Exhibition World Issue 3 – 2021 | Page 49

Data interesting perspective on where our industry might be in five years ’ time . An example company within our panel would be Ascential – formerly the B2B event division of EMAP , now reshaped and on a very different path . Based on the titles and responsibilities of over 1,500 roles in the panel , we created a word cloud to summarise the most common words which describe data-relevant employees .

However , neither titles nor tenure can predict who can be upskilled versus not . On the bright side , the brain remains plastic into adulthood – so people can learn . It is probably cheaper to upskill , assuming you have the right ‘ clay ’. Not everyone will get it , but most event professionals should be able to understand what data can do for them and what they should ask of external providers .
It boils down to the question : how difficult is it to upskill ? Not all of our current marketers , research and data people will have the required curiosity and motivation to start fresh . Employees in other parts of the business should also be considered ( e . g . digitally native salespeople ). The other complication is that marketers are likely the busiest people in our industry right now . They had the most exposure to data pre-pandemic , so they would be natural candidates – but they are working flat-out to deliver hybrid experiences . We could see retention , burnout and churn issues . How to solve it ?
Upskilling programmes are not one-off trainings . What works is gradually building awareness , understanding and confidence – not least through learning-by-doing and coaching support . This also builds motivation and retention . It may take longer , but it ’ s very rewarding when successful .
Hiring new blood One way of acquiring skills is , well , through acquisitions – known in
Above : Mark Parsons
Above : Trevor Foley
the tech world as ‘ acquihiring ’. But assuming that buying a digital marketing business or a market research company also has other strategic rationales , we ’ ll focus on hiring individuals .
A client recently asked : “ If I bring in people without an events background , will they get it ?”. We answered “ Yes , most of them will – eventually ”. There are industries that are much farther ahead , like tech and FMCG , and it makes sense to get new ideas in . But this also raises the question of attracting talent : how can organisers make themselves attractive to a highly skilled ( and often younger ) workforce that may see high-tech firms as the employer of choice ? And then how to retain them ?
Looking at our Digital Media Leaders panel also helps us understand which industries current employees worked in previously . The main sources of external talent are market research , tech , retail and FMCG companies :
• Market research companies ( e . g . Nielsen , Kantar , Euromonitor );
• Data merchants ( e . g . Dunnhumby , Experian );
• Broadcasters ( e . g . Sky , BBC );
• Traditional tech companies ( e . g . Sage , Paypal , Apple , Google , LinkedIn , Microsoft );
• Retailers ( e . g . Tesco , Sainsbury ’ s , M & S );
• FMCG companies ( e . g . GSK , P & G , Estee Lauder ).
Some sectors are ahead of events , and we should use this insight when
looking for new talent .
The right mix of build and buy Back to the original question : Where is the data-smart event talent going to come from ? The answer is “ It depends …” It ’ s probably both build and buy . Large companies may afford to invest and add FTEs to build mixed teams , but for many small organisers it could be an either-or .
With marketing so busy running digital and hybrid shows , another choice is to put the data-led focus at director level , accelerating the trend of event directors evolving into product directors who build solutions that monetise a community , rather than run a show .
Events need fresh thinking and leaping ahead by applying lessons from other industries like tech , retail and FMCG . These new stimuli are powerful because we are , at heart , media businesses focused on the quality of our content , not technology businesses focused on data and the processes that create this data . The good news is that the events industry doesn ’ t need ‘ bleeding edge ’ data smarts today , because it still needs to explore and grow into its data-led future . We have some time , so let ’ s use it wisely !
www . mckinsey . com / businessfunctions / organization / ourinsights / the-organization-blog / evolving-the-talent-pool-at-thespeed-of-emerging-technology
Mark Parsons is founder of Events Intelligence , a big data business which uses machine learning to understand similarities between companies and find new exhibitors at scale .
Trevor Foley is managing director of tfconnect , a global recruitment and executive search consultancy built upon his extensive network across the global events industry .
www . exhibitionworld . co . uk Issue 3 2021 49