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Why the events industry must take a leap forward

Why the events industry must take a leap forward

CEO of Futurous, Philippe Blanchard, reveals how the events industry can help society adapt to a high-tech future

Whenever I look into the future, as shown by Hollywood or the media, what I most often see or read is a mixture of death and terror – man against machine – the stuff of which nightmares are made.

And yet all the evidence points to the contrary. Technological progress has made us richer overall and meets our smallest desires in ways we never thought possible – from telemedicine to disaster prevention, remote learning, smart cities, the swift exchange of ideas, and new forms of entertainment.

However, despite all this positive evidence, future-fear still persists, as if it is a natural human condition to worry about the new, the unexpected, the unknown – as if it is hardwired into our neural networks.

But so too is our ability to adapt and adopt. Adapt to changing circumstances, to basic ideas, and bend them to new applications – adopting innovation and swiftly learning to employ the new.

Working in the events sector, these are the ideas which I believe need to inspire us. Events have the power to ease the pain of technology adaptation and adoption, and speed the transition to a better future for all of us by offering exciting and inspiring instances of technology, and allowing man and machine to work hand-in-hand and face-to-face.

We are already seeing the impact of technology in the latest generation of large-scale events, and I expect the trend to continue over the decades to come. No longer will spectators be passive participants – they must become involved and active. Social media has become a structural part of our lives and the days of being told to turn off our mobile devices will come to an end. In fact, these devices and the data they are able to harness will become a pre-requisite of any successful event.

Big data will provide more information about the audience, and animations will provide tailor-made experiences. Spectators will be able to enjoy moments of togetherness, as well as specific individual experiences thanks to tools such as artificial intelligence and augmented reality. Delivering messages, highlighting purpose, educating and raising awareness will more and more be the key ingredients.

Developed to their full potential, events will spur people’s imaginations, prepare them for the future and inspire them to think differently. They can help society to reconcile humanity with technology, and to foster collaboration between brilliant minds and complex research to produce more and better machinery to help us deal with the trials of tomorrow.

As technology continues to advance, however, the real challenge for society is not our potential to innovate and invent; it relates instead to how people and communities interact with the burgeoning of technology in their lives, and how governments and institutions orchestrate these interactions.

I believe that the Gulf region can and will be at the forefront of supporting this transition to a digital future, and the events sector is playing a significant part – Expo 2020 will be the ultimate showcase of this.

Dubai has long been a leading destination for events, and the whole ecosystem is supporting the event industry to grow and progress across the UAE. We’re also seeing the emergence of other countries as industry leaders, in particular Saudi Arabia through ambitious projects such as King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), King Abdullah Economic City, and NEOM.

It is now time for the events industry to build on this momentum and take a collective leap forward to help society view the future with excitement and hope, rather than fear.

This will require us to be humble and pragmatic, because we don’t know exactly what the future holds. And we would be wise to remember that it is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.

Philipe Blanchard is a keynote speaker at the Middle East Special Event and Exhibition Show (MESE 2019) from 8-9 April

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