Richard Knight speaking at GIS 2019

Richard Knight speaking at the Global Incentive Summit 2019, The Balmoral, Edinburgh.


This year tradeshow organisers have been busy adapting and transforming their offering to an online platform and ensuring that they continue to provide strong business and learning opportunities for customers. With just a couple of weeks to go until we attend our final tradeshow of 2020, IBTM World Virtual, we caught up with our Senior Marketing Manager - the Americas, Richard Knight, and our Senior Corporate & Incentive Manager, Lindsay Neilson, to discuss how these online events have affected their relationships with clients and organisers.

With the sudden move from face-to-face to virtual events, how has this changed the way you engage with partners and clients? What do you find works well?

Richard: As we have moved through the various stages and challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic it has been very apparent that the requirements and desires of our clients and partners have changed and evolved. At the beginning it was common to have one-to-one chats over video conferencing however, in just a few short months the requirement is to make these online meetings more engaging. Clients are looking for rich experiences that showcase Scotland, they are looking to feel inspired and educated at the same time.

We have delivered a virtual Scottish Showcase of culinary delights delivered by Royal Chef, Darren McGrady, who lived and worked with the royal family at Balmoral and also on board the Royal Yacht Britannia. He was able to bring the all-important story telling aspect to clients and media alike, underpinned with the high quality of Scotland's larder, its history and cultures. We have also facilitated virtual roundtables with groups of clients, ensuring that we kept them up to date with the latest industry insights. Both of these elements were paramount in VisitScotland Business Events securing the Gold Stella Award for Best CVB / DMO in the International & U.S. Territory category.

Lindsay: Similar to Richard's experience, I've seen a real evolution in which types of platform and engagement are most appropriate for different purposes. Our one-to-one conversations are of course vital and can produce very open dialogue, while engaging with a larger audience needs a different approach. The most successful online events I've attended had some major points in common:

  • Making participants active straight away - and yes, that does mean getting people to switch their videos on! Using quick fire questions with a brief response in a chat box or using breakout rooms to discuss a topic keep the audience tuned in and involved.
  • Short, sharp blocks of content - bite-sized chunks interspersed with an interaction from the audience reinforces the message and produces genuine two-way involvement. 
  • Strong presenters with a sense of fun - where appropriate, some light relief can really lift a presentation and maintain engagement.
  • Technical side nailed - no clunky presentations please! A well-oiled machine where slides display as they should, and speaker set-up is polished with good sound and lighting are a must.

What activity have you been involved in over the last few months, and what's on the horizon?

Richard: Within the North and South American markets we have recently participated in The Virtual Global Incentive Summit, IBTM Americas, Incentive Live and Planet IMEX. All of these platforms have been made available to Scottish partners and used to try and keep the pipeline of enquiries flowing for when the time is right, as well as positioning Scotland front of mind.

Lindsay: The final big event of the year is IBTM World Virtual at the beginning of December, usually held in the relaxed environment of Barcelona. The 2020 version will of course now be held online, after valiant efforts by the team at Reed to try and maintain the live event. There will be two days focused solely on one-to-one appointments between exhibitors and buyers, and we're expecting to have a good number of quality conversations. The final day will focus around their knowledge programme.

How valuable do you find working with partners such as the IMEX Group and Reed Exhibitions?

Richard: The relationships we have forged by working together with the large trade show organisers, such as Reed and Regent Exhibitions, are extremely important to us and the wider Scottish Business Events community. We have worked with them for more than 10 years and truly recognise the importance of their survival. We have continued to engage with them wherever possible and made the opportunity open to our partners, with the objective of maintaining a brand presence and to try and ensure these exhibitions are available to us in the future.

Lindsay: Quite simply, these partners help us to achieve what we couldn't do alone on this scale. They bring together huge numbers of exhibitors and buyers, giving flexibility to personalise participation, as well as providing strong platforms for exhibitors to showcase themselves, and for buyers to discover new products and develop new relationships. These events rely on a strong reputation and their longevity shows how important they are to the global business events industry. It has been no mean feat to transition such large events online, particularly for an industry that craves face to face interaction, and they should be commended on all the effort that has gone into providing new opportunities for us all to continue meeting.  It will be interesting to see how trade shows develop post-Covid, as there are undoubtedly strong learnings to use. Extra hand-sanitiser on tap at future events certainly seems to be an obvious takeaway to keep using in the future!

Attending IBTM World Virtual? Make an appointment to meet with us.