One thing that has always endeared me to the global exhibition industry is the fact that the events you create foster innovation on a definitively industrial scale. The SMEs that typically comprise the bulk of your exhibitors are more often than not pushing innovation to an audience of buyers seeking competitive advantage through fresh partnership.
So naturally when I was invited to take part in a two-day workshop, created by Future London Academy, exploring innovation in London with a delegation of business event stakeholders from our industry; I jumped at the chance. This two-day investigation into innovation gave me a chance to compare and contrast the work being done in our industry with that taking place in a handful of progressive business in one of the world’s leading service industry hubs.
What struck me most of all throughout the event was quite how much our business has in common, schematically speaking, with the businesses around us, in fostering innovation to bring value to our clients.
Take for example a consultancy we visited named Space Syntax, dedicated to integrating people and space in creating clever design strategies for cities and venues. Think heat maps and physical visitor behaviour; it’s a familiar topic for anybody involved in the creation of visitor flow, show floor layout and the logistics behind large-scale international events. Only in this case, their client base was large architectural firms and municipal governments.
Or consider the Visa Innovation Centre in Paddington, where the focus shifted to fostering innovation in a large organisation. Many similarities became apparent in the approach of both international event organisers and Visa, which (as observed by a fellow participant) is in essence a collection of enterprises able to establish a comprehensive payment ecosystem. You might be surprised to know that like some large international organisers, Visa embraces start-ups and brings them under their overarching corporate umbrella, capitalising on and nurturing their creativity in the pursuit of the building the perfect customer experience.
And then there was the R/GA Accelerator, which demonstrated its focus on projects that showcase the value of technologies including IoT and augmented reality in helping companies achieve competitive advantage. Stadium crowd management and engagement, visual visitor identification and registration, all likely harbingers of future technology for the exhibition industry in particular.
Future London Academy event director Ekaterina Solomeina put it well when she told me: “It’s difficult to know what you don’t know, but to be ahead of the competition, and to constantly innovate, you need to be aware of the new market opportunities, the latest methodologies and most promising technologies that can take your business to the next level.”
The event also gave me a good chance to see how these companies outside of our industry view the things that we do – and to a person they were very keen to work with an industry that (moneymaking aside) does its utmost to boost trade and create jobs in cities all over the world.
It’s good to zoom out once in a while.
I’d like to give thanks to my chums at the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau for their kind invitation to join them on this innovation tour, quite an eye opener.