In other news there seems to be a storm brewing in digital world after Mark Brewster chaired a panel of senior executives of digital event platform providers at the UFI Conference. The panel consisted of representatives from ExpoPlatform, Grip, InfoSalons and Swapcard and led to a fairly robust (a word whose meaning has been redefined to mean feisty I think) discussion.

Ultimately the discussion polarised with Expoplatform and Grip believing that organisers data is their property and in Tanya Pinchuks (CEO ExpoPlatform) words, “the event organisers should retain full control of their user data”.  The contrary view was taken by CEO of Swapcard, Baptiste Boulard. In his model Swapcard controls the data and organisers share it with the platform creating one large database of attendees and exhibitors spanning all events on their platform. In his words:

“Every individual using Swapcard has the same account across all events, no matter if it’s a white label solution or not. If an [event organiser] terminates your contract, you cannot delete that data. 

“We will store this data for three years and after three years, if that attendee didn’t log in again to any event powered by Swapcard, we will delete that data,”

The logic behind this approach is to enable comprehensive AI matchmaking using a far more expansive dataset (of potentially competitive events) which clearly has benefits. The debate is therefore whether the organising community is comfortable ceding control and ownership of the data for those benefits.

Tim Groot from Grip took a similar position to ExpoPlatform stating that, “Grip is not a co-controller, Grip is a sub-processor to the organiser.”

While what we are experiencing is a natural competitive battle between emerging platforms we shouldn’t let this distract us from creating great new ways of bringing our communities together. Data is undoubtedly every organizer’s greatest asset and therefore we need protocols and contractual terms and conditions that protect that asset.

Launch pad

The other thing that has really become apparent over the last few weeks is that amount of launch activity. I had a great chat with Rob Sherwood about Space Comm but it also appears that Easyfairs, 19 Events and 73 Media are also going launch crazy. In Matt Benyons (CEO Easyfairs UK and Global), Easyfairs’ “biggest period of growth was directly after the last recession”. It is great to see a growing sense of optimism and the fact that forward looking and entrepreneurial companies are using the Covid ‘downtime’ to create new and exciting product.

Finally, I am planning on a more expansive piece on sustainability next week but want to bring your attention to a new initiative led by Maya Mhatre, Duncan Reid and Thi Dinh called Reset Connect. They explain its mission and aims as:

“Building a community of businesses driving sustainable change. We want to see the business community embrace net zero and make it as easy as possible to do so. We connect business leaders with others who are driving change to learn from and support each other and accelerate action. Part of this is through our series of webinars as part of London Climate Action Week, Europe’s biggest independent climate change event in Europe and is backed by the Mayor of London.”

They are planning a session on Sustainable Events, titled, ‘Building Back Better: a Net-Zero Events Industry’, with a fantastic panel on 30 June, 10.30-11.30 .

To register for free please visit www.reset-connect.com/exhibitionnews


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