Access All Areas April 2019 - Page 20

APRIL | TRENDING Words: Stuart Wood T he word ‘festivalisation’ gets thrown around quite a bit in the events industry, as a way to describe business events - such as conferences and exhibitions – incorporating the kinds of fun we traditionally associate with music festivals. B2B organisers are beginning to see the value in creating a sense of community around an event, and engaging audiences with unique experiences they can share over social media and beyond. But ‘festivalisation’ is not a one-way street – it is part of a wider trend that has seen events from across the festival, conference and exhibition industries cross-pollinating. This month, we take a look at two recent high-profile examples of this cross-pollination: first, the European Meetings and Events Conference in The Hague, which took a healthy amount of inspiration from the festival world. And secondly SXSW, a gargantuan crossover beast that touches all corners of the events industry across two weeks in March. What can conferences learn from festivals? Access attended the European Meetings and Events Conference (EMEC 19) from 9-12 February on behalf of our sister magazine, Conference & Meetings World. But the extent to which the event was informed by the festival industry was striking. The opening dinner of the conference, rather than offering us a sit-down meal, supplied a series of food trucks, each with a different stipulation. One asked us to order our food in rhyme, while another would only serve us if we were in the company of someone from Poland or Canada. Elsewhere, a series of ‘learning journeys’ got us outside the convention centre and around the The Hague region. Some visited an orchestra to learn about leadership from a classical conductor, while others visited the zoo for a lecture about ape management. Access attended a crisis management wargame, which put us in the shoes of an imaginary company which had been hacked by Anonymous. We played out a scripted storyline which forced us to deal with an escalating crisis on the fly, exercising our diplomatic and persuasive skills to the fullest. “The focus for EMEC 19 was to bring people together and create a sense of community,” says EMEC 19 B2B or not B2B? Following the conclusion of SXSW, a crossover event of dizzying scale, Stuart Wood asks: how are the festival and conference industries learning from each other? 20 project leader Sven Boelhouwer. “This was the thinking behind the opening dinner, and the learning journeys which preceded the conference. We encourage people to connect with those who share similar interests and aspirations.” With a range of social activities both in the build-up to and during the conference, EMEC 19 very cleverly constructed a sense of community around itself. It meant that delegates already knew each other by the time they sat down for their first keynote and led to a massive uptake of engagement on social media. It was a far cry from the anonymous conference experience which many organisers fall back on, where delegates will grab a coffee, sit down next to strangers they don’t speak to, and leave with some vague new ideas about sustainability or Brexit. “EMEC 19 was about changing the game,” says Boelhouwer. “I hope more conference organisers will take Below: Some very serious networking at EMEC 19’s tropical beach party Bottom: A choir performs at the closing keynote