My guest on episode 5 of Spheres of Influence is Robert Walker. He is the owner of the Jukwaa Group and he has been in the events and expo industry for 10 years. Remarkably he is 28 years old which puts him squarely in the “millenial” category – those that became adults around the turn of the century. This is the age group most thought responsible for driving the massive changes we see in business.
Being in events he is seeing the industry change, as are all industries.
He first spoke about sporting events. The last few years has seen an explosion in popularity of fringe sporting events: Trail running, mountain biking, triathlons and cross fit. This has been fueled by people sharing their experiences and healthy lifestyles on social platforms.
This is seeing a shift away from big name sponsorship. This is most notable with Standard Bank ending their sponsorship with Cricket and moving into the Iron Man event. According to Robert there is move to experiencing a brand rather than just being exposed to it. These sporting activities have a devoted following with high levels of disposable income (a mountain bike can cost at the high end, R100,000). Brands are seeing massive opportunity in having a 1000 devoted mountain bikers experiencing a brand through a sponsored event rather than 20,000 people in a stadium who are just being “exposed” to a brand. The chance for engagement is much higher with those 1000 than with the 20000 and consequently it is of greater value.
Robert believes that those brands that get involved early will be the winners as this is a way to stand out from the marketing clutter we are subjected to every day.
This is also affecting traditional conferencing. Across the world this industry is well established. The traditional conference consists of one or two days each having a line up of speakers which makes the conference little more than an information dump on delegates. It’s an industry crying out for change. Robert concedes that there is fear of change which makes progress slow but it is an an agenda that delegates will drive more and more so the changed will be forced eventually.
Delegates today are more educated than at any time in the past. They are connected and they research. They’ve googled speakers and know a lot about the topic by the time they’re listening to them. So what they are looking for is a golden nugget of information. That one piece of valuable information they can take away from a speaker.
They also want more opportunity to network. Beyond the 15 or 30 minutes provided during event breaks but rather networking as part of the make up of a conference where it is pushed; whether through speed dating or using technology that allows people to exchange information. No-one leaves an event complaining that they met too many people. Many leave today wishing they had met more.
In short – conferences that are engaging will do well. We must use and understand the technology that will facilitate engagement but we can’t forget this is about people. Use technology to get people connecting and engaging.
Robert Walker and his team can be reached at www.jukwaa.net or on 012-6672074. They are young and dynamic and they can help you transform your conference.