‘There’s going to be a new normal. We’re not going to go back. It’s impossible to return to where we were; we’ve all changed, and the world has also changed.’ Kevin Jackson.
Kevin Jackson is the founder of The Experience is The Marketing and one of the most influential people in the events industry. He was working in the advertising industry during the 1987 crash and in the events industry during the financial crisis of 2007. Having gone through two major crises and established an impressive international career working with top global brands and building businesses, I immediately reached out to him to seek advice on how to navigate through the current uncertainty.
I have known Kevin for a number of years and highly value and respect his fresh and forward-looking perspective. His practical approach to business, which is based on many years of experience in advertising and events, is always spot on and can help businesses of all sizes. This time, the interview also brought a new perspective and a light of positivity during the current pandemic, with many important takeaways for events agencies to action upon. The complete interview from 15 April 2020 is provided below.
This year, I was supposed to host the first International MICE Forum at ITB Berlin, but unfortunately, it was cancelled. The announcement came on 28 February 2020, just a few days before the trade show was due to open to international visitors. According to the official statement on the ITB Berlin website, the event was cancelled ‘due to the rapid spread of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Economics have stated their opinion that ITB Berlin be cancelled.’
When an adverse situation develops, opportunities often arise. Within a few days, ITB Berlin came up with a solution to offer a ‘Virtual Convention’ where planned talks can be recorded (whether live or online) and uploaded onto the new website of the virtual convention.
The MICE programme at ITB Berlin was organised by the Verband der Veranstaltungsorganisatoren e.V., the largest event association in Germany. Following the event cancellation, they reacted rapidly to host a small event on 5 March at the International Club Berlin, which was initially booked for the MICE Night. This session brought together industry leaders to discuss crisis management, share experience and possible solutions.
I was in Berlin to attend this event. One of the International MICE Forum panellists—Han Talbot, Project Manager at Traverse—travelled to Berlin despite the event’s cancellation. Being both in Berlin, we arranged to meet and record this session about ‘Influencer events: from creating instagrammable moments to delivering ROI.’ On 6 March, we met at the highly ‘instagrammable’ hotel niu Hide to record our meeting, and I’m delighted to share with you this insightful interview about influencer marketing.
I want to introduce a new topic on the blog that I haven’t touched upon extensively until now, despite it being a significant industry within the MICE sector. Only in Germany, it accounts for approximately 639 million Euros spent in 2018 for research, congresses and events and supporting services for advanced training and lectures (according to Transparenzkodex 2018). These events are subject to strict compliance regulations.
This is the pharmaceutical industry.
Before I share with you some insights from the Pharma Fortbildungs-Forum, which I attended on 4 December 2019 in Mainz, I wish to provide an introduction to the Pharma Codex, which is a guideline for pharmaceutical events. According to the definition on the Aids Conference 2018 website, ‘All interactions between European pharmaceutical companies and healthcare professionals are governed by EU Directive 2001/83/EC. This directive establishes a code of conduct that regulates the relationship between industry and healthcare professionals.’ The definition continues with a focus on the Dutch legislation, in conjunction with the AIDS congress that took place in 2018 in Amsterdam, ‘In the Netherlands, the EU regulations are applied by the Dutch Foundation for the Code of Pharmaceutical Advertising. It defines what is considered to be drug advertising and who can be exposed to drug promotion.’
Each county has its own code of conduct, and the organisers need to respect this code when it comes to advertising.
Event design is a highly current topic on event planners’ agenda. It begins with ‘why’ the event is required in the first place, and how to bring the many individual elements of the event (audience, branding, venue, format, communication, content, destination, sustainability, accessibility and more) together to create a seamless delegate experience.
This year, I developed a strong interest in design after attending the Switzerland Tourism Influencer Summit that focused on art and architecture, and subsequently chose to deep dive into this topic with further research, including the #eventprofstalk Twitter chat about ‘The fundamentals of event design that will guide #eventprofs to deliver more impactful events’ and speaking at the Illerhaus Marketing MICE Branchentreff about ‘How can event organisers structure their social media plan based on the principles of event design.’ A further opportunity came along to attend the #GrenzenlosesEventdesign (Translated as ‘borderless event design’ from German) from 7–10 November 2019. This educational trip was organised by three national convention bureaus: the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau, Convention Partner Vorarlberg and German Convention Bureau.
The term ‘event designing’ is well known in our industry, and many event professionals also apply the principles of event design to their events. With the increasing attention of our audience shifting to online channels, it is equally important to highlight the process of an event on the various online channels, namely pre-, during and after an event takes place. Social media is on the rise, and looking at Instagram alone, it has significant reach—according to a Sprout Social report from April 2019, it has 1 billion users. This number is not to be ignored, and therefore event professionals when designing events for their ‘physical’ audiences need to take into account their online audience as well.
‘How can event organisers structure their social media plan based on the principles of event design?’ was the title of a talk I gave together with Natallia Zaremba from Zaremba Consulting at the recent Illerhaus Marketing MICE Branchentreff event in Konstanz. Natallia is based in Zurich, and her background is sales and marketing in the tourism and hospitality industry. With over 20 years’ experience, she quickly realised that the traditional sales presentations are not as effective as they used to be, and the product or service sold should be presented differently, namely adding an online element to the B2B sales channels. For one year, she has run her own company that offers consulting services in the MICE industry on online marketing and venue searches.
In our presentation, we focused on how to transfer the event experience to social media and ‘take your delegates’ on this digital journey.