CIM 2020/5 Industry

The Meetings Show 2020 virtual is hailed a success

// Jack Marczewski

Guest contribution by Jack Marczewski, Event Director, The Meetings Show

Keynote by event planner Andy King Photo: The Meetings Show

Going virtual. The first virtual The Meetings Show has been hailed a success, with 83% of buyers ‘likely’ or ‘extremely likely’ to recommend the event to industry colleagues. The Meetings Show – the leading event for the meetings and events community – took place as a virtual show from 19–21 October. More than 4,000 event professionals from around the world attended over the three days, joining the virtual platform to meet almost 250 exhibitors, listen and interact with hours of insightful educational content, network and more. Engagement on the virtual Swapcard platform was high with over 52,822 messages exchanged and 4,226 video calls taking place over the three days of the show. Almost 1,400 qualified buyers held valuable meetings with 247 exhibitors during the show, making connections and finding out more about their MICE services and products.

International destinations supporting the show included France Convention Bureau, Conventions Malta, Singapore Tourism Board and Visit Portugal, while UK-based destinations included Visit Wales, Visit Scotland and regions such as Liverpool Convention Bureau and Visit Brighton Convention Bureau. Other exhibitors included some of the world’s biggest hotel groups such as Marriott, Hilton and Hard Rock Hotels International and venues such as Newbury Racecourse, ICC Belfast and Bournemouth International Centre.

The industry’s growing reliance on event technology also coincided with a growth in the number of technology suppliers at the show. Shocklogic, Interprefy, Cvent and CrowdComms were just a handful of those demonstrating how their innovative solutions can aid events. For those seeking inspiration, insight and information, there were many hours of education sessions held throughout the duration of the show. Delivered both live and on-demand, sessions tackled subjects such as mental health and wellbeing, sustainability, virtual delivery, hybrid events and marketing.
Plant-based food and whether it has a place on the menu at events was one of the topics dished up on day-one. A panel of experts discussed the growing trend in plant-based, plant-first and vegan menus and questioned their impact on the environment and how they could be presented in the discussion Do Events Need to Go Plant-Based?

There were also some helpful sessions designed to boost careers. On day two, Samantha Salisbury of Jonsam Events gave tips on how to network and create a winning CV in 5 Steps to Raise your Profile in the Events Industry.
2020 has seen an abundance of virtual event solutions burst onto the market, leaving some organisers asking how they can offer both suppliers and attendees valuable opportunities to generate business and make genuine connections. In How to create immersive online event experiences Johnny Martinez of Shocklogic gave his top tips for running a successful online event. In Industry fortitude in the face of adversity – held on the final day – panellists Paul Black of London Convention Bureau, Neil Thompson of Delegate Wranglers, Anna Abdelnoor of Isla and Marleen Mason of HeadStart Events, provided valuable insights into how they have re-skilled, launched and adapted to do things differently while sharing their most successful achievements and proud moments.

The engaging programme was brought to a close on Wednesday 21 October by a ‘smoking’ keynote speech by event planner Andy King, who worked on the ill-fated Fyre Festival in the Bahamas. King attracted an audience of over 800 as he spoke candidly to interviewer Holly Patrick of M&IT about the festival and his 30-year experience as an event planner.

Since his involvement in the Fyre Festival in 2017 and the subsequent airing of a documentary on Netflix in 2019, King has been keen to use his new-found fame as a platform for good. Event professionals heard how King successfully raised enough money to recompense workers in the Bahamas through Go Fund Me campaigns and how he is using his expertise to assist on virtual events as well as continuing work in driving more sustainable events. He also gave his advice to event planners navigating their way through this challenging year. He said: “Utilise this time to really push your mind and think out-of-the-box. It’s a time of opportunity and we need to try to do a lot of different things to get through this crazy world of Covid. A lot of it is going to be taking a risk. You might find you fail once-in-a-while, but I think you’ll see a lot more successes than failures.”
A new feature for 2020’s show was the arrival of TMS TV. Featuring interviews with industry leaders, key exhibitors, speakers and Tomorrow’s Talent winners, it helped keep visitors entertained and informed between meetings and education sessions.

Feedback on this year’s show has been positive according to the results of a post-show survey. Of the buyers surveyed, 90% rated the delivery of the 2020 event ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ and the same number of buyers said they would ‘probably’ or ‘definitely’ attend The Meetings Show again. When asked for their views on the show, buyers gave a rating of 4.25 out of 5 for overall satisfaction and 4 out of 5 for value of time. Now, we are all looking forward to The Meetings Show 2021 which will take place on 22 and 23 June 2021 as a hybrid event.

The Meetings Show team faced a number of challenges as it planned and prepared to deliver the event virtually, but everyone worked tirelessly to ensure the show brought the meetings and events community together and deliver its aim of connecting, informing and engaging attendees. Early feedback on the show was outstanding, so we’re thrilled to see that the results of our buyer survey back this up and prove that satisfaction levels were high. We’re grateful to the industry for getting behind and supporting this year’s show so well and are looking forward to planning our next show and making it even more successful than our last.