Speaker Insights from IBTM World: Part Two

In the second part of this look back  at some of the key insights provided by IBTM World speakers when they were interviewed before taking to the stage, we cover thoughts on creativity, innovation and the new EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive.

First up, James Cross, Founder and CEO of Meanwhile and former Head of Creative at the BBC shared his perspective on creativity.

James Cross

Where do you get your creativity from?

‘To be successful in creativity is to have your eyes and ears open. I love sitting in the cafe, listening to people having conversations because it’s real life and you pick up how they talk, and what’s important to them.

You can use that. What excites me is doing something different. Commercial creativity is to look at what everyone else is doing and not do that. That’s the rule. We all want to stand out, which is our approach to everything we do. How does a TV ad stand out? How does an event stand out?’

Does AI mean more mediocre content?

‘AI and ChatGPT draw the average. If you ask them, they can create stunning things, but they’re an amalgamated average. AI has a role to play but I think the future masters of the universe will be people that can control it best, not be slaves to it. If you use AI to automate a task or improve an experience and put your energies into something else, that’s a good use of AI. It’s not the answer, it’s an assistant. That’s where I’d level it. AI can create useful content, but I don’t think there’s a substitute for human talent.’

Where do you see event planners as culture creators?

‘Event planners can use wherever the client is currently as a springboard. With any industry like ours or the events industry, you’re there to help make things better. Therefore, you’re creating a new culture, you’re enabling that company to grow. We shouldn’t be there just to keep the status quo. And that’s your creative solution as well. How can I make attendees feel like they’re having a real escape, or learning something from this event?’

Next, Nick Fagan, Creative Technologist at DRPG talked about innovation and what’s new in technology for the events sector.

What new technology in your view is going to be a game-changer?

‘There’s an audio technology called HOLOPLOT, which allows you to present in different languages simultaneously. It’s a total game-changer. In an audience of 50 people, I could have two people at the front hearing it in German. I could have the next row back hearing it in French and so on. It’s so good that they wouldn’t even be aware that the other people are listening in a different language. They don’t even need headphones. They just sit there and listen. Better still, it sounds crystal clear.

At a recent event, I spoke German to half the audience and English to the other half. They didn’t know it was happening. They didn’t react. I was waiting for this big moment, and it never came. It’s that good but I don’t think organisers know about it yet and understand its full potential.’

Is facial analysis technology good enough to spot engagement yet?

‘Facial analysis is an interesting one. Facial recognition has been around since 2012. In 2013 we saw development heat up but in 2015 a lot of it got canned with the announcement of GDPR.

However, the research continued. Companies were still developing solutions. They just couldn’t deploy them widely because it meant identifying individuals.

The difference is that today we have the speed and the power of AI so facial recognition has evolved into facial analysis. Take smiling for example. If I’m smiling, it generally means I’m engaged, right? I can tell you that smiling is not a sign of engagement, smiling is not necessarily even a sign of happiness. Personally, if I am presented with some fascinating new software, I tend to frown and tilt my head. That means I’m engaging in the moment. The person beside me may smile. Does that mean he’s happy? Maybe it just means he’s attempting to hide his confusion.

This is one of the hurdles faced by facial analysis. You’ve got two objects next to each other with very different reactions that could mean the same thing. What’s different now is that we can start to understand the niceties of these subtle human behaviours. This means there is now a new way for planners to get to grips with attendee engagement.’

Carina Jandt

Finally, Carina Jandt, MD of Event Cycle discussed the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive, which will mandate large European companies and those organisations operating in the EU, to collect data and report on their climate and societal impact from 2024.

How will this new EU directive impact businesses?

‘Even though the directive is aimed largely at bigger organisations, because of the ripple effect, any company doing business with them, will also be impacted. Even if you are an events agency with maybe 20 people, you’ll be impacted. Some clients will need reassurance before continuing to work with you. Even during the RFP stage, you’ll need to show detailed evidence that sustainability is a core part of your operations.’

What’s your key advice for businesses right now?

‘Start thinking now about how you are going to be affected and get ahead of the game by taking action. Don’t wait to be asked by clients or by the regulator. Read through the directive and have a look at what applies to your business. Start reporting on your sustainability measures if you are not already doing so. Be as transparent as possible. Always have a look at available resources to help you.’

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