Five lessons from day one of the AEO Conference 2018

Today saw the first day of the AEO Conference 2018 held at The Grand Hotel in Brighton.

Hailed as the definitive business networking forum for senior exhibition organisers, this year’s theme "Technology - Artificial or Reality?" saw industry peers and technology experts debating the role technology will play in delivering event experiences in the future.

Here’s our summary of just some of the things learnt at today’s conference:

1.    Change is inevitable.

The opening keynote from Stephan Jung, said to be one of Europe's leading experts of trends and innovation, gave the audience a macro view of the shift in technology and its impact on the world around us. With mega trends such as individualism, silver revolution, gender shift, connectivity, mobility and community already underway, it was obvious that change is not only inevitable but the rate of change is seemingly formidable. Did you know that a company launched in 1955 was expected to have a life expectancy of 75 years? A company launched today? Just 12 years.

2.    Time is not our friend

According to a survey undertaken by the AEO’s Business Technology and Innovation group, most organisers believe that they could save valuable business time if their systems were more automated.

In fact, Lori Hoinkes, managing director at Fresh Montgomery stated that they were looking for the ‘single source of truth’ when it came to storing correct and up-to-date data on their visitors and exhibitors, on systems that clearly spoke to each other and integrated fully. The impact of this would allow their company the opportunity to provide the very best service and experience to customers.  

3.    There’s a new member of the board

According to Nik Haidar, technical consultant to the event industry, a C-level board in 2018 should include a Chief Data Officer. Someone who not only understands data but who has deep insight into customer behaviour and can help drive the business forward.

In fact, this was not the only time data was the hot topic of conversation at the conference. Damian Ferrar from Jack Moreton Worldwide stated that organisers are “so willing to take data from our visitors but not give anything valuable in return”.

4.    Technology is there to provide a solution

“Don’t chase the dream of technology” warned Simon Boniface, executive creative director at Freeman XP, a sentiment that was echoed amongst many of the speakers in the programme.

Organisers were encouraged to ask themselves what challenge the are trying to solve rather than jumping onboard with faddish, lack-lustre tech that doesn’t provide value for whom it is intended.

The focus should come from a need to solve a solution and avoid anything that is gimmicky or a passing fad.

5.    Turning off is the new turn on

The ‘Switching Off’ trend is something that Simon Boniface from Freeman XP is keeping his eye on.  The idea that after the explosion of mobile devices in such a short period has led to a revolution in people wanting to purposefully take breaks from their technology. Great news for exhibition organisers and for the future of our face-to-face industry.

Again, this means that caution should be given when selecting technology for your event portfolios. When speaking about poorly selected event technology, Ferrar stated “We have to be where people are.”

“And engage in the way they want to consume” added Jeavon Smith, executive creative director, Amplify.

The conference continues tomorrow. To find out more visit