Category Archives: Industry trends

LeWeb a.k.a. the playground for adults: a meeting design case study

A few months ago, I read an article at the Event Manager Blog that said that conferences are the perfect playgrounds for adults. Well, I think LeWeb couldn’t be a better example of that. This was my first time attending this conference (thanks to Conferize who gave away 1 ticket!) and it’s been a truly fascinating experience. I not only learned a lot about the latest technology innovations and met countless of serial entrepreneurs, but also came away with many meeting design ideas.

I believe that LeWeb does many things very well. For starters, it was an almost flawless meeting – despite being a 3,000+ conference, with hectic schedules (some presentations only lasted for 5 minutes!), there were almost no delays and no technical or logistical flaws (that I noticed). It felt more like being in a TV set instead of a conference! In terms of meeting design, I observed quite a few things:

1. Branding: you only need to look at pictures to see their logo all over the place. I’ve probably never seen a logo so many times in a conference. They’re very good at including LeWeb image and colours everywhere, especially close to the stage. So, the logo was inevitably in most of the pictures that were taken. I think that many times, especially for corporate events, we forget about that. But branding is so important if we want to create buzz around the event and build a community! I also loved the design of the stages: lots of mirrors, textiles, sofas and lamps – simple but very classy.

LeWeb logo all over the stage

LeWeb logo all over the stage

Elegant decor for the second stage

Elegant decor for the second stage

2. Impactful beginning: when I do presentations about meeting design, I always say that setting the tone during the first 10 minutes of a conference is key. I’ve experienced it myself many times – if you want your audience to interact, start by asking them to do something. That will set their expectations. At LeWeb they got this right too – they started with a guided meditation for everyone (the auditorium was packed). It was followed by an interview of one of the keynote speakers over breakfast – Loic Le Meur and the speaker were literally having coffee and eating a croissant – simple but caught my attention.


3. Really dynamic presentation formats: I thought they did a great at combining speaker presentations (no longer than 20 minutes each), panels and interviews. Most of them were actually Q&A panels and interviews, which are very engaging but I don’t see them that often at conferences – and I don’t know why? Besides being engaging, it gives people the chance to ask questions, but also it’s the perfect solution to having a speaker that hasn’t got the best presentation skills. However, I did miss not having time for reflection nor roundtable discussions… but with thousands of delegates, would that work? (To LeWeb’s credit, there were a few small roundtable discussions and workshops running in parallel. I attended a couple of them and they were great). I should also point out that, even though there were over 3,000 attendees, most of the time there were only 2 main sessions going on at the same time. I’ve been to many conferences with far less people and many more sessions. I believe LeWeb’s approach is preferable: many psychological studies say that when we have too many choices, we are often less happy (because of the so-called FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out). Someone told me that at SXSW they have up to 56 sessions in parallel, which is outrageous, although they do have 50,000 delegates. In my opinion, having 2 or 3 choices is enough, so kudos to LeWeb!

4. I missed more facilitated networking – obviously networking is one of the main reasons why people go to LeWeb, but there weren’t any formally structured activities to help me meet who I wanted to meet. So I probably lost many opportunities. Yes, I know you can contact people over the event app but it’d have been nice to have recommendations based on similar interests, for example. Also, most of the sessions had a theatre style seating, which made it difficult to meet people as well.

Main room

Main room

5. The moderators were just GREAT. They used many moderators throughout the 3 days, but the one I saw more often was Loic Le Meur, LeWeb’s founder. He did such a good job at keeping our attention, controlling the time, asking interesting questions and striking a good balance between his questions and the audience’s. I also noticed Loic’s ability for really listening to the speaker and reflect on the content. Unfortunately, that’s not something so common between moderators and facilitators. Perhaps it’s because of his mindfulness daily practice?

6. Well-curated content. I’m not an expert in the topics (mostly technological innovations and start-ups), but I understand the conference is really well thought-after (let’s not forget, though, that the conference fee is 2.500€! I wish I’d had that budget when I was curating conferences!). Nevertheless, hats off to LeWeb for designing a programme that had a perfect flow and mindblowing content. The speaker presentations were also quite consistent in terms of quality, dynamism, attention to slide design, conciseness.

7. As I said before, the logistics were flawless, even the wifi was excellent! I also liked the VIP seats that they had on the stage for press, bloggers, sponsors and speakers. If creating buzz around your event is one of your goals, why not offer to media and bloggers a table, a comfortable chair, a socket and a privileged spot? Another highlight was the exhibition and networking area: it was designed in a way that there were almost no “dead areas” and in between sessions the space was packed. A special mention as well to the food: the catering was excellent, and I could even taste Iberian ham and my favourite French meal, parmentier de canard!

Exhibition and networking area

Exhibition and networking area

Iberian ham at the Spain booth

Iberian ham at the Spanish booth

Parmentier de canard

Parmentier de canard

Finally, here’s a few cool predictions I learned about:

1. Healthcare apps will be the big hit in 2015, as well as crowdsourced /peer-to-peer services like Blablacar, airbnb or drivy. More and more of these startups will go public, and their funding and execution will dictate which start ups win.

2. Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web (who was my favourite speaker) had mixed feelings about whether internet will remain neutral or not (the other scenario is that a few corporations and governments will control the information we access). He argued that “the robots are already here“, they are the corporations and in some of them, humans can’t apply for jobs.

3. Wearables will become ubiquitous and will make lots of data available. Some of the fun wearables or so-called “enchanted objects” that we saw are an umbrella that lights up when the weather forecast says it’s going to rain or a wallet that’s connected to your bank account, and it becomes harder to open as you’re running out of money.

4. Driveless cars are coming much more quickly than anyone realizes, perhaps in 5 years they will be mainstream, as well as electric cars. We’ll have different lanes for humans and robots.

5. The rise of the crowd economy: healthcare, corporate, transportation, utilities, cities, trucks, hospitals, police, university lectures – peer-to-peer sharing is now really everywhere.

6. In the future we’ll be able to use technology to “rewrite” the brain and to read someone else’s brain, and know if they’re saying the truth or not.

Truly astonishing stuff for a sublime conference.

As a closing thought: they say that Millenialls spend more money on experiences than on consuming products – so I predict that conferences will be even more on the rise in the near future, as others have also argued. They are the ultimate playground for those who are curious about the world and love meeting like-minded people.

Have you got inspiration from other conferences that you’ve attended? Would love to hear your meeting design ideas!



EIBTM review: the trade show of a grown-up industry

So once more, another fantastic edition of EIBTM comes to an end. I’ve attended this show for the past 5 years, as a visitor, an exhibitor, a speaker and even as staff! (last year I project managed the Innovation Zone). This year though, it was a relaxing one for me – I only had to speak at one session and attend a few meetings. Therefore, I had time to wander around, go to some educational sessions and catch up with friends and colleagues. I have many takeaways from this year’s exhibition, but if I have to choose one word to sum it up, it’s MATURITY. I’m a relatively new comer to the meetings industry, but this year I could sense, in many ways, that meeting professionals are “growing up”. Let me explain it:

1. The first example of Maturity is EIBTM itself: this year, the trade show has gone back to the basics, slashing many educational sessions and focusing on its raison d’être, facilitating business connections. If there is less education, delegates spend more time on the show floor with exhibitors. This makes sense, and even more in this day and age, where we can find so much information online (some people argue that speaker presentations will no longer exist in a few years, since it’s all available online – I don’t agree though). EIBTM has also changed its name, in 2015 it will be called IBTM World. Personally, I find it a good move, this trade show is truly a melting pot of people from all over the world! The organizers can certainly be proud: there was an 8% increase in attendance (over 15.000 visitors!). I also spoke with some exhibitors who told me that, for the first time ever, they had closed deals on the spot. That’s certainly good news for everyone involved.

Loved the hustle and bustle of the show floor!

Loved the hustle and bustle of the show floor!

2. There is much more interest in the content side of meetings. The educational programme was overwhelmingly dominated by the topic of meeting design. I myself co-presented a session on it, we had a large audience and by the level of the questions that we were asked, I can tell most were not beginners. It’s as if meeting planners (finally) realize that they create valuable events when they focus on fostering education and networking, besides booking nice hotels. Also, the FRESH dinner (the place to be if you’re into meeting design) was the busiest ever this year. By the way, all sessions were livestreamed and made available on-demand here.

The audience at our session on Meeting formats

The audience at our session on Meeting formats

And this was the stage where we presented

And this was the stage where we presented

3. Tech start ups are no longer the “new kids on the block”. Event technology companies are getting bigger, booking larger stands, and more tellingly, no longer need to educate their customers so much. Now pretty much everyone knows what an event app is, understands that technology should be used meaningfully and is not so afraid of using gadgets and the venue’s wifi. American Express Meetings & Events said that in North America, hybrid meetings are on the rise (albeit flat in EMEA). Some of the new trends in technology are ibeacons and augmented reality, but in my opinion, for now they are just fancy technologies, with no real added value for event organizers just yet.

Having fun with augmented reality at the Innovation Zone

Having fun with augmented reality at the Innovation Zone

View of the Innovation Zone

View of the stunning Innovation Zone

4. Event planners are becoming experts at using Social Media. Obviously we’re all still learning and there’s much room for improvement, however, I think we’re in high school now! If you read the latest ebook from Event Manager’s Blog, which was released during EIBTM, you’ll see much more sophisticated information and case studies on using Social Media networks at events. Therefore, we are moving from beginners to advanced users. Still, when I asked a panel of so-called “Social Media experts” about the role of bloggers, most said that they didn’t know any MICE blogger. Well, I think it’s time to look at how other industries are taking advantage of bloggers and use those strategies for event and destination marketing. By the way, some interesting data here: most of the Trip Advisor reviews are positive (the average is 4.6/5), so there is no need to be afraid of social media reviews!

Finally, thanks to the Meeting Design Institute (and all the sponsors of the Video Corner) we recorded a video that explains what The Conference Goer’s Blog is all about. You can check it out here.

Did you go to EIBTM? What was your experience of the trade show? Do you agree with my conclusion that the meeting professional has grown up? And if you read my previous blog post on Tips from a local to enjoy Barcelona, please share what your experience was!

Energizing break at the Innovation Zone by Magdalina Atanassova

Energizing break at the Innovation Zone by Magdalina Atanassova

The collaborative economy debated during Catalonia’s World Tourism Day event

The 1st of October is the World Tourism Day and to celebrate it, Catalonia’s Tourist Agency put together a memorable evening. The event started with a conference where leading industry experts discussed the hottest topics in 2 roundtables at the Fira de Barcelona’s Convention Centre. It was followed by an awards ceremony and a dinner at the magnificent Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC).

The topic of the first session was the role and impact of the new collaborative economy in the tourism industry. In many countries around the world, and in Spain in particular, there have been many debates lately around services like Airbnb, Uber or BlaBlacar. Should the government allow them to exist? And, if so, under what conditions? Everyone seemed to agree that, like it or not, collaborative economies are here to stay. I completely agree (as you may have read in a previous blog post, I’m a big fan of and regularly use Airbnb and Blablacar, both for personal and business trips). The conclusion was that, since they are here to stay, governments might as well tax their activity (currently, you only pay VAT on the fee of using the service, not on the service itself). Also, the CEO of Roommate hotels, Kike Sarasola, pointed out that businesses must outsmart these new companies. He says he’s just been listening to the needs of people and improving on Airbnb weaknesses (such as not having a 24/7 reception or a luggage locker), and he’s being very successful.

Roundtable discussions

Roundtable discussions at Fira de Barcelona’s Convention Centre

The second roundtable was about what tourism should look like in Catalonia. Do we want to keep attracting students and backpackers who come for the cheap beer and the beach? (read this article on an incident that happened recently with drunken tourists in the city). Should we look for more tourists from Russia and other emerging countries that spend most of their time shopping in Passeig de Gracia’s luxury boutiques? Currently, Barcelona is one of the top destinations in the world (both for holidays and business tourism), and its popularity seems to doesn’t have a limit. Every year the number of tourists visiting increases, to the dismay of some Barcelona inhabitants, who are fed up with all the negative consequences of attracting so many tourists.

All the speakers agreed on one thing: tourism is Catalonia’s cash cow, so this industry should be maintained. But not at all costs. I especially liked Miquel Puig’s contributions. Miquel is an economist from the University of Barcelona who claimed that if we want to keep our generous welfare state, we must increase salaries. Otherwise, everyone is paying for tourism (for example, waiters have such a low income and therefore pay such low taxes that all citizens have to pay for their healthcare costs). To put things into perspective, Miquel mentioned that in countries like Austria or Switzerland, or even France, salaries in the tourism industry are so much higher, and as a result there is more quality. Because it should be about quality, not quantity. I fully agree with him.

Maria Reig, president of Reig Capital Group, also made some interesting observations. She pointed out that Catalonia has many attractions but it is not taking full advantage of them. Ms. Reig recommended to explore highly profitable niche sectors such as medical tourism (she explained how the city of Munich, Germany, has successfully exploited its hospitals to attract tourists). She also highlighted how Catalan businesses tend to be too competitive between them. Instead, they should be more collaborative. Indeed, collaboration is the buzz word nowadays!

After the conference I went to the awards and gala dinner, where the president of Catalonia, Mr. Artur Mas, gave a speech about how encouraging are all the new initiatives taken by the industry, especially by many small businesses focused on sustainable tourism (who won most of the awards of the evening).

MNAC Entrance

MNAC Entrance

Catalan politicians at the awards ceremony

Catalan politicians at the awards ceremony

The dinner took place inside a wonderful room within the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, which is one of the main museums of Barcelona and has been adapted to host events as well. Did you know the museum hosts the largest collection of Romanesque art in the world? At night, in front of the museum there is another popular tourist attraction of  Barcelona, the Montjuic fountains. There is a fine show every evening at the top of the hour.

Dinner at MNAC's magnificent Sala Oval

Dinner at MNAC’s magnificent Sala Oval

The food served was local and traditional

The food served was local and traditional

Front view of the MNAC and the Montjuic fountains

Front view of the MNAC and the Montjuic fountains

What do you think about the collaborative economy and its impact on tourism? Do you think it should be banned or regulated?

ROI vs. ROE: why this debate is missing the bigger picture

Source: Conexo

Warning: this may hurt a bit!

During EIBTM 2011 I had the pleasure to be invited at a panel session called ‘ROI vs. ROE’, organized by the MPI’s Spanish chapter (picture on the left).

Obviously, I could say many things about why you should always use the ROI Methodology… But for now I’m just going to share with you my main takeaway of the session: the so-called ROE may be a bigger threat to the meetings industry than what I had envisioned.

First of all, let me clarify that ROE has probably got as many definitions as people that talk about it. But in this particular session, ROE meant ‘Return On Experience’, and one of the main indicators of ROE was WOM, both word of mouth and word of mouse (which is the digital version of word of mouth).

Based on the comments by some panelists and the audience, I had the impression that event planners are now really excited about social media and most importantly, social media metrics. This should be a good thing, right? Unfortunately, it is only to an extent.

I feel like some event planners think that they’ve found the Holy Grail: now they’re able to set measurable objectives (I want to get 1,000 Twitter followers!) and easily show the impact of the event (I got 35 Retweets! The event’s hashtag was mentioned 20,000 times!). As I usually hear, event experiences are intangible, hence they can’t be measured, but social media help us to make them more tangible.

Alas, I think many of them are missing the point. The impact that your event had on social media should be part of your evaluation (if that was one of your objectives), and undoubtedly WOM will increase the ROI, but it is not connected to the bottom line of the company. How many of those who clicked ‘Like’ on Facebook are your target audience? How many of them will ultimately buy your product? And the questions could go on and on.

Usually, measuring something is better than nothing, but event planners shouldn’t fall into the trap of thinking that just by tracking the impact of an event in social media they’re doing the best job. Because, if one thing we’ve learned after the recession, is that most meetings and events do not have a strong business case yet (ask AIG…). By measuring ROE, we risk getting distracted and not focusing on the real value of the event.

Are you finding that strong focus on ROE as well? Do you think it hinders the measurement of the real value of an event?

“ROI washing”, a new phenomenon?

I think that ROI measurement is suffering from a phenomenon that I’d say it’s similar to the so-called ‘green washing‘. According to Wikipedia, green washing refers to the ‘deceptive use of PR in order to promote a misleading perception that a company’s policies or products are environmentally friendly’.

In the ROI case, I’d say ‘ROI washing’ is a new ‘dangerous‘ trend. At my new role as Marketing Manager of the Event ROI Institute, I’m paying close attention to every mention of ROI. And what I’ve been finding is that ROI is being used as an equivalent of ‘value’. Obviously the ROI Methodology is about increasing value, but also much more: evaluating impact, setting objectives, benchmarking, and so on.
I’ve seen so many companies just mentioning ‘by using our product, you’ll increase your ROI’. But are they assuming the client is measuring the impact? Or are they providing any kind of metrics?

I expect that every for-profit company provides an increase of my ‘ROI’, if not why are they doing business?  However, I think this wording is misleading and it’s ultimately a shame if this means they’re not going to take advantage of all the other benefits that ROI measurement has.

Do you also think ‘ROI washing’ is a new phenomenon, or this is all non-sense? Is it good or is it counterproductive that ROI is included in marketing communications in such ‘unconscious’ way? Or is it me that I’m making false assumptions?


Another reason to become a meeting designer

Just this morning I’ve come across an article from Meetpie where the director of a ‘traditional’ events agency (that is, mainly focused on the logistics of events) was claiming how Internet is a big threat to their services.

Since their main income comes from booking venues and flights, now their clients are increasingly doing it themselves. Personally, I always skip the ‘middle men’ when I book my travels or holidays. That is not to say that organising the logistics for 5,000 delegates is quite the same as my personal holidays! But, I’m sorry for this man but I think this was bound to happen. Although I understand his concern, I hope he realises that this ‘threat’ is also a big opportunity…

Let’s face it: this one and other major shifts (like the increasing use of virtual or hybrid events), from my point of view, are turning event agencies solely focused on logistics in obsolete business models. Or at least, there won’t be enough room for all of them.

On the other hand, event professionals focused on the content of events can take advantage of all the new trends and become an essential partner.

Do you think this is a statement too bold? Where do you see the role of a meeting designer in 5 years time?

How can an event professional get a seat at the table?

Any event professional is aware of the fact that we do not have much influence (yet) in the decision process of a company. However, I believe that it is possible to change this, to an extent. In a previous post I mentioned how events are becoming more strategic, and that ROI measurement is gaining momentum. All of these should bring us closer to being taken more seriously by the decision makers of the company.

Today I would like to shed some light on this from another perspective. I recently came across an article from a business newspaper about the increasing influence of finance directors at the board table. According to the Global CFO Study of 2010, by IBM, 70% of the financial directors take part in the relevant decisions within large companies.
When reading this article I began to wonder: what can we learn from this and how can we apply it to the events industry? It is obvious that this fact has been mainly prompted by the economic recession, resulting in companies having now different priorities. Nonetheless, I wanted to see if there are any practices that we could adopt.

And so here are my conclusions:
– The study says that the analytical skills are the ones transforming the financial sector in a more efficient one, and therefore driving its influence. Specifically, this sector has worked on standardizing processes and recruiting talented people with solid analytic and communication skills.
– That proving the ROI of events is becoming increasingly important is a no-brainer. And in this sense, it becomes clear to me that we need to increase the implementation of ROI measurement and do it using the same model, if we want to increase our credibility. As far as I know, there are currently 2 organizations working on this: the Event ROI Institute, and MeetingMetrics. On the other hand, the development of the ISO 20120 (to set a standard for sustainable meetings) is certainly good news too.
– Regarding the characteristics of the event professionals, it is also clear that communication skills are one of our best assets. However, event management degrees are relatively new, and the industry is still taking shape, which means current professionals might be lacking certain skills… Nevertheless, this problem might be sorted out soon, when cohorts of graduates enter the workforce. Another question is if the current curriculums of event management programmes cover the subjects that the industry needs, but that would be too off topic in this post!

The author sums up the essence of the article with this sentence: ‘Knowledge generates value’. Therefore, the more information we have, the better we can contribute to move our industry forward.
With this in mind, do you consider yourself a valuable asset? In which ways are you contributing to expand the knowledge of the events industry?

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