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Event orchestration | 19 March 2018

5 Key Differences Between the UK and US Events Industries

Ben Bradbury

While there are plenty of similarities between UK and US events, international event planners need to know some of the key cultural differences.

George Bernard Shaw once remarked that “England and America are two countries separated by the same language.” As a British EventProf that has recently moved across the pond, this post is a combination of my first hand observations, and the cold hard data that backs it up. Today, we will highlight 5 important differences in the events industry for two countries that are same same, but different.

1. Premium US Events Pick Quality Over The Pricetag

The number of premium conferences produced in the US each year is nothing short of staggering. Just look at what conferences are coming up in the marketing sector alone, and you’ll spot a common theme: The country where a large portion are being hosted, the United States. Just look at Dreamforce 2017, which had 170,000 registered attendees, over 3,000 sessions, and 1 former First Lady, Michelle Obama. Or SXSW, which last year had over 5,000 speakers and 4,000 press people alone!

It’s safe to say that when it comes to large scale events, US event planners aren’t afraid to pull out all the stops. This is reflected in the event technology procured by planners, who aren’t afraid to pay that little bit extra for a best-in-class service. Now this is not to say that the UK doesn’t value quality, but they lack the status of being an international nexus for truly massive events. While it does have several venues that accommodate large scale conferences, most notably the ExCel in London, you would be hard pressed to find something of Dreamforce’s scale in the UK.

2. British Are More Conscious Over Data Protection and GDPR

On May 25th this year, the General Data Protection Regulation is coming into full effect, and every company that handles EU citizens’ data will need to be compliant. Failing that, they could risk incurring hefty fines to the tune of €20 million, or 4% of annual global turnover, whichever is higher!

The 7 Pillars of the GDPRThe 7 key principles that apply to GDPR.

Given the size of the country and the regulations already set out by the US government, American event planners are less concerned in the short term with their data being totally compliant. A large percentage of planners are solely focused on the US market, and remain blissfully unaware of the incoming regulations. This makes for a stark contrast to their European cousins, who are quickly putting the wheels in motion to ensure they won’t incur hefty fines on May 25th.

However, the US does have cause for concern. A report from We Are Social analysing worldwide mobile usage saw that Americans spend, on average, an extra hour on their phones than Europeans. That’s a lot more data both being shared, and potentially be misused by third parties. With the events set in motion in Europe, it’s worth for US event planners to follow their example, and start being more conscious about how the data they’re capturing is being used after their event. For planners considering using event technology at your upcoming events, make sure their security measures are watertight, and if the event is in Europe, that the solution is GDPR compliant. Otherwise, on May 25th you’ll be saying goodbye to all the data you’ve captured. 

3. UK Vote With Their Hands, US Vote With Their Feet

When it comes to bringing ideas to market, the US outperforms the UK every time. Bringing a product or new conference to market in Europe is like racing the hurdles. Rules, red tape and regulations will slow you down at every turn from turning your idea into reality. On the contrary, bringing a product to market in the US is like a sprint. One solution, for one consumer market, speaking one language. And when you put a hurdler against a sprinter, we all know which one finishes first.

From an outsider’s perspective, it seems that this mindset has filtered into US events, which move much quicker. Delegates in the US don’t mind voting with their feet if they’re not enthused by a session.

While this difference is certainly not true of all US and UK events, TechsyTalk Live displayed clear evidence of it in motion. As you can see below, there were no breaks in the agenda between speaker sessions. It was designed to be fast paced, which was arguably to meet the demands of their audience.  

TechsyTalk Agenda

The fast-paced agenda of TechsyTalk Live.

4. One Country, One Focus

The UK is one part of the wide-ranging European events network. Broadly speaking, Europe’s events are centered around a few central hubs, including Cannes, London and Frankfurt, which notably hosts IMEX Europe. In Europe, or indeed the UK, it is rarer to have a series of events that travels around the continent under the same brand. This means event planners tend to focus their efforts around a few flagship events in their portfolio.

The same cannot be said of their American counterparts. According to the Fulbright Commission, due to America’s size, the populace have more of a “local mindset”. News and culture are focused far more on the region, rather than internationally. The same pattern can be seen in the events industry, where events and roadshows often travel around the country itself, without a need to cross any international borders.

Which brings me to our final difference…

5. UK Events Have to Cater to More Cultural Differences

Despite being both English speaking countries, events planners in the UK may find themselves dealing with a wider variety of delegates. London’s position in Europe means delegates from all over the continent will attend the conferences organised there. Spanish, French and German comprise but a handful of languages spoken on the continent. For event planners in the UK, this means considering accessibility for people of all nationalities, including changes to food & beverages, and translation services for people who don’t speak English.

By contrast, America is dealing in just one language, and much of the same cultural factors across the country. However, for anyone visiting, it’s worth knowing that each state has its own distinct personality. Just try telling someone from the East coast that they sound or behave similarly to someone on the West coast.

Wrapping Up: UK and US Events

While the two countries may be cut from the same cloth, sharing the same language is where much of the similarities end between the UK and US. If you’re making the jump from one country to another, make sure you consider these key differences ahead of time. UK planners may find themselves catering to a far broader audience, and while the US might have a narrower demographic, the size and scale of their flagship events ensures they won’t be left behind.

You may also be interested in checking out our Top UK Event Agencies Directory. For more event planning resources, click the button below.

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