This year I made a decision: to attend events that are not just for event professionals, and search for inspiration beyond the industry. Since the inception of my blog in 2011, I have focused heavily on industry events, with very few exceptions. Now, however, I find myself often criticising our own ways of organising events and conducting business. That sounds rather unusual, given that we are expected to be the leaders; the movers and shakers. Is that not the case?
I remember the early days, when I immersed myself in the industry, and every article, publication, event, and familiarisation trip offered a revelation about this wonderful industry. Few things have changed since 2011, and I have now reached a point where I wish to progress my personal development, and explore other, broader business fields that boost the global MICE industry and local economies.
Earlier this year, I attended the CEBIT event in Hannover, Europe’s leading event focusing on the digital economy, after learning about its rebrand at ITB Berlin. Applying a fresh perspective, the organisers created what is certainly not the average trade show experience. A revamp of the traditional format resulted in a new Business Festival, where more traditional formats are complemented with a music festival and a giant Ferris wheel. The five-day event offered a wide spectrum of topics, and from these I selected what most suited my educational needs. The Friday events: “Influencer Marketing Conference” and “Captain MICE Future” were a big win-win for me, maximising my long journey to Hannover.
Hannover is a very important exhibition hub within Germany. In addition to CEBIT, it hosts some of the biggest international trade shows, for example the combined Hannover Messe Industrial Technology Show and the CeMAT – the logistics and materials handling show.
Recently, Skift (global travel industry intelligence) published an interesting article: “what happens when events grow too big” citing Hannover as an example. A city with a population of just over 520,000, Hannover sees approximately 220,000 visitors during the period of these two combined events. This provides a significant boost to the local economy, and it comes with both advantages and disadvantages. One of the challenges it experiences is the limited hotel room capacity, and as a result, organisers suggest event participants commute, or book accommodation in other nearby cities.
Commuting to Hannover was my preferred option, although this was still difficult with a 3.5-hour commute each way. The national rail Deutsche Bahn works with organisers to offer a special travel rate for the exhibition, and competitive rates for a first-class ticket. This is certainly a good deal; therefore, I took advantage of the offer.
My two take-aways after attending CEBIT
Create a door-to-door experience
I was most impressed by having literally a door-to-door experience – from Heidelberg train station to the first education session. Whilst this might sound simplistic, it is worth remembering the scale of the CEBIT event. During the event, the Deutsche Bahn stopped on the exhibition grounds, resulting in a walk of less than 10 minutes to the conference hall. Being able to print my ticket in advance meant no waiting time at check-in either. This created a seamless experience (for a regular ticket holder). This is a well-considered, clever, yet simple way to create a positive experience for delegates.
Different education streams were available at CEBIT, hosted by external partner providers. This was the case for the Social Media Influencer conference (organised by Blog Foster) and the Captain MICE Future event (organised by the VDVO – Verband der Veranstaltungsorganisatoren e.V.) that I attended. Being hosted on the same day on the exhibition grounds, my time and experience at the CEBIT event was optimised, offering me a 2-for-1 advantage for my time and money. If these events had taken place on different days, I would have missed one. Conveniently, both took place in the same hall. Perhaps it was more of a coincidence, but it was certainly an advantage for me.
Interestingly, my positive experience was not because of the marketing promise and selling proposition to attend the leading and coolest “Business Festival”. Instead, it was a seamless and compact day, full of relevant content, and business connections which I greatly enjoyed and completely fulfilled my expectations. Perhaps next year I should aim to stay for two days, and explore it more fully, including the festival atmosphere.
At the end of this month, I am going to Bits & Pretzels start-up conference, so watch out for more interesting updates on my social media and blog!
Nice post Irina. I had the same experience attending WebSummit when it was in Dublin – I discovered that non-event specialists are not limited in their creativity by conventional approaches to how things are done in the world of events. Result: a truly interesting and engaging conference experience.