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Hot debate: Top 5 challenges for business events

Industry influencers debate a range of current and future challenges at SMF 2018.

It is impossible to know what the world will look like 12 years from now, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try. And yesterday, at SMF 2018, six industry influencers did just that.

Gathered inside the Chambers of Singapore’s historic Arts House (the former home of Parliament), prominent industry leaders were split into two teams to debate current and future trends. The audience then voted with a show of hands on the winning argument. Very diplomatic.

The six industry ‘politicians’ included:

  • Aloysius Arlando, CEO, Singex and president-elect of SACEOS
  • Daniel Mckinnon, global vice president, FreemanXP
  • Mathias Posch, president & chairman, ICS & IAPCO
  • Rod Cameron, executive director, AIPC
  • Kai Hattendorf, managing director & CEO, UFI
  • Sheriff Karamat, CEO, PCMA

Connecting the dots for the debate was Eric Mottard, founding partner & CEO, Grupo Eventoplus, who gave each team a strict two-minute period to facilitate “straight-to-the-point” arguments. And we’ve picked out five of the best:

  1. There are too many associations. People get confused and have lesser time to commit to association events. The number of industry associations will be halved in 12 years’ time.

Disagree: Associations are here to serve the interest of members; associations change business focus and direction according to members needs. Associations have been changing and adapting to the evolving environments they operate in for years, and will do so for years to come.

Agree: Many professionals in the business events industry belong to more than one association and too much time is spent interacting with the different associations. More cumulative time should be spent on the job of creation and innovation instead of sitting in countless meetings discussing the same topic from different angles.

  1. 75 per cent of jobs in the events industry will be gone in 12 years due to advanced technological platforms and artificial intelligence.

Disagree: Various functions needed to perform in this industry will still be the same, although handled differently and there will be job reconfigurations. The events industry is a people’s industry and interactions are critical. AI cannot nurture creativity or achieve the same sense of satisfaction that comes about when people meet face-to-face.

Agree: Numerous tools that existed 10 years ago have been eliminated by today’s technology. Technology is advancing at a pace that is faster than ever before. Jobs will change and be disrupted. Already we see human jobs replaced by automation, gamification and artificial intelligence. In 12 years, jobs will shift towards those who can master white spaces and develop new and creative value propositions.

  1. The industry simply cannot attract the best talent, but there may be salvation as human resource processes change radically by 2030.

Disagree: What we perceive as the industry’s weakness is also the industry’s greatest strength. While quality education for future generations is good, this is not an industry that needs to grow to attract talent by 2030. The industry needs to recognise that the current pool of professionals already features some of our best talents – and they will attract talents from other walks of life in the future.

Agree: The industry does not pay as well as bankers or lawyers, but schools and universities now offer courses to educate people about the industry. The generation of today is interested in building communities, and a sense of purpose, which the industry offers greatly because it is an industry that supports conferences to help cure cancer and solve global problems.

  1. The industry has not been able to generate awareness and recognition (from CEOs and government), and is still seen as an entertainment industry whose returns remain unclear to the rest of the world. But we will be recognised by 2030.

Disagree: In every financial crisis that has occured since 2003, the industry remained lucrative. In 2008, during the economic crisis, the industry was worth USD280 billion. In 12 years, the industry will be recognised through the lenses of those who have benefitted from events – the jobs that have been created, the lives that have been changed.

Agree: There are now numerous reports and studies about the value and impact of the business events industry. There is data, information and advocacy that supports the work we do and associations constantly try to create awareness among elected government officials and private organisations about the value of the industry. There is hard evidence on what can be accomplished at events, the value of face-to-face meetings, and developing a cross-cultural understanding for the betterment of society.

  1. The industry has a poor track record of innovation but will be in the headlines for innovation by 2030.

Disagree: Almost a decade ago when technology threatened to take over most functions of the industry, event professionals managed to innovate and evolve to remain relevant and provide value. People in the industry operate collaboratively with suppliers who have the insights and resources needed to bring about innovation, and clients who need to adapt and innovate in their programmes to satisfy their members/ audience/ employees. Such collaborative partnership has brought about strong innovation and will continue to do so in the next decade.

Agree: For the past century, the flow and format of exhibitions has remained the same: Three days of set-up, we roll out the carpet, build the stands, hang the signs, open up registration, and the attendees come and go. This has proven to be among the oldest and most successful ways business models in the world. largely because it is flexible and scaleable. In any foreseeable future, this format will continue to offer opportunities for change – and a brighter business future.

Which side are you on? Email us at to share your comments or any other bold predictions you might have.