Fresh off the plane, Brandt Krueger returns to us from the IMEX Frankfurt 2022 event in Germany. Unfortunately, Will wasn’t in attendance this year. That’s why, in today’s episode, Brandt gives him a full recap on this year’s event.
In a global industry that’s still feeling the effects of the worldwide pandemic, Brandt focuses on the trends he saw at IMEX Frankfurt 2022. The two discuss how new factors, like an uncertain economy, may also play a role in recent trends. But don’t let that hold you back. Today’s episode is full of helpful insights into the powerful ways the events industry is adapting to the ever-changing landscape of event tech.
In-Person Events Aren’t Going Anywhere
Brandt kickstarts today’s topic by discussing how in-person, hybrid, and online events fit into the industry moving forward. “Every year I meet more people at IMEX, and every year most of the people that I know in the industry are there,” he says. “Going to the European version in Frankfurt, I got to meet a lot of the European folks that I’ve met online, in person. That’s the beauty of online events, it allowed me to connect with these people. But, I still firmly believe that in-person events won’t replaced by digital events. It’s the online events that get your foot in the door, it’s the online events where you get to open your event to larger audiences.” Brandt recommends attending the IMEX event, “If you’ve never been to one, I strongly encourage it. It’s free to attend.”
Technology Shouldn’t Be At The Back Of The Hall
Next on Brandt’s mind is the placement of the tech section at IMEX Frankfurt 2022. “I’ll throw this out as a starter, I’m ready for technology to not be in the back of the hall. I get that these shows are driven by the exhibitor destinations, but can we put tech somewhere so it’s not on the back wall. Cvent chose not to be in the back, they chose to bring themselves forward into another booth,” he says.
Another tech company Brandt identified that left the tech section was a destination finder called Conferli. “What was interesting to me was that you could filter very specifically. For example, ‘I need the destination to be X number of miles within a train station or X number of miles within an airport.’ They were clear that ‘we’re not a venue finder, we’re a destination finder,’” he explains.
In Conferli’s words, they match association events with cities and venues. Brandt talks about the company, “They then get as specific as: what is the average food cost, how much does a cup of coffee or a beer cost. I think there were several hundred factors that you could tag on. You could exclude countries and destinations. It was a nice, new, fresh program,” he says. Brandt explains that Conferli decided to leave the tech section and set up their booth amongst destinations. It made sense for a destination finder to be amongst the destination booths instead of the back of a ballroom.
The events industry is still feeling the lasting effects of the pandemic in many ways. Brandt describes the progress and innovations that have roots in pandemic challenges that he saw at IMEX Frankfurt 2022.
Translation And Transcription
The first trend Brandt mentions started pre-pandemic. “Even pre-pandemic we were starting to see more technology around interpretation,” he explains. “There were two new companies I’d never heard of. I’m going to go out on a limb and say maybe this is a trend. Because people’s imaginations were sparked by how easy it was to provide automated translation or human translation services through our apps, they’re starting to bring it forward.”
“This is something that I’ve emphasized, in our rush to get back to in-person events, let’s not leave some audiences behind,” Brandt continues. “Let’s take some of these tools, and bring them forward. Let’s do live transcription and live translation at our in-person events using the tools we’ve developed over the last couple of years. It was cool to see 3 companies at IMEX Frankfurt 2022 doing that: Wordly, Interprefy, and Kudo.”
“That makes sense for a European show, where everyone has a different language,” Will adds. “I also agree on the long-term accessibility standpoint, we have to think about the fact that we have global audiences if you’re going to have any virtual element.”
Brandt emphasizes that transcription services are more than disability services. “It could just be you’re in the back of the room and it’s hard to hear. Or, the conference isn’t in your native language,” he explains. “So when you see a relatively small niche suddenly jump, it smells like a trend to me. And that’s good, it’s nice to see.”
The Tech Section is Smaller
Brandt notes that in previous years, as tech companies in the events industry grew, their booths got more extensive and much more extravagant. This year was different. “I was surprised to get to the back of the room and see a fairly reserved section,” says Brandt. “I think there are a lot of potential reasons for why that could be, including all the mergers and acquisitions. Many online companies didn’t need an expo to get business in the last few years.”
Brandt explains that he’s predicted success for certain companies. “I’ve been predicting that the companies that come out of this in the best position were the companies that were around before. They were an event app that pivoted and added the ability to do online event stuff. They already have the infrastructure to do hybrid events and broadcasts. So the companies that only did online events now have to build out their infrastructure, whereas the companies that were already around already have it,” he concludes.
“I’m curious to know if a lot of money in tech is still in Silicon Valley. And, a lot of those companies weren’t going to send employees overseas to a show,” Will adds. “I’m also wondering if event tech spend is different in other parts of the world compared to America. I’d be curious to see if that’s affecting it too. But I know that the looming uncertainty that is now the economy is going into play too.”
Brandt agrees, “Anytime there’s uncertainty in a market, people rein back the spending. These tech companies have to be thinking, ‘What’s our next play? How do we fit into this market?’ You’re going to want a 365 platform and a lot of these platforms aren’t built for that. I will be very fascinated to see how IMEX Vegas compares. Maybe Silicon Valley is happy to spend that money locally?”
Will wants to add one last factor that could affect the size of tech booths. “All these platforms are getting bombarded by their Silicon Valley investors and venture capitalists saying that was great growth, and now they’re seeing slowed growth. I think these investors are saying; you’ve got to start generating returns,” he explains. “You even see some companies making layoffs and staffing changes. I bet many of them are focusing their money on what’s generating returns, and those big fancy booths aren’t generating more business than their other campaigns.”
Specialization and Target Market Transparency Are Coming
One of the other trends Brandt wants to point out is that companies are more likely to be direct in identifying their target audience and target market than they were in recent years. He notes that he often had to ask a company about its target market several times before the company would disclose how and where it started. “That’s been the way it’s been for ten years. You ask three times, and maybe you’ll get an answer. What was interesting to me this year was that several companies just threw it out there. That means people are starting to recognize the value in specialization,” says Brandt.
“Riches are in the niches,” adds Will. With curiosity, Will says, “I wonder if it has to do with the fact that there’s so much more competition now you have to niche down?”
The Metaverse Potential
Brandt’s final trend observed at the IMEX Frankfurt 2022 event was the active promotion of the metaverse. “There were several companies actively promoting this metaverse idea. You go in and put on an oculus. It was fun; I can see the potential. But it gets tiring, and it gets sweaty. I don’t know that I’d want to go to a conference for eight hours in a headset. It could be fun but it’s not going to be for everybody.” says Brandt. “It’s not going to be a mainstream thing anytime soon. The person has to have a headset and that’s a barrier. Most of the time we’re trying to remove barriers to events.”
Brandt gives an example of a metaverse implementation that he enjoyed. “There was a new company on the market where they do 3D renderings of the event spaces. That style of product is more interesting to me because I see the production possibilities there,” he says. “Maybe the planner can knock one of the five venues off their list without having to fly there. It’s intriguing on a lot of different levels, and I just don’t think we’re going to be regularly in the metaverse anytime soon.”
In conclusion, the pandemic changed everything about our lives, and the events industry is no different. As the industry continues to adapt to the reality of in-person, hybrid, and online events, Will and Brandt welcome tech advancements with open arms.
To wrap the episode up, Will tells us he’s feeling some FOMO (fear of missing out). “We’d love to hear from you if you were at IMEX Frankfurt 2022,” he says. “What’d you think about it? Was there anything that caught your eye? Or, was there something we talked about that you’d like us to dive into deeper?” Reach out! We always love to hear from our listeners.