During a keynote presentation at the UFI European Conference in Cologne, Germany, in May, Denzil Rankine asked for a show of hands: How many in the audience — about 200 exhibition organizers and venue managers from across Europe — had a comprehensive analytics strategy?
“Not a single hand went up,” said Rankine, executive chairman of AMR International. “I had expected to see 10 or 15 percent of hands go up. It gives us a sense of where we’re at, which is very few organizations actually have a coherent data and digital strategy. A lot of people have been able to put this off or take a partial approach and that’s worked, but I think the realization is now coming through [that] we have to grapple with this, because being smart around data analytics is going to allow us to continue to be successful.”
Rankine is acting on that conviction. In December, AMR held the inaugural Data and Digital Events Strategy Symposium in London. And this month, AMR is partnering with Lippman Connects on Transform USA in Washington, D.C. The launch event, at the Washington Marriott at Metro Center on July 20, will address “the data, analytics, and digital strategy revolution of the exhibition industry,” according to its website. Convene recently talked separately with Rankine and Sam Lippman, president of Lippman Connects, about what they want to accomplish with Transform USA.
HOW TRANSFORM USA CAME ABOUT
Sam Lippman In the United States, I produce events for convention and exhibition executives. Nine times a year, I’m facilitating a full-day discussion with convention and exhibition executives, and at every one of those meetings, the topic of data, technology, and “How do I make all this work?” came up.
While I was helping people get their arms around that to the best of my ability, over in England, AMR International was having their annual meeting with their clients, and the clients were saying that they need help in the area of data and analytics and how to use those to make sure their face-to-face events continue to be relevant and profitable. Denzil’s clients persuaded him to pull together a bunch of experts and put an entire-day program together in December in London on the [topic].
After it was well received so quickly in the U.K., in late December [Rankine] called me because he realized that I had a good feel on the same issues as they were being manifested in the United States. So over a series of conversations and meetings, we decided that for the first time ever, AMR International and Lippman Connects would start a partnership, because we each provide something the other doesn’t have, and we realized together we could put on the very first Transform USA.
Denzil Rankine The exhibitions industry … fundamentally remains a very attractive industry to operate in — it continues to be profitable, and it continues to have strong growth — but there are some emerging headwinds. The industry used to grow at two times GDP and now it still grows above GDP, but it is on a converging course with GDP growth level. Attendee numbers are still edging up, but time on site is reducing and attendees are becoming more demanding in what they want. Same thing for the exhibitors.
We see within that increased pressure on organizers to deliver not just the experience that matters, but also the value through business connections that attendees have been looking for and exhibitors are looking for. We need to understand our markets better, and then use data to drive analysis, which is going to allow better connections and better value for both attendees and exhibitors.
WHAT THE PROGRAM WILL ADDRESS
SL A session called “Event Tech: The Future Is Now” will be a discussion about what is available. Another session that I’m very excited about is “Technology Requirements: Creating a New Echo System,” and that’s being put together by Mark Haley, president of Smart City Networks. Mark is responsible for providing technology in many of the largest venues in the United States. He needs to make sure he understands what his customers are needing.
We also have a couple of case studies, one on the marriage of face-to-face with the Toy Fair, which is also being extended digitally with something called ShopToys365.com. There will be a very important session on how your organization will have to redesign and transform itself, including your staff — if you don’t have the right skillsets, you won’t be successful moving forward.
DR We’ve got strong representation from both associations and independent organizers. We have speakers from the Toy Association, CES, and Reed Exhibitions. From the technology point of view, Marco Giberti, who is the leading technology investor in the events industry, will be supporting us with some of the futuristic thinking. And we’re getting input there also from the technology experts from within Freeman and GES.
WHAT ATTENDEES WILL TAKE AWAY
SL I want them to walk away with a greater sense of security, that what they heard during the day will give them a path forward that is relatively risk-free. For a lot of years, organizers and event professionals have been deluged with the next great thing. Several of them have been burned because they’ve invested time and energy and their reputation in a technology provider that flamed out, so what I want people to feel when they leave Transform USA is, now I have a better idea of some of the technology options I should look at, some of the staff positions I should hire for, and some of the questions that I should be asking of my team to make sure my convention or exhibition stays relevant and profitable in the future.
DR We want attendees to take away big points around their organizational structure — what type of organization is fit for purpose to embrace data analytics and digital. We want them to understand what the latest trends will be and where these technologies will go. We want them to have practical information, which will come through some case studies of seeing some of the leading-edge examples of the use of digital marketplaces or other new revenue streams that can be obtained through the technologies. It’s really important that we give people practical takeaways for their strategies for their organizations, and for the partnerships that they should be operating.