BE Conference 2023

Journey: The Business Events Conversation

Article published 13/12/2023

On the 6th December 2023, VisitScotland Business Events hosted its annual industry conference, Journey: The Business Events Conversation, at the John McIntyre Conference Centre, The University of Edinburgh.

The event was attended by over 80 Scottish partners, representatives from across key sectors and venues and leaders from across the business events industry. The sessions focused how business events can serve as a catalyst for socio-economic change and showcased real-world examples of transformation in action.

Natasha Richards, IMEX Group's Director of Impact & Industry Relations opened the conference with VisitScotland's Head of Business Events, Neil Brownlee with a conversation on the current and future landscape of the business events sector. The two touched on key challenges and topics within the sector including sustainability, policy, and legacy.

Speaking on the industry's effort in tackling climate change, Natasha commented: "Venues are leading the way but, clients are not quite there yet. There is ambition though. It's not ROI anymore it's ROC (return on climate) and how they are positively impacting destination."

Continuing the conversation on sustainability, Anna Abdelnoor, CEO & Founder of isla discussed her vision for the industry and how events such as COP26 are crucial for driving action and accelerating global momentum to transform to a sustainable global society.

She said: "We need to act as a champion to change and an example for other sectors to follow. We have an opportunity to be leaders. If we wait for legislation, it will be too late. We can find the solutions ourselves. We don't need to be invited to take action in the face of the climate change, we can take it ourselves."

Delegates also had the opportunity to hear from three Scottish charities. The Green Team, Hospitality Health and Strawberry Lemonade Events each gave an insight into their work and impact as well as how organisations can support them.

The event programme gave delegates an opportunity to join two breakout sessions: Delve into the Markets: the corporate and incentive perspective, and Delve into the Markets: the association perspective led by the VisitScotland teams and with guest speakers Ami Dorkings, Senior Project Manager at Penguins Event and DRPG and Aileen Crawford, Head of Tourism and Conventions at Glasgow Life.

Delegates reunited for the final two sessions of the day: The Positive Impact Panel and The Intersection of Business Events and Tourism in Scotland. With Aileen Crawford, Ami Dorkings and VisitScotland's Business Events Policy Engagement Manager, Patrick Lamont and moderated by Anna Abdelnoor, the session focused on the work undertaken by the three organisations from a sustainability and social impact perspective and how this has changed their strategies to ensure they are creating a positive legacy.

Closing the conference was VisitScotland's Head of Brand and Global Marketing, Cat Leaver and Head of Business Events, Neil Brownlee who discussed the role of business events in the wider vision for the country's national tourism organisation.

Neil Brownlee, Head of Business Events at VisitScotland said: "Journey: The Business Events Conversation was a great opportunity for us to gather our partners and showcase the excellent work that is taking place not just in Scotland but globally in the business events sphere. There were many thought-provoking conversations taking place throughout the event and I hope that it has sparked ideas and inspired our delegates to influence change in their own organisations. A huge thank you to those who joined us and to our incredible speakers".