AEO - Association of event organisers

AEO International CEO Summit Provides a Fresh Outlook for a New Decade


AEO International CEO Summit Provides a Fresh Outlook for a New Decade


It has become something of a tradition that each January, around the time when I’ve given up my New Year’s resolution (the first week) the AEO hosts the International CEO Summit. The invite only summit is, a one-day strategic discussion, exclusive to event organiser CEOs with international portfolios.

This year, I was pleased to chair the discussion focusing on the key issues facing the global industry. For the 5th annual edition, we were at Beaverbrook House, a venue new to us all. It is a spectacular, historic hotel that was owned by Lord Beaverbrook of the Daily Express and Sunday Express fame. When he lived here, he used it for meetings with Winston Churchill, hosting wartime Cabinet meetings, and many celebrity gatherings.

Our discussions were under Chatham House rules, so I won’t go in to too much detail. However, I am sure none of the other participants will mind if I share a bit of insight into what’s on the minds of the global events organisers.

First, we talked about the economy with Mark Gregory, Chief Economist of EY. The big questions, the same as all over the news, 1. will there be a recession, and if so when, and 2. what will be the effects of Brexit.

Mark alleviated some fears by predicting a more likely period of low growth than full recession globally. However, Europe could face more challenges due to the lower growth. He said that disequilibrium is the new norm, and we should be looking to growth sectors like: technology, health, and gaming, to name a few, as we think about building our businesses.

Next, we discussed sustainability with Guy Bigwood, a world leader in sustainability with a great deal of experience in helping events and destinations become more sustainably focused. We talked about how the events industry could lose its “social license,” if we don’t focus on dealing with our unsustainable practices.

Amongst many factors, we see transportation and tourism not moving as fast as the global demand for sustainable improvement. We also see huge changes in consumers, in how they purchase, which is changing the fashion industry in particular. Further, the expectations of companies and government to “do better” are ever increasing, and traditional industries are being disrupted. There are some examples in our industry of sustainable change, but we need to do more, and faster.

We finished our formal discussion topics with Stephan Forseilles, from Easyfairs, talking about data. We all know we can be, and should be, doing more with data. For years, we focused on collecting data. Now we have lots of it and aren’t sure what to do with it. There are some best practices beginning to emerge in getting good and reliable data.  However, now we need to be investing in data scientists, where there is a real talent shortage, and data protection, to be able to use this data. If we get the insight right, and we protect our data, there are endless possibilities for new revenue streams and for innovation in our businesses and business models.

As well as the formal discussion, throughout the day and evening, there was plenty of time for delegates to share ideas and insights with each other. Sometimes this was tips and best-practices, to take back to their own businesses, and sometimes just reassuring each other they “didn’t know” either. Personally, one of my favourite parts of the day was when Stephen Brooks gave us his predictions for the next 20 years in events based on his reflections of the last 20 years. As always Stephen’s take was both insightful and humorous, and generated a lively after dinner discussion.

I’d like to thank all of our excellent speakers, who gave us so much insight that we were truly absorbed into their area of expertise for a while, stimulating great discussions and ongoing ideas. I’d also like to thank all the delegates whose participation and engagement were invaluable. It was an enjoyable day, well organised by Sarah and team at the AEO, and I know that all of us found this event useful as a kick off for the new decade, for us and our businesses.

Our next International Organiser Group meeting which is on 15 May has a new, topical format that will have a broader appeal to the membership. Please join us as we discuss the key issues facing AEO members internationally and explore and exchange ideas and plans. For more information, please contact .

  • "Broadway Events joined the AEO on the Enterprise Membership. We’ve already taken advantage of the many benefits including the excellent FaceTime Masterclasses and training guides for exhibitors."
    Emma Barrett
    Broadway Events
  • "We are a member of the AEO because it is a proactive association for the events industry. As an organiser it provides us with high value ideas, networking, guidance and information."
    David Harrison
    PPMA Group
  • "This year, the association has led working groups to address industry issues and put on some amazing events full of insightful content for both organisers and, through the AEOs FaceTime initiative, exhibitors. In addition, the AEO has represented the industry at a Governmental level to raise awareness of the importance of events to the UK economy."
    Paul Byrom
    Upper Street Events
  • "I genuinely believe that if you’re involved in organising events you should become a member of the AEO."
    Simon Kimble
    Clarion Events
  • "Our membership of the AEO represents real and tangible value for UBM - it provides fantastic networking opportunities, practical training for our team as well as valuable insight into the state of our industry."
    Simon Parker
    Informa Markets
  • "As an Association business, we appreciate the excellent work the secretariat of the AEO do for our community. From the events side of our business, the AEO provides an excellent return on investment, providing thought leadership, fantastic networking, brilliant awards, excellent research and FaceTime, a valuable tool to tell our markets why exhibitions and events should be an essential part of the marketing mix."
    Neil Felton
  • "AEO’s networking and member meetings are valuable for individuals at all levels within our organisation. The promotion of our sector to the outside world, to government, authorities and business at large is another vital aspect of the AEO’s purpose for members, many of whom, like my company, work on events throughout the world."
    Stephen Brooks
    Mack Brooks Exhibitions
  • “Knowledge is power and the AEO dinners are certainly powerful, there is always a wealth of knowledge at the table. Insightful presentations make for a constructive and extremely social way to learn from the experts who’ve done it before. I attended the Japanese evening and gained really valuable insight about the culture and how best to communicate with a local audience.”
    John Whitaker
    Vice President Marketing, Data & Digital , dmg events
  • "We have the opportunity to contribute positively to the industry as well as gaining valuable insight and advice. There’s no need to spend valuable time and money reinventing the wheel when you have so many experienced professionals in AEO membership to learn from”
    Emma Cartmell
    CHS Group
  • "JOINING THE AEO HAS BEEN FANTASTIC! Being able to gift our customers with free places at the FaceTime masterclasses, learn alongside industry peers and seek advice to common challenges is invaluable”
    Sharon Azam
    GovNet Communications
  • I just wanted to send my most sincere thanks for everything that you and the AEO team are doing to help navigate the events industry through the pandemic. The working groups and communication from the AEO have been excellent and I’m really appreciative of being part of such a wonderful organisation.
    Simon Burns
    ICHF Events
  • I think what the AEO has been doing during this tough time has been exceptional.
    Greg Cherry
    QD Events LTD
  • It is so useful to hear from your peers at this time. Please pass my thanks to Ruth and the BTIG panel
    Dan Assor
    CloserStill Media
  • Just wanted to thank you and Ruth this morning for the Zoom meeting - it was really interesting to hear how things are moving along in the virtual/hybrid meeting/exhibitions. All very new to me, so a lot to digest.
    Maureen Wright
    Optic UK
  • The session this morning was fantastic. We are right in the midst of this and the information was so useful. We can apply it immediately
    Claire Adams
  • The AEO provides an opportunity to make a difference, to work with other companies for the good of the industry as a whole, but beyond that, it provides it’s members with valuable insight and tangible benefits to grow your business, upskill and engage your teams. For those reasons, our membership is in indelible ink on the each annual budget. In short, if you aren’t a member, you are missing out.
    Ed Tranter
    73 Media




AEO news