Event organization: European Style by Dr Roderick Ross

I had the fortune to join around 1000 delegates at the GBTA Europe conference in Frankfurt from 9-11 November. The topical theme #SharingEurope and the range of high profile speakers certainly drew in the crowds, with this being the highest attendance figures to date.

I have written a separate blog on the details of the event, but I picked up some useful bits I picked up regarding how Europeans run their events that I thought could be helpful for readers and provide food for thought.

  1. Product punting isn’t all bad

An interest aspect of this event was that there was a lot of subtle and sometimes overt product punting.
However, it is done very cleverly and ends up educating all parties.

For example, if a certain supplier sponsors a session and has a fancy video playing at the start, then typically their competitors are the ones that are on the panel discussion.

With this handy approach attendees get a detailed overview and walk away educated rather than feeling “sold at”.

The need for education and information was very clear because more than one buyer mentioned the fact that they just don’t know enough about what all is out there in terms of technology and solutions to help them. So I think the format is healthy.

  1. Incredible Gala events don’t need to happen at the conference venue

This was the second European conference I attended and in both cases the Gala event was a 30 minute couch ride away.
But in both cases it was SO worth it! This is something South African event organizers should bear in mind.

When my parents organized international conferences in the 80’s and 90’s I often remember them planning Gala events away from the conference venue.

It must have been something my dad picked up from his trips abroad, and it’s definitely a winner!

The bus trip also enhances the team spirit, both before and after the event.

  1. Create space for those discussions that happen outside the sessions 

The sessions appear to just provide a backdrop for the real talks that go on.

I would say, especially during break-away sessions, there are as many people having meetings in the areas outside the venues as there are people inside the venues.

  1. Hire an amazing DJs

The Gala event was set in a surreal setting, and included opera singers belting out Phantom of the Opera tunes and other classics.  OperaSingers

But at the end of the evening, two really great and famous German DJs laid down some tracks that kept the punters on the floor until the early hours.

Advice: don’t skimp on the cost of a great DJ at your Gala event.

The last point is not so much a lesson, but a take-way and a bit of encouragement.

We’re certainly not backwards in our thinking in SA

Whilst on occasion my mind was blown by thought provoking insights, at times I had to bite my tongue as well.

Our European counterparts are certainly blessed with larger markets and easier access for high level connecting, but you don’t walk away from an event like this feeling backward. In fact, in some aspects our thinking is a few years ahead of what I was hearing in some discussions.

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