Inspired by research showing a shift towards younger conference and events bookers, QHotels put out the call earlier this year for rising stars of the UK events scene to help shape the industry's future.
The result is the QHotels’ Event Profs Panel, which brings together event professionals with less than five years’ experience to discuss what is important to this generation of bookers and organisers.
We caught up with Christopher Whelan – a member of the panel and a marketing executive at PwC – to find out about his Event Profs Panel experience.
“If you were to tell me this time five years ago I’d be organising any event – large or small – let alone be taking part in a discussion on the future of UK events management, I’d have fallen off my chair.
“As a marketing graduate, I was initially intimidated at the prospect of organising events, conferences and seminars – in my first year out of university I was being asked to focus on co-ordinating more than 20 events a year. It was a foreign task to me at the time and something I’ve never received any formal training on, but I’ve learnt from my colleagues along the way.
“I’m now part of a new generation of bookers and organisers, and recent research suggests I’m far from alone as organisations shift towards younger event bookers and professionals.
“I’ve never engaged in a formal discussion about my profession with other event organisers outside of my existing place of work, but already the panel has been a great chance to meet and learn from others in the industry.
“Our first panel event recently took place at QHotels’ The Stratford, where we covered three big challenges for the profession: technology; people and skills; and sustainability and ethical code.
“If you look at technology, it is reshaping how people interact with one another. It’s a given that event organisers now have to think about event commentary on social media channels, but the biggest shift I’ve seen is the move to online events and networking. I’m slowly witnessing a desire to receive event recordings, webinar access or virtual access to conferences we’re hosting.
“While we agreed that access to this new technology is a huge benefit - usually making events more cost effective – we also agreed that exploring emerging technologies often led to mixed reviews. Ultimately, there’s nothing better than old-fashioned face-to-face interaction; an opportunity that is lost when people join an event online.
“But what has undeniably helped is the ability to follow up with people after events by connecting online. It has enabled events to have a longer shelf life than otherwise possible – we’ve all seen conversations taking place about events we’ve organised on forums and on social media months after the event date.
“Reliability and quality seem to be the biggest hindrance for virtual events, causing them not to be as successful as we’re sometimes led to believe. Until emerging technologies become mainstream, I think they will struggle to have a clear role at events. I need to be 100 per cent convinced that online connections won’t drop out and that all audio and visual presentations are clear. And no one can guarantee that - yet.
“The panel also touched on what venues need to be doing in the future. It is vital that venues can provide and cater to the needs of all meetings and events – online and offline. Venues should be leading the charge for advancement in stage design, HD projection and bandwidth capacity – they need to be in a position to advise corporate bookers what is possible in their space and this should be without boundaries.
“Venues could be doing more with stage designers and AV companies to ensure they’re offering clients the latest technology, and educating us, the bookers and organisers, on what’s new and what else we can be doing. This added value not only helps the event be the best it can be, but helps agencies win business and organisers adopt newer facilities and technologies.
“So far, what I’ve taken away from the panel experience is that there is a huge appetite among the new generation of event profs to have our voices heard and contribute to how the future of the industry takes shape.”
If you’d like to read more from the discussion, the findings are available in three reports at QHotels.co.uk/EventProfsPanel .