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22 Jan 2020

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 .