Posted by: conferencebay | August 31, 2008

The Future of Conferences

The conference industry, like all industries in a global downturn, has some tough issues to face. If the recent results of the British Association of Conference Destinations (BACD) is indeed a crucial barometer for what is true of the industry all over the world, the conference sector will have to change gears or re-invent itself.

The BCAD’s 2008 British Conference Venues Survey reveals vital insights into the current state of the industry from a supply-side perspective. The survey based on data supplied by a record number of 446 venues across the UK, shows that the UK conference market experienced a revenue downturn in the period from 2005 to 2007 and registered an estimated value of £8billion compared to £9.8billion in the three-year period before.

  • There was significant reduction in the average number of conferences per venue
  • A slight shift away from residential conferences in favor of the one day conferencing or what we call as non-overnight conferences. This has critical economic impact as residential conferences account for almost two-thirds of overall venue income.
  • 30 per cent of venues noted a shortening of lead times in recent years, with many venues commenting that this was now becoming the norm. Eleven per cent reported greater pressure on client budgets
  • The survey also revealed an increased level of interest and awareness of CSR and environmental issues, a higher demand for Fairtrade and organic catering, and an increasing demand to meet special dietary requirements.

  • The 2008 report confirms a trend noted in the 2007 survey, which highlighted the importance of public sector and association conferences. These now account for 52 per cent of all meetings and conferences, compared to 48 per cent for the corporate sector.
  • The dominance of city venues continues. The huge investment in infrastructure and facilities enjoyed by most city destinations over the past couple of decades is reaping benefits in the business events market.

We believe that face-to-face meetings at traditional conferences as we know it here to stay but must necessarily evolve with the times. There are insights from this survey that gives the industry players an informed view  of how to best manage change, and indeed, even capitalize on current trends.

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We are living in challenging times! We are technically in a recession, or recovering from it, depending on whether you see the glass as half full or half empty. As always, we can hole up or find hidden opportunities to turn an adversity into something positive.

Kevin Kelly’s brilliant essay on New Rules for the New Economy has this to say:

“As power flows away from the center, the competitive advantage belongs to those who learn how to embrace decentralized points of control.”

“As fortunes are made by training machines to be ever more efficient, there is yet far greater wealth to be had by unleashing the inefficient discovery and creation of new opportunities!”

Step up into the future of enterprise !

A number of different paths seem to be converging again, paths that have traveled separately – although always connected – for some years. Many eyes are shifting again to the “new generation entrepreneurs.” By new generation, we do not necessarily refer to a reflection of age. New generation entrepreneurs in a downturn can also be those whose spark of vision, daring spirit and sense of adventure lead them to open up their own shop rather then spend more time working for their employer.

Politicians, economists, financial institutions and many other individuals and organizations are suddenly all-ears to the latest buzz among small business owners. News in both mainstream and online media report on the percentages of new businesses that are started and other valuable statistics that creates an environment in which being part of this “New Generation Entrepreneurs” can actually open you up to exciting opportunities.

Emerging markets, globalization, convergence of technologies and industries, and ubiquitous connectivity, all these have changed many aspects of business. They have also changed the nature of consumers. We have consumers who are informed, networked, active and global. At the same time these events have changed the nature of companies. Today firms can fragment their value chain in ways that they could not have done before. Not just the physical products, but the intellectual part of my company – the business processes, management processes, including research and development, engineering – all that can be fragmented. Businesses today, is not restricted to one geographic location, various aspects of its operations can be located and managed from anywhere. 

Economic experts believe small businesses will help the world to a more positive economic plateau again as they go in for the much needed rebound and come forward to create new wealth !

Now for the questions — how do you manage to start out in this environment, or expand your business in different geographic regions? Where CAN you find funding? How can you leverage new technologies, media and marketing? All of these topics are part of the E.Factor half-day conference in New York on the 10th September – Titled: “New Economy: Do or Die” – this is one afternoon you should mark in your diaries. The sessions are topbilled by Fred Seibert of NextNewNetworks, Tom De Bruyne of BoonDoogle, and Robert C. Raciti of GE Commercial Finance. Howard Greenstein of Harbrooke Group, a social media strategist and evangelist will be the moderator.

Posted by: conferencebay | August 16, 2008

An Evolving Global Industry

The conference industry is said to be one that is maturing rapidly yet ironically, is quite an “immature industry”. Why is this so? Relatively speaking, it is a very young industry — barely 50 years of history as an established one in Europe and North America, and even younger in most of the rest of the world. To a great extent, its so called immaturity as industry  is due  to an apparent lack of reliable statistics and regular research to provide a base of intelligence and information on trends and on the size of the value the conference industry.

Through the decades, it is also quite apparent that governments have not taken the conference industry seriously as a major benefactor of national economies precisely because it has been impossible to demonstrate clearly the economic impact that conferences can have. This is quite unfair considering the benefits of the industry in energizing local economies throughout the world:

Exciting destinations!

Great profitability

Conferences cater to the “high quality high cost “and therefore, “high yield ” end of the market. A 2001 study of conference visitors to the UK show how conference visitors from overseas spend an average of three times more than any other visitor for all categories in the country. The greater spending power of business tourists means increased economic benefit for the host destination and a greater return on its investments in infrastructure and marketing.

All year round activity

Conferences place throughout the year with peaks in spring and autumn. Many smaller conferences and meetings are also held during winter months. The all year round nature of conferences also leads to the creation of permanent jobs, as opposed to the seasonal temporary jobs oferred in other tourism or leisure industries.

New opportunities for collaboration!

Future inward investments

One of the ways a conference adds value to a locale is by giving delegates a pleasant, positive experience of the destination. this means showing them the most attractive scenic parts of the destination. When this has been undertaken, so many delegates do return as leisure visitors, bringing their partners and families for a holiday or short break. A business visitor who leaves with good impression of the conference destination becomes some sort of an ambassador for that place, these are often influential people whose opinions of the destination will be instrumental in a destination’s image building.

Green tourism

Little negative impact to the environment than mass leisure travels for instance. Conferences are concerned with smaller numbers at much “higher spend”. Conference delegates travel together as a group making it possible to educate them about the community and increasing the likelihood of their revisit or considering to stay an extra day in other spots of same destination.

Given all these, we at Conference Bay are happy to do our part towards making the conference industry a more energized, dynamic industry. To start with, we want you to come away with opportunities as it relates to this vibrant industry, whether you are a delegate, a conference organizer, speaker or sponsor. We are working and running our beat to keep you attuned to recent trends in this important global industry and the conditions in which they are taking shape. We shall provide statistics and valuable information such as sweeping changes that have occurred in the last so many years.

How is the conference industry evolving in today’s information era? What are the trends of increasing demand at events around the world? How is the conference industry growing alongside tourism industry? How is technology shaping the future of the conference industry?  All these and more as we assess various aspects of the conference industry and how it will drive into the future.

Posted by: conferencebay | July 30, 2008

Conference Bay revamps its website!

In order to be ready for the new conference season, which traditionally starts in September, Conference Bay will be revamping its website to make sure that customers can find conferences even more easily. We have also looked at the bidding process in which customers can name the price they are willing to pay for a seat at a conference, making it easier and more intuitive for the customer to make a bid. All of these changes are based on feedback we have received from many of you and we would like to ask you to keep sending us your honest views and thoughts.

Below we will give you a sneak peak of the pages as we are developing them and we would love to hear back from you, so drop us a comment here or write to feedback@conferencebay.com

The new homepage (click on the thumbnail below, some of you will have to click twice to zoom in on the image in your browser) will have a more prominent space for a number of selected conferences and as you will notice there is a more prominent message saying Make an Offer, with a box where the customer can fill in an amount to get started with the bidding process right away.

The new Conference Bay homepage

The new Conference Bay homepage

The number of conferences on Conference Bay has grown tremendously and we have heard from quite a number of people that the process of finding the right conference was sometimes a bit complicated. We have therefore made this process very intuitive as can be seen on the screenshot below. You simply click on the categories that you are interested in and a complete list of conferences will be shown immediately. These can always be filtered by location and/or sub-topic.

An easier way to find conferencs you are interested in

An easier way to find conferences you are interested in

The page with more detailed information for each conference has also seen an overhaul: we have placed much more prominence on the bidding opportunity that we offer for each of the pricing packages the organiser offers. This does not mean the conference details are less prominently available, on the contrary, we feel the whole page has become much more user friendly, especially with the “Amazon” style ‘similar events’ we will suggest to the customer.

A conference detail page

A conference detail page

We have also made the bidding process much simpler for customers by taking out the credit card stage where the customer used to ‘secure’ his/her bid. This means that a bit for a seat can be made in less than a minute.

We hope to launch the new look Conference Bay soon, stay tuned and write us with your views!

Posted by: conferencebay | July 25, 2008

Liveblogs! They Multiply Your Conference’s Value

It’s an emerging media all its own. It pays to use it for those unable to visit a conference and many swear by it as even better than video recordings: it’s the conference liveblogs ! The process is known as liveblogging. A blogger present at a conference, streams a synopsis of each presentation, talk-by-talk. That’s on real time, well almost. It’s a serious job, more than a snarky twit about how bad a conference speaker is.

We are a big fan of the conference livebloggers. The best we have around are Ethan Zuckerman who teams up with Bruno Giussani, star livebloggers both, who came up with a free short 3-page PDF booklet on how to blog a conference with effectiveness.

It works very well for the conference blogger to begin with. When you blog a conference it forces you to pay attention. The requisite focus of summarizing each talk clarifies many ideas for the one writing it. With that, the blogger-conference-goer is then able to share. The really nice thing about perfecting this craft is a “free pass to many high-priced conferences”. It’s a cool thing as conference organizers are increasingly looking for first-rate livebloggers to generate press and future attendees.

The recently concluded BlogHer ‘O8 July 18-20, 2008 in San Francisco, CA have put up liveblogs here.

On the other hand, conference organizers are also urged to keep pace with new technologies to innovate on thw way conferences are conducted. Livebloggers of note are able to report on talks at conferences like Pop!Tech, TED, OSCON, All Things D, because they are well organized, interesting and stimulating. Good speakers makes for easy liveblogging — you get to follow a narrative thread that can be easily digested and streamed through blogs and other platforms.

Are you already liveblogging at conferences? Give us a buzz! Feel free to share them in the comments. If you are conference goer keen to give it a try, then this piece from Ethan and Bruno will be your best bet for kickstarting it!

Tips for Conference Bloggers
By Bruno Giussani and Ethan Zuckerman
2007, 3 pages
Free
Available as a PDF from
here

Some cool excerpts:

  • It’s relatively easy to blog good and great speakers: They follow a narrative path through their talks and speak at a pace the audience can understand. It’s harder to blog inexperienced speakers(because they may be too technical, confusing, fast, etc.) and multispeaker panels (because the discussion can take many different unstructured turns). But you don’t need to transcribe the whole talk, you need to capture the gist of it. A 20-minutes talk can often be summarized in a 20-lines post.
  • Always remember that what you’re writing will be read by people who weren’t in the room, so they haven’t seen the slides, the video, or the gesture. Hence, you have to compensate for the lack of context. Don’t be afraid to create a narrative by saying “He shows a slide with data on …” or “She walks on stage carrying a big suitcase” or “He shows a YouTube video” etc. And if the speaker shows a YouTube video, or a picture, remember that you’re online: Open another browser window, go to YouTube, find that video, and link to it; or go to the speaker’s website, find that picture or another similar or related item, and link to it (or republish the picture within your post). Yes, this requires effective multitasking. It’s at the root of conference blogging.
  • Conferences usually give out a program ahead of time. Use it to prepare for blogging: Do a quick Google search for each speaker, and save (in the same text file) links to their sites, blogs, and the institutions they’re affiliated with; write a one-or-two-sentences “biography” for each; and for the speakers you’ve never heard of, try to get a general sense of who they are and what they do. To write the mini-biography, use also the speaker information distributed by the conference organizers (booklet, website, etc.). For the key speakers, save a picture on your laptop (from their websites) and pre-format it for Web use, in case you will need it. If you prepare sufficiently, you’ve got the first paragraph of each post almost written ahead of time.

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