Seated alongside a panel of trade show organisers and live event specialists, I shared some of Explori’s insights on festivalisation with the audience at this year’s International Confex.
Experience is the new economy… Callum Gill, head of insight at DRP Group
Perhaps driven by the growing popularity of music festivals, or high-budget corporate events raising the bar (remember the accounting software conference that ran a zip line across ExCeL this summer!) it seems there’s growing interest in experience capital.
Festivalisation is a buzzword for some, a dirty word for others and there’s definitely different interpretations of what it means. But as the panel agreed, almost all organisers are considering how they can enhance the visitor experience beyond the traditional exhibition model, to increase attendee engagement and the popularity of their events.
When Explori interviewed event directors and senior marketers, festivalisation was a key area of interest, in particular, how it can be applied to B2B events where organisers knew their visitors were also keen to meet business objectives like learning or sourcing new solutions.
But is this interest in festivalisation well placed? Or is it a distraction from our “core” purpose as a business channel? Explori gathered the views of 13,000 visitors globally, as part of our Global Visitor Insights project in partnership with UFI. The study examined how trade show visitors viewed attending exhibitions as a business channel, including questions about how much value they placed on enjoyment.
“66% of CEOs place little to no value on trade shows being entertaining”
59% of respondents agreed with the statement “It doesn’t matter whether a trade show is entertaining as long as I can meet my business objectives.” This increased when the respondent was older and more senior. 66% of CEOs place little to no value on trade shows being entertaining.
So for our current visitors, especially those senior decision makers that are so valuable to exhibitors, it would be reasonable to say that organisers should place their focus firmly on delivering business benefits ahead of any attempt to introduce festivalisation.
“Over half of Millennials and two-thirds of Gen Z visitors felt it was important for events to be entertaining and were drawn to the idea of festival style events.”
But this has the potential to change as our audience demographics change. Unsurprisingly, Millennials (those under 35) and Gen Z visitors (those aged under 25) are significantly more likely to embrace the idea of events being entertaining in addition to meeting their business objectives. Over half of Millennials and two-thirds of Gen Z visitors felt it was important for events to be entertaining and were drawn to the idea of festival style events.
So what aspects of festivalisation appeal most to visitors?
All the aspects we studied were more popular with visitors under 35, particularly “New technology” and “Interactive / audience generated content”. Varying the style of presentations however, was popular amongst all age groups, making it a valuable tactic for organisers looking to improve their visitor experience. It’s probably no surprise that the 8% of our respondents who didn’t think any of these aspects would be enjoyable happened to be over 35!
But younger visitors still want to ensure they meet their business objectives – more superficial “window-dressing” around the event such as unusual venues or live entertainment still has limited appeal to all visitors. Festival elements must be linked to and enhance the business objectives of the event, and be appropriate to the target audience.
As panellist Steven Scaffardi suggested, there is a rock-star speaker in every industry; perhaps they are still a better investment for our our visitors than actual rock stars.
The full Global Visitor Insight report is available for UFI members at ufi.org .
Blogger: Sophie Holt, Global Strategy Director at Explori.