AIPC: Yes, We Did & Yes, We Will!

Date: 26/11/2020


by Sven Bossu, CEO AIPC

 At the end of September, AIPC brought its community together for the 2020 annual conference in Paris. Given travel restrictions, we decided to make it a hybrid conference which resulted into an event which was both intimate and global. The ambition was to provide our members with a holistic view on the future of organized events and that is exactly what they got.

Both the venue and the on-site participants were simply delighted to have a face-to-face meeting and be able to network as we all used to do. There was definitely a feeling of “yes, we can”—and more importantly: “yes, we must.” And that was also the key message we got from almost all the speakers —from the chief marketing officer of Deutsche Bank to the senior event director of SAP: physical events will come back, because they are needed to trigger innovation and relaunch the economy. At the same time, there is the acknowledgement that digitalization—which is nothing new—is now at the level everybody expected it to be … in 10 years.

As a result, all the models we have used till now are considered broken and all players in the event value chain are indeed re-inventing themselves. As an example, the CEO of ACCOR Europe explained how the group now rents out rooms as day offices, as in some cases working from home is simply not possible.

Sometimes it can be inspiring to look at other industries and see how they dealt with existential crises like these. Mark Gallagher, who comes with a Formula 1 background, did provide that inspiration. In the last 30 years, Formula had to—as a result of circumstances out of its control—evolve from tobacco-sponsored car racing business into global technology business. Revenue sources representing 80 percent of total income for decades disappeared in less than three years and other business models had to be re-invented from scratch. And time after time, Formula 1 re-emerged because the different teams—despite the fact that they are fierce competitors—came together in times of crises to come up with solutions.

In the event industry, we will go through a similar catharsis. Technology will no longer be an “add-on” to physical events. Instead it will be “digital first” and venues will become content incubators, offering event organizers multi-channel solutions to bring content in different formats to their community. And event organizers will need to redefine how they engage with their community and deliver content in formats which are in line with the desires and expectations of the customer.

Figuring out how this can be achieved in a way which brings value to all the different parties involved is still an area in full exploration. Even global technology companies, such as Cisco of SAP, have not fully nailed down the concept of hybrid events. But the common thread was that we—as an industry —can come out stronger out of this if we collaborate. In some cases, speakers were very explicit and actually reached out to the AIPC community to come up with solutions.

As the International Association of Convention Centres, AIPC has a mission to do exactly that: create a platform where knowledge is shared, offer opportunities to learn from each other and define how the next normal will look like—in partnership with all the stakeholders within the ecosystem. And this annual conference was definitely a firm step in that direction.

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