July 29, 2021 | By Joyce DiMascio

With a big shift to virtual events around the world, issues around data capture, ownership and, more importantly, data obligations have been discussed by the leading organisers and suppliers in the exhibitions and events industry.

The Global Association of the Exhibition industry (UFI) has held its last pre-European summer events and the spotlight was on this topic.

UFI CEO Kai Hattendorf told micenet this week that discussions with leading event organisers and digital event platform suppliers reconfirmed how important data management is for the future of the industry.

“In the collaborative spirit of our industries, everyone openly shared where they stand and what they do,” he said.

“This is about trust. Organisers, both onsite and online, are working with customer data on behalf of their customers.

“And these customers have the trust that their data is safe. Break that trust, and the business relationship is damaged,” he said.

“Our industry will grow back from the pandemic bigger than before, but with an evolving business model beyond the onsite exhibitions and business events and towards the year-long omnichannel activations for industries and communities.

“For this evolution, it’s critical to discuss and understand the role of data – both of customer data and the behavioural data that everyone generates while at an event,” he said.

International industry ambassador for global event company Freeman, Jo-Anne Kelleway participated in the events and highlighted some of the critical issues and raised the alarm that some organisers may not be aware of what is happening with data captured.

She told micenet that as the industry digitises to provide an integrated visitor experience, more organisers are using third-party platforms.

“Many organisers are unaware of where the data, garnered by these platforms, is being held or [how it] is being used.

“Ownership of data will be the biggest question in the future as whilst these third-parties keep your data, what happens if they are acquired by an organiser in the future?,” she said.

This would effectively deliver the data into the hands of a competitor.

The event where these discussions took place was the season finale in the UFI Connects talks with a lineup of leaders from around the world.

UFI says there is now more data and customer insight about our communities than ever before because organisers use digital event platforms, tools, and technology partners.

“But the big question is – who owns and controls all the data that empowers organisers to better serve the customer? And, how is that data protected from misuse?”

Charles McCurdy of Informa Markets set the tone about trust, saying: “Customers own their data, they’re giving us consent to use it,” he said. “That’s unequivocal, that’s the law, that’s appropriate behaviour.

“Given that, we’re stewards, or custodians, of this data and it’s our duty to keep it secure and to use it only appropriately to the benefit of the customers and the marketplace they’re active in,” he said.

Australia’s Jo-Anne Kelleway was part of an earlier forum which canvassed the views of the digital events platform suppliers.