Judy Rae, head of corporate events at the Glasgow Science Centre shares her predictions on trends we may see in 2017.
For some, 2016 is a year they’d rather forget, but for the UK conferencing and events market, 2016 has been remarkable. The sector has grown by an impressive 3.5 per cent in the past year, and continues to grow at an impressive rate, with the total sector market value in the UK predicted to be worth an astonishing £41bn by 2020 .
Glasgow Science Centre has welcomed an increased revenue of 17 per cent compared to the previous financial year. It had one of its most successful years for business and corporate events, and from all sectors – political groups to charities, global corporations as well as SMEs. As winter is a time when many reflect on the year before and look ahead to what may be in store. Head of corporate events at Glasgow Science Centre and chair for the Business Tourism for Scotland Industry group, Judy Rae gives her predictions on trends we may see in 2017:
1. Continued rise of tech
Digital platforms are already being used extensively by our customers and the industry. Now more than ever, this is only going to continue to play an important role in events and conferences. In the last two to three years, there has been an explosion in event technology, such as treasure hunt apps, virtual reality, holograms and virtual rooms, with the value estimated to be worth £28bn.
2017 event organisers will begin to fully realise the opportunities to marry their live and digital communities. Allowing delegates to share content through a pre-agreed hashtag, the conversation happening at the event will reach out to those unable to attend, while live streaming will allow delegates to join in without leaving their desks.
As event technology all requires fast Wi-Fi, it is no longer an ‘optional’ extra for event venues. This will be one of the biggest challenges facing the events and conference industry.
2. Let’s get flexible
In 2017 there will be a bigger focus on the flexibility of the venue to support varying group sizes and different formats that conferences now require. There will be a big opportunity next year to think differently and repurpose spaces, venues and locations to use for various events, while needing to offer flexible settings and equipment which can be controlled intuitively and booked individually.
There is a smarter way to think about how we use space, which in turn can make venue hire more cost effective for the customer and bring unusual and inspiring spaces to life. In-house event co-ordinators will be challenged to think creatively about the space they have available and use innovation to deliver customer demands.
At Glasgow Science Centre, we’re beginning to get requests from companies looking to book ‘green’ meetings, asking to see our energy usage to meet their carbon footprint targets. Customer demands are now beyond capacity and catering needs, we are much more conscious of our effect on the planet and social responsibility.
3. Collaborative Economy
Despite the predicted market value increase, the UK’s recent decision to leave the EU has created an air of uncertainty in the nation. Venues and event planners are going to need to take advantage of cross cutting engagement and development with their region’s key economic sectors.
The Scottish Tourism Alliance, Business Tourism for Scotland group brings together business leaders and senior players within the business events and tourism industry in Scotland. Collaboratively, they look at how to collectively raise the profile of the sector while driving economic growth for Scotland. While in Glasgow, the council recently launched a 2016-23 tourism strategy. The city has centred its strategy to develop and drive sector growth on six core themes, events being one of them.
Venues and event planners will have to work corroboratively, forge strong partnerships with businesses and public sector organisations to combat any upheaval. We’ve made a strategic decision to work and align Glasgow Science Centre with companies and the key economic growth sectors for Glasgow and Scotland to develop our core corporate business.
 Source: Mintel, MBD and Trade Estimates