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RecFest: Breaking the trade show mould

by EN

Glastonbury-style B2B event for the talent acquisition industry RecFest breaks the trade show mould.  Here RecFest tells EN how they aim to be “daringly different” and inspire other trade show organisers to upskill, connect and engage whilst entertaining their delegates.

Pre-pandemic, the term ‘festivalisation of events’ was so hot in the events industry it was at risk of becoming a cliché. Organisers, particularly those within the B2B trade show community contended with how to make events more personalised fun experiences to lure attendees out of the office.

Very few achieved ‘festivalisation’ better than RecFest, the global trade event which returned this month with its true Festival format for the first time since 2019 by welcoming over 4,200 professional visitors from the talent acquisition industry. The festival prides itself on offering an alternative to the traditional conference and trade show format and throws down the gauntlet to other organisers to challenge their own event offering.

This year, RecFest experienced record attendance with visitor tickets selling out more than a fortnight before the show opened.

Being the UK’s largest and only B2B festival for the talent acquisition industry, RecFest prides itself on celebrating its sector. The one-day event features 10 stages playing host to more than 100 game-changing speakers from both inside and outside the talent acquisition industry.

The RecFest format completely breaks the mould with its unique take on what it means to attend an industry event. Its primary aim mirrors the role of a talent acquisition sector – to celebrate the hard work that dedicated professionals put in day-to-day to change people’s lives.

This year, the event headed to the legendary Knebworth House world-renowned for its rich history in rock festivals and music concerts, fully embracing the festival-style nature of RecFest.

Top-level speaker content was delivered from grand Big Tops & Domes and the experiences and immersive activities on the day were like no other. Food and drink were served from a wide variety of food trucks and street food vendors.

The professional seminar programme was curated to deliver valuable content for the attendees with household names such as Olympian Rebecca Aldington OBE and Reggie Yates headlining the stages alongside dynamic industry thought-leaders including Raj Gill, global talent acquisition manager at BT and diversity strategist and RecFest staple Torin Ellis.

RecFest is the brainchild of Founder and CEO Jamie Leonard (pictured right), who believes that the event should first and foremost champion the community it serves.

The event was born in 2014 as an annual conference however it wasn’t until 2019 that the ambition of delivering a full-on festival-style event was realised. A peripatetic event, RecFest has since been hosted by Dreamland Margate and Mudchute Park taking 2020 to deliver a virtual experience due to the pandemic.

It is become a name for itself and a firm date in the professional calendar – not just loved by attendees but also by exhibitors and sponsors.

Leonard, CEO of The Recruitment Events Co, explains their approach: “Our aim has always been to celebrate the TA community and to create a shared experience away from beige conference rooms, shirts and ties, and tired regurgitated content.

“The RecFest motto is to be daringly different and refreshingly so in our approach. We believe in upskilling, connecting, engaging whilst entertaining our delegates.”

As trade show organisers look to 2023, the challenge of how to draw attendees out of their homes, and giving up their much-loved work/life balance isn’t going away. Perhaps RecFest offers other trade show organisers some inspiration on how to do this best.

The RecFest team are on a mission to disrupt the model.

Leonard says: “To us, the event should be a unique experience and a real celebration whilst delivering interesting, thoughtful and important content. At the end of the day, our delegates are human beings and are looking for connections.”

Describing the experience at the event, Mark Horley, chief creative officer and founder, Tonic said: “There are days that go down in history, and then there are days that make history. Yesterday, was one of those days. 4,200 people from the global TA and EB industry gathered at Knebworth for recfest.

“I’ve never seen or experienced anything quite like it. Thousand of experts, fantastic presentations, hours of learning followed by Reggie Yates DJ set, Noasis and Judge Jules.”

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