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Confex and The Future of International Events

By: Jonathan Downie    Date: April 11, 2019

Back in February, I had the honour of attending International Confex in London. The amount of excellent contacts I made and a rather large project have meant that I have not managed to gather my thoughts until now. But here is what I learned about the future of international meetings.

Face-to-face is still king

Wherever you look online, there is some company trying to sell you the latest virtualisation tech or holographic whatsits or 3D immersive whojamaflips. Yes, there was tech on show at International Confex but the over-riding message from the plenaries and workshops was that having tech in the background is the in thing.

Surrounded by smartphones and digital assistants, it seems that the last thing delegates want is to go to a conference and be faced with more screens. Corporates are taking their staff on away days to the woods, organisers are being asked to make more space for networking and privacy concerns are limiting the use of data beacons.

Tech is all well and good but it has to be there for a specific reason – to enable face-to-face communication, not replace it. The future of meetings is human.

Diversity is the Future

How many times do you see a panel with four English-speaking, middle-aged white men on it? Delegates and buyers are beginning to get tired of that. There is more to the world than what you might learn at Eton.

Sadly, the plenary panel on Diversity in events at International Confex was not the best attended but that seemed to go against the grain of what event managers were hearing and trying to do.

Every sector needs to hear from people from a variety of backgrounds and with a range of experience. Might that mean that one day even some of the big events sector tradeshows become more small business friendly and don’t make renting an extortionate stand a requirement for speaking? We can only hope.

English-only is on the way out

Michael Newton of Cvent was my hero of the show. If you don’t know Cvent, they are a world-leading events management software company. In response to a question I posed in the diversity panel, he said thst Cvent are moving away from English-only events and that this seems to be a wider trend.

Whether this leads to more companies having local office events in local events, an increase in interpreted events or both, it is good news. For too long, the position of English as a lingua franca has led to poor communication, the stifling of certain opinions and laziness in event management.

Now that the doors seem to be swinging wide to welcome linguistic and cultural diversity, we can look forward to events that more more engaging, more immersive and more effective. The challenge now is to provide interpreting that enables that.

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