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ISES E20 calls on the UK Events Industry to inspire creativity

Leading figures from the UK events industry came together on 27th February 2104 for the second ISES E20 event, to debate as an industry, how to create, creative people. The meeting involved 20 representatives from across the events industry, including experiential, exhibition, live events, agencies, associations, conference specialists, education and venues.

The E20, held at London’s prestigious Chelsea Football Club and chaired by ISES President Jane Hague, was convened to recognise the importance of the UK events industry as a growing sector that’s now worth £71billion, equivalent to a staggering £8million an hour, almost doubling in value since 2011. Notable monetary figures such as this not only attract people to the industry but serve to build its reputation as a dynamic and evolving industry that makes a positive impact on the UK economy.

The industry is duty bound to maintain that momentum, build upon its success and nurture the talent within it to achieve further growth and recognition as a truly creative industry alongside fashion, music and the arts sectors. ISES challenged the E20 representatives, “Is the industry creative enough? How can organisations such as ISES better position the events industry as a creative environment that attracts, inspires and nurtures creative talent?”

As a result of the forum, ISES, as an association that aligns itself and champions creativity, has an opportunity to support event industry students, interns and apprentices through the development of a series of tools and educational programmes, supported through wider national industry events and digital media channels such as Linkedin, to reach out directly to a new era of creative events professionals that are challenging the industry to further develop the sector for future growth.

The Next Generation Delegate
One of the key areas the group looked to explore was the expectation of the delegate, not just from the event organiser, to deliver more creative events. Delegates not only want to experience events but share them, and with the online world at their fingertips 24/7, events need to create a brighter colour, louder noise and a bigger impact than ever before.

The group agreed that the combined reach of live events and social media is fast overtaking the reach of classic advertising with Deborah Armstrong, of Strong & Co /Shangri-La commenting on the growing requests to “create experiential worlds for people to travel through” so the impact can be shared online. Alistair Turner, Campaign Director, Britain for Events, added, “trends don’t just happen, they’re created.”

Tracy Halliwell, from London & Partners commented that the UK and London in particular, has a “creative edge” so there is a welcome expectation to deliver exceptional events for a global audience. But can, and does, the industry deliver? Christopher Mills, from The Events Mill, commented that in the UK, “there is an abundance of creative talent,” and a huge opportunity to showcase it, with Kevin Jackson from George P Johnson, adding, “every layer in the delivery of an event has the opportunity to develop a creative solution,” be it light, sound production, catering and so on, with several creative touch points within a single event.

The Supplier-Buyer Creative Mix
The group discussed creativity in its most tangible sense. What does it look like? What does it cost? Is creativity simply innovation or is it more than that? Is it welcome and restrictive at the same time? Tony Lewis from The Live Group underlined the importance of creativity being applied at every level but in so doing agreed it needn’t be expensive, saying that “creativity is about doing more with less” and often reducing costs.

Whilst the group acknowledged that clients are demanding more creative exploration from the events industry, suppliers can be challenged with health and safety restrictions or playing “too safe.” Deborah Armstrong and Creative Events Consultant, Robert Dunsmore, commented that a “creative idea is a new idea that often has no demonstrable value or history,” yet they encourage the industry to take “a risk” with creativity and embrace it. Toby Lewis supported the concept of ‘McCreativity’ within the events sector with “clients wanting suppliers to think outside the box, but they’ve already decided what that box looks like.” Much of the debate was about creating creative clients to devise creative briefs that harness and showcase the creative talent within the industry.

Chelsea Football Club’s Charlotte Pierce tasks her business development team at the venue to ‘’challenge the client to consider options they didn’t think were possible within the budget or utilising different areas of the venue to best showcase their event.’’ Developing creativity to enhance the customer experience is a big part of the events team focus at Chelsea Football Club with over 1000 hours dedicated to team training each year, of which half is geared towards finding creative and inventive solutions for client event needs.

With such a vast and diverse range of event spaces within its 11.5acre site, including The Great Hall, Centenary Hall and music venue Under The Bridge, Chelsea Football Club offers some of the most flexible blank canvas space within which to be creative, in the capital. Competing with a plethora of London venues, including 5 star hotels and purpose built conference centres, the team’s investment in training to nurture creative talent is fundamental in order to remain at the top of their game and their support for the creative sector and relationship with ISES, rendered the club a fitting venue to host the ISES 20.

The Next Generation of Creativity
The group challenged the development of such creative talent, with Terrance Corness of Metro commenting that “creativity isn't something you learn, it's a skill you're born with and develop.” Including some level of creative demonstration in the recruitment process was considered a vital part of the search and selection process for the events industry if it’s to compete with the wider creative sector.

When challenging the group with how to continue to cultivate raw talent in the UK events industry the response was unanimous. Candidates should “Be risky. Be sparky. Be persistent and don’t give up!” Elena Clowes, an Events student at Hertfordshire University called for the industry to “teach students how to network,” commenting that creative ‘types’ aren’t necessarily the ones that are confident at presenting themselves and showcasing their own ability. Creativity comes in all different guises – from the extrovert to the introvert – so industry has to rely on its associations and events platforms to inspire creativity and develop those that are reticent to shout about it.

ISES commit, in conclusion to the forum, to further leverage mediums such as Webinars and LinkedIn to shout louder about the industry’s success and its contribution to the economy. ISES further commit to utilising platforms such as International Confex to develop an ISESCreativeClinic that demonstrates to young events professionals how to network and showcase their creativity. ISES also commit to working closer with universities and education to encourage greater paid-for-work placement opportunities and event shadowing for those starting out in the industry to attract and sustain that creative raw talent so vital to the industry’s ongoing success.

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