The Dangers of Being a Social Outcast

Madinat Jumeirah - venue for the Middle East Special Event & Exhibition Show 2019

The traditional housekeeping request to a roomful of event delegates to turn off their phones may be soon be looked back on as a wasted opportunity rather than a courtesy to speakers.

While the cringing embarrassment and frantic search for the hang-up button to end a call will probably still be a regular occurrence at many conferences and seminars, real-time social media during an event can massively help its content to reach a vast audience.

Tweets, Facebook shares, Snapchat updates and Instagram posts now perform the function of immediate reviews and information dissemination on a scale that was never before thought possible. Users of mobile technology now have the power to make or break an event and put even more pressure on the quality of the content. With live streaming from delegates at a conference or debate, the audience has the potential to reach an audience that the world’s largest venues would be pushed to accommodate.

At the Middle East Special Event and Exhibition Show on 8-9 April, the future of events through a changing social media landscape will play a pivotal role in proceedings.

Philippe Blanchard – Founder, Futurous

Philippe Blanchard, founder of Futurous, global experts in technology and mega-events, believes it is possibly a double-edged sword: “The next 50 years will see the rise of events pitting man against machine, but also increased collaboration between the two and this is creating a paradigm shift in the event industry. 

“Already, event attendees are no longer simply spectators, but de facto ambassadors and promoters of the events through various social media interactions and their respective audiences. Mobile devices are becoming an integral part of the experience. Phones – and the data they are able to harness – will need to be seen as a key component of any successful event. Interactivity, immersive and tailor-made experiences are made possible by these devices and will soon become the norm.”

On a regional level, Blanchard claims only those events which adapt and embrace technology will succeed. “The importance of the events industry for Dubai and the wider region means that it has every motivation to be bold and show leadership. It has a golden opportunity to be an early adopter of future trends by putting audience involvement at the heart of its events.”

Shaun Vorster, Vice President Strategy & Business Integration, Programming, Expo 2020 Dubai

With Expo 2020 just around the corner, Shaun Vorster, Vice President Strategy & Business Integration, Programming, Expo 2020 Dubai, and a keynote speaker at MESE 2019, believes technology across the board will have an instrumental effect on logistics as well as participation.

“Cashless payment, augmented-reality navigation around the Expo and smart city technology that enhances our ability to manage the colossal Expo site is hugely exciting. By creating that ecosystem of infrastructure and applications we’re able to prepare for an event at the cutting edge of technology.”

Alan Kelly, Commercial and Strategy Director, Informa Middle East

While advances in technology will help to spread the word, some of the fundamentals of traditional events will never change, including the importance of strong content in order to attract and maintain the attention of attendees. Alan Kelly, Commercial and Strategy Director at Informa Middle East, explains: “In the UAE’s already over-crowded events market, content is key. Delegates now expect a solid return on their time in the form of key ‘take-aways’ from any event. This could include gaining strong leads, a great learning opportunity, or an understanding of a new industry or market. Without this, delegates will simply not return in the future and the reasons behind past successes will be rendered obsolete.”

Essentially, those who have the greatest to lose are those that are either reluctant to embrace the digital and social revolution or those whose events fail to live up to the mark.

Thankfully for the Middle East, Blanchard believes the quality of the events industry is high and the passion to pioneer is even greater. “For example, the rapid progress in Saudi Arabia with ambitious projects such as King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, King Abdullah Economic City and of course NEOM, could dramatically shift the balance in the region.”

Key seminars at Middle East Special Event and Exhibition Show 2019, taking place at the Madinat Jumeirah will include:

  • Imagining events 50 years from now: ‘Man versus machine’ – Philippe Blanchard, Founder, Futurous
  • Using technology to create a best in class visitor experience at World Expo 2020 Dubai, Shaun Vorster, VP Business Programming, Content & Programming EXPO 2020
  • Middle East event industry outlook: The year ahead, Paul Berger, President ILEA & Chief Executive Officer – Arena Middle East & Asia
  • Spotlight on Saudi Arabia: Market outlook and opportunities in KSA’s event and entertainment industry, Mohammed Tayem Founder and Managing Director, Entourage Intl.

The Middle East Special Event and Exhibition Show 2019 takes place at the Madinat Jumierah on the 8th & 9th April, 2019.

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