A new breed of clients and a changing business environment must prompt innovation and weed out the slackers for the events industry to retain its edge, says industry panel. By Lauren Arena

The panel, which spoke about the future of the industry at Inspire EX, included Arinex’s Roslyn McLeod, EEAA chief Joyce DiMascio, Liquid Ideas founder Stuart Gregor, event guru David Grant, Interweave director Daniel Cookson, and Eventbrite’s Elsita Meyer-Brandt.

All panellists agreed that technology has been a huge game-changer, but as for the longevity of business events, it’s not the answer.

Ms McLeod said we need more talented individuals in order to drive the innovation needed to stay in business.

“Finding talent in leadership, or even the ranks of organisations, is a growing concern and one that singles successful associations from the norm.

“Talented skill sets to do the job are becoming harder to find among the available pool.”

Mr Grant agreed, saying the industry is being “dumbed-down”.

“People [in the industry] have a lot of information, but no knowledge,” he said.

“Knowledge about popular culture is lacking and there are too many lazy people who are just ticking boxes.”

According to Mr Grant, the industry doesnt need people who tick boxes, but people who are passionate and engaged with what’s happening in the world of events, both here and abroad. Likewise, Mr Gregor said the future of events hangs on nurturing creativity and learning how to be brave in what is usually a risk-averse environment.

“An event is a free-world experience so it has to engage. Creative storytelling is everything.”

Adding to the discussion, Ms DiMascio said creative people need to live in the real world.

“World affairs impact consumer and business confidence so it’s our business to know the news.”

As government funding continues to shrink and clients become increasingly concerned with ROI, Ms McLeod said registration fees could increase as a result and potentially deter people from attending an event.

“It’s challenging trying to put all the components that are needed to organise an event into the budget and then have a selling price that attracts the delegates, the sponsors and the exhibitors so that all parties feel they’re getting good value out of the event.”

Ms DiMascio warned that due to global economic factors, the Australian events industry could see a new event model take shape – one where, as seen in Germany, the venue shares the business risk with the client and venue operators look at partnering with an organiser to split the risk of setting up a new event.

She also said that, as a collective group of event and meeting planners, we must change the narrative about what it is that we do.

“We need to talk about the power of business events and we all need to take on more responsibility in being better advocates for the industry.”

So it seems industry professionals need to learn how to wave the flag for business events and fight – perhaps more aggressively – to prove relevance in today’s environment.  Face to face is the solution. The industry’s future depends on it.