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Episode 80 / December 11, 2023

Navigating event tech and sustainability with Adam Parry

In this episode, Cofounder of Event Industry News Adam Parry shares his expert insights on event technology, sustainability, and innovative event design.

In this episode, Adam Parry, the Cofounder and Editor of Event Industry News, shares his extensive experience and insights into the evolving world of event technology and sustainability. He discusses the triumphs and challenges of organizing Event Tech Live and Event Sustainability Live.

Parry reflects on the expansion of Event Tech Live into North America and the inaugural Event Sustainability Live. Throughout the conversation, he offers a candid opinion on the current state of event technology and the post-pandemic period of reset and growth. He discusses the significance of blending practicality with creativity when tailoring event design to audience needs and the organizer’s vision. 

Here’s what you’ll hear about in this conversation:

  • The challenge and importance of balancing profitability with sustainable business practices
  • Current trends in event technology and the need for reliability and effectiveness in tech solutions
  • The future of attendee engagement, accessibility, and the integration of technology like AI translation and content captioning

Mentioned in This Episode

Transcript

[00:00:10] Rachel Moore: Welcome to Event Experience by Bizzabo, the podcast where we bring the best and brightest Event Experience Leaders together to share stories, tips, and lessons learned from creating some of the world’s biggest events.

I’m Rachel Moore, your podcast host. 

We’re all constantly doing health checks on the events industry. Are things feeling good? Are tumultuous times ahead? Why not ask the person who has their finger on the pulse of events entire? Our guest for this episode is Adam Parry, Cofounder and Editor of Event Industry News and the innovator behind the annual Event Tech Live tradeshows, which are must-attend events for all eventprofs. Join us as Adam takes a quick pulse check on event technology, sustainability, and what he’s seeing in event design: essentially all things that lead to a great Event Experience!

[00:01:02] Rachel Moore: Today’s guest on Event Experience. He kind of needs no introduction, but I’m gonna do one anyway. I’m going to tell you that as I looked at his history in the events industry, the word co-founder pops up quite a bit.

[00:01:15] We have the co-founder and editor of Event Industry News. I think some of you might be familiar with that. Also, the co-founder of the Event Technology Awards.

[00:01:23] He’s been a co-founder of A.M.P. Events Limited, the Festival Supplier Awards. He’s also the vice chair of Digital Engagement Working Group. Probably the thing that stands out to everybody about today’s guest, he is the co-founder of Event Tech Live, co-founder of Event Sustainability Live. I am talking to none other than Adam Parry. Adam, I’m so excited to have you across the microphones today.

[00:01:48] Adam Parry: Thank you for having me on, Rachel. I am very honored. It’s great to be back talking to you just on a personal level and very honored to be on Bizzabo’s podcast and it’s really, really popular within the industry. So hopefully I can impart some interesting content in the next 45 minutes, an hour or something like that.

[00:02:07] Rachel Moore: I have I’d be willing to bet that you will and, and make it even more popular. So thank you so much for that. But, and thank you for taking the time too. I’m gonna ask you to take a little more time as well, because you just came off Event Tech Live and Event Sustainability Live. As the co-founder of all of that how, how’s life? 

Adam Parry on Event Tech Live and Sustainability Live

[00:02:23] Adam Parry: I think ADHD is both a superpower and a curse. That’s all I will say on that. 

[00:02:27] No, I like to be busy. I push the boundaries of what we as an organization can do, but always with the focus of is there an opportunity with that to add value back to the industry? Which kind of comes back to, you know, Event Tech Live.

[00:02:42] This edition was its 10th year.

[00:02:44] Earlier this year we’d also launched the first edition of our North America geo clone of the event is the industry term, which took place in Vegas. And then just to add an extra level of spiciness in there, we decided to launch this whole new event, co-located with Event Tech Live called Event Sustainability Live, which really takes the same format of creating an event, which is hyper, hyper-focused around a particular topic which has depth to it. That is generally relevant to the entire industry rather than a subset of particular types of organizers, whether that be corporate event organizers, tradeshow organizers, stuff like that, and deliver an event that has that mix of content learning, education and supply chain and company that can help support companies with their goals around a particular topic, whether that be technology or sustainability.

[00:03:37] So, yeah I, I don’t think every month I’ve been the flavor for, for my team. They are a fantastic team. So if any of them ever listening to this, this is generally what I think about the team.

[00:03:49] But yeah, that’s, that’s a little bit about, I guess the, the new events this year in ETL.

[00:03:54] Rachel Moore: Well, we talked a little bit before we started recording. What’s your energy level right now on a scale of one to 10?

[00:04:00] Adam Parry: I’m, I’m probably a five. I’m not gonna lie. There’s been definitely some early, early evenings to bed over the last couple of weeks. Now getting back into it and, you know, before, before things like our vegas event, if I’m honest, the backend of the year for us used to be a very much a right, let’s just kind of switch off and recharge and recuperate and stuff. But now we don’t have that luxury anymore. We’re back into planning for that event and for next year. So it’s kind of full on.

[00:04:27] And I will mention for anybody that’s interested, maybe you’ve only just come across the events. Maybe you couldn’t make it, you’re in a wrong location. It was the busy time of year you couldn’t make it. We’re just going through the process of kind of editing all of that content up at this moment in time.

[00:04:41] So I would hope by the time that this podcast airs, you can either go to Event Tech Live or Event Sustainability Live and find that content and kind of watch it on demand, and hopefully you gain some benefit and glean some benefit out of it as well. 

[00:04:53] Rachel Moore: Oh, well that is a given, which segues nicely into our first question here. Were there any big callouts or evolutions in event, in event industry, event tech that you noticed while you were cruising the floor walking through your own event that you’d like to share?

[00:05:08] Adam Parry: Yeah, that’s a really interesting question. There is one specific company that I think has really captured a real focus and niche within the market and they activated really well for us on the show, which was a company called Foto Goto, and they had professional photographers activating on the event for us.

[00:05:28] So taking all the images and photography that we need for socials and post show, capturing speakers, just candid photos of attendees, engaging, you know, people having a good time and things like that. And a really simple link in the URL meant that people could grab it on their phone, they could take a selfie.

[00:05:44] Then a gallery appeared straightaway of every snap that had been taken of those people across the show. Very, very sponsorable, so very lucrative potentially for a show organizer who wants to drive that engagement for sponsor in terms of messaging and things like that. Really, really shareable. So great amplification for the event, either while it’s happening or post show and things like that. So I think they’ve got a really, really simple, slick solution. 

[00:06:13] For the most part on the rest of the event tech scene though, here’s my candid opinion. We went through a period of great growth and great reset over the past couple of years. There was a lot of money invested and infused into the sector.

[00:06:30] Some of it used for great good, some of it not used very well. Let’s be honest about it. And I think the industry is still in a process of reset from that.

[00:06:40] What I am seeing though and I think many people want to see these big revolutions from event technology, you know that it’s gonna solve all my issues and it’s gonna plan my event for me and earn me loads of money and, and dah dah, dah, dah and all of these things.

[00:06:53] And let’s be honest about technology on the main stage doesn’t do that. Technology goes through iterations. So what I’m seeing the smart companies do is really try to double down and make things work properly, effectively a hundred percent of the time. You know, those registration experiences, those onsite experiences, those Q&A experience, all of that technology that people interact with, it just works and it works properly and there’s very little risk of it going wrong. Now that still happens. We had a few things that happened at Event Tech Live that, you know, were unforeseen and you just kind of have to manage them and sort them out at the time. And I think there’s also much more of a focus of where can my technology help me on a day-to-day basis.

[00:07:40] How is technology from an events perspective helping me deliver a better experience around speakers and onboarding and exhibitors and sponsors and attendees and the day-to-day management and planning and communications and collaboration between the team and stuff like that. So there’s nothing I don’t think that’s really out there that I would be like, this is gonna revolutionize the events. I know there’s been a lot of chat about AI and how that’s gonna make everybody’s lives amazing. But I would honestly give companies in the space even a little bit longer to really polish their products ’cause I think they’re really getting there, in my opinion. 

[00:08:16] Rachel Moore: No, I think that’s super interesting. I really like too that you mentioned about the, the financing part of it, because, you know, it’s probably been very global, where budgets got cut back.

[00:08:26] You had a lot of budget then you didn’t. And so a lot of event teams you know, suddenly they find themselves being smaller. But you’re saying that tech there, it seems like people are kind of maybe focusing more on that, let’s make the life of an event producer or designer easier.

[00:08:41] Adam Parry: It definitely depends on what your job role within an organization, right? Because let’s be honest, technology does not necessarily sit with one person. There’s not one, one role you can search for in LinkedIn and go, that’s the person that’s gonna deal with technology within this organization.

[00:08:57] That’s half of the challenge for the actual event technology companies, who do we speak to?

[00:09:02] ‘Cause it’s also different for very much in different companies, size and scale of, of who deals with what. So yeah, it really depends on what your role is and what your target is for that business.

[00:09:13] Rachel Moore: A quick follow up on that too, what do you tend to see as far as like attendees who to come to Event Tech Live to explore and partake of what they’re being offered there on the trade show floor?

[00:09:22] Adam Parry: Yeah, sure. I mean, Event Tech Live fundamentally is a free to attend event, so it’s open to anybody that is interested in engaging with the exhibitors, the sponsors, the content or the opportunity to network, right? We get a lot of the industry, we get a lot of companies and suppliers and things like that, that feel part of the industry, and they use the event to network between themselves, you know, whether that be company to company, ’cause they have business relationships, partnerships, things like that. 

[00:09:49] We do get students coming into the event because they wanna kind of upskill themselves. And I think that’s one thing that we need a huge amount more of is we need event professionals to have technology skills.

[00:10:00] We maybe get a hundred or something like that each year that kind of come around to show and engage with the content. And I think that’s fantastic, ’cause the better they understand technology, the more adoption we’ll get, the better events we’ll have.

[00:10:10] Predominantly our focus on the show though is to pull in those in influential or decision making responsibilities. 

[00:10:19] We do that in two ways. We obviously target those people from a general attendance perspective. We also have introduced for our shows a hosted buyer program so we can cherry pick the top buyers and try and make an efficiency around their time and the supply chain time as well.

[00:10:37] And actually a third one to that is, you mentioned, I’m the vice chair of one of the engagement groups for the AEO, the Association of Event Organizers. We’re very much focused on working with the industry associations to actually use the event as a liftoff point for them. So with the AEO and other associations, we hosted a number of working groups for their members, which are ultimately buyers for the show.

[00:11:05] So there’s a double value there for them in terms of their time and efficiency. 

[00:11:09] And on the sustainability side, ILEA, who was a partner for the show, they actually held their first annual general meeting at the event. 

[00:11:19] That kind of falls back into that sustainability play of like, it’s not just about Event Tech Live anymore. It’s about creating a platform where people can utilize the mass of people and the attendance and the event itself to host things that are complimentary to people’s time and things like that.

[00:11:36] Rachel Moore: That was where I was gonna go next because you know, you mentioned sustainability, you mentioned Event Sustainability Live. It’s obviously on your mind but it’s been ringing through the industry, especially over the last few years it feels like, and maybe longer.

Adam Parry’s Vision for Event Sustainability

[00:11:49] But I would love to hear your thoughts on sustainability. Talk to us a little bit more about kinda your vision for that and, and how you see sustainability in events.

[00:11:58] Adam Parry: Yeah, absolutely. So we started writing about sustainability in Event Industry News feels like a decade ago and our approach with Event Sustainability Live, like I said at the beginning of the podcast, is to take people and individuals doing things in festivals and corporate events, and trade shows and talk about it in a room together, right?

[00:12:20] ‘Cause very often people do things in isolation. They’re all in on festivals or they’re all in on trade shows. And I think there’s a lot to be learned from each other that, you know, ultimately an event is creating a time and space where people come together to enjoy something. And whether that be in a field or a venue or whatever, I think there’s still a lot to be learned. It felt that the most sustainable way in terms of footprint and everything was to co-locate the event. That does create its own challenge though because you might have somebody who’s very much interested in both aspects. 

[00:12:49] So ultimately you are creating a little division ’cause you’re asking them to choose and focus. But focus is not a bad thing. The thing that we have to do as an industry, and we have to do this as Event Sustainability Live, is ensure that the focus isn’t just on the ecological side of sustainability, it’s also about people and profit.

[00:13:14] And I say those two together because you can only have sustainability if you also have sustainable business practice. You have a sustainable work ethic. You know, you’re not kind of burning out your staff. And let’s be honest, the events industry is kind of tarred with this brush of being quite the demanding industry and often people feel burnt out and things like that. That comes into accessibility and diversity and lots of other things around that. So for me, coming away from Event Sustainability Live this year, we had a scattering of that content. I would say it was present, but I think there’s a desire and a need for us to do more of that and work with the industry to bring those speakers in and talk about that kind of stuff.

[00:14:03] Ad break

[00:14:40] Adam Parry: My own experience over the last 12 to 18 months of building ESL and having conversations and my team having conversations with supply chain and things like that is, there seems to be this uneasiness about being sustainable, but also making money as a business. It’s like you can’t really be interested in a sustainable industry or sustainable world if you also, as a business, you wanna make some money and you wanna make some profit.

[00:15:05] And my opinion is there’s nothing wrong with making profit as long as it’s not at the detriment of an industry, a customer, a client, or your team. And actually profit creates opportunity. It creates opportunity to, you know, as a business, reinvest that in even more sustainable products or solutions, reinvest that in your team.

[00:15:25] And worst case scenario, you make a shit ton of money and you donate it to some kind of charity. 

[00:15:30] I think the thing that I would say to anybody, right? Don’t look at sustainability as a label. Look at sustainability as storytelling. 

[00:15:38] What is it that you are trying to do and you are trying to achieve within the realms of what you can possibly as an individual, an organization, and how is that benefiting? How, how is that benefiting your organization or the people that you interact with, your customers, et cetera?

[00:15:53] ‘Cause everybody has different restrictions. Everybody has different goals. Not everybody will be able to do the same thing. If you are Google or you know, Deutsche Bank or whatever, you can probably throw a load of money at being sustainable and you can do some amazing things.

[00:16:07] If you’re a small outfit or maybe you’re an independent planner or a freelancer, what can you really do? You could probably more take a look at kind of travel and carbon offsetting and things like that, or maybe what meals you choose and where that comes from. 

[00:16:20] But we need to share our own personal stories and need to start not being worried about having a spotlight shown and all of a sudden we’re gonna be in the spotlight to be criticized. ‘Cause everybody’s on their own journey. 

[00:16:34] One of our exhibitors on Event Tech Live built their stand so that the entire stand could be reused because somebody in the business wanted a shed on their house. And rather than go and invest in that shed, and then them also reinvesting all of this material and infrastructure they needed for this event, they kinda came together. And I was like, why is that not part of your storytelling as you’ve been at this event? And that to me is some of those things that are gonna really encourage others to kind of start sharing their stories and give them ideas about how they might be able to have a sustainable impact on whether it’s trade show, an event, whatever. 

[00:17:13] Rachel Moore: Yeah. What are things that you are doing differently or even things that you’re seeing throughout the industry that, that are good forward thinking for event design today.

Taking a forward-thinking Approach to event design

[00:17:22] Adam Parry: That’s an interesting one, and I think event design again comes very much down to the look and feel that you’re trying to give an event who your audience is and also what you personally like, ’cause let’s be honest, event designers are gonna design an event how they want it to be designed. 

[00:17:39] For me, our event design is a collaboration.

[00:17:42] Kizzy ala on my team does a fantastic job in relation with the event director Paul, who kind of deals with things from an operations perspective. Event design is a tricky one ’cause there’s always that balance between what we’d like to do, what we can do with a budget, and also, funnily enough, what we can do within the realms of safety, everybody would like to have people swinging from the rafters, but that’s not necessarily always practical.

[00:18:06] We’re a huge fan of having content on the show floor in an open format so people can see a stage, a session as it’s happening, with no real worry about them having to kind of leave the show floor and go off to another dark dingy room somewhere else in the venue to kind of listen to a speaker and hey, if they don’t like it, they can’t skip kind of thing as well.

[00:18:27] I think that brings value back to our exhibitors ’cause they feel connected, they still feel that audience is there. 

[00:18:32] They’re still gaining visibility ’cause there’s lines of sight and things like that. 

[00:18:36] One thing we’ve done for a long, long time, I think we were probably one of the first events, I think in the UK to implement this technology ubiquitously across the show was headset technology. That’s taken one step further and that’s evolved now where Silent Seminars is our partner with that. That’s evolved with another partner called Interprify now color coded in easily switchable on the headsets. We can AI translate.

[00:18:59] We were AI translating into six languages for Event Tech Live on every single stage. And honestly, you could not tell it wasn’t humans speaking, and that has been that is part of our accessibility push as well.

[00:19:14] We’ve also taking that even a step further, we’re a big on captioning and accessibility for people that are hard of hearing or have other accessibility needs, so every stage has two screens of that Q&A technology has been part of our accessibility player for a long time.

[00:19:30] We are a hybrid event. I think we’ll be a hybrid event till we die kind of thing because how can we not be an Event Tech Live? There’s lots of things we’re always trying to strive for from an event design perspective. Creating a dedicated space for hosted buyer meetings rather than them necessarily being on the show floor with all of the ambient noise and things like that.

[00:19:49] That might change in the future, but that’s how we design at the moment. We are at ExCel in London. I. And there is a huge amount of catering at that event. It’s probably one of the best in terms of the variety of food and what you can get offer, but again, we still bring that into the show hall. We create central areas for food and beverage.

[00:20:09] We don’t do carpet at Event Tech Live and Event Sustainability Live at this moment in time. We actually put a lot of kind of graphics that add color and way finding and other kind of contextual information for attendees right at the bottom of the feet. 

[00:20:24] So that’s part of our event design as well. Next year, I kind of wanna look at if we can project things onto the walls, I think that’d be pretty cool for activation stuff. So there’s lots there. Sorry Rachel. I’ve been rumbling on there in terms of event design, but that’s how how we approach things. 

[00:20:38] Rachel Moore: Don’t apologize. I think everybody listening is probably has a notebook out and they’re just scratch scratching down everything you said, there’s great ideas. 

[00:20:45] All right, we’re gonna do some final questions to get to know you a little bit better.

[00:20:49] Can you name an item that you forgot for a work event that caused you some panic?

Getting to know Adam Parry of Event Industry News 

[00:20:54] Adam Parry: My phone, I was actually supposed to speak in an event in London very early one morning.

[00:21:00] Got all the way to the train station, went into the car park, parked the car rope, jumped out of the car, started to walk to the train station, and realized I didn’t have my phone on me. Which meant I didn’t have any way to contact anybody on there. I didn’t have my train tickets. I didn’t have a way to pay for anything else.

[00:21:15] So that’s an opportunity where when you embrace technology, you embrace all these things like apple wallet and paperless tickets and dah, dah, dah dah.

[00:21:23] So yeah, the phone, the phone one for me was a big one that that kind of scooped me on that. 

[00:21:27] Rachel Moore: May, all of you listening, never forget your phone ever again. Is there anything that you’re listening to, watching or reading these days that you cannot put down? It doesn’t have to be event related either.

[00:21:39] Adam Parry: This is gonna be an insight into that like. Me and my wife have got the Alien series on repeat constantly. There’s a little bit of that that we just like something in the background kind of, and I know some people listen to classical music or jazz music or they have something else in the back.

[00:21:58] Me and my wife seem to just like Alien just going around Sigourney Weaver and, and, and those big black aliens just like causing a menace. That’s what we like just in the background.

[00:22:07] Rachel Moore: You know, I, I knew I liked you and now I like you even more. Is there a particular social post, a piece of media or a hot take about events that you found interesting lately?

[00:22:18] Adam Parry: The one thing I will say on that is I think as an industry, we do a lot of talking as an industry between ourselves.

[00:22:28] We need to do a lot more to talk to other industry about the power of what we do at industry level, at government level and things like that. ‘Cause as far as I see it, we are the roots beneath the forest. We are literally the thing that touches every sector in every industry on this planet.

[00:22:45] There is an event for everything. 

[00:22:47] There was an event within every business. At some point and I think we are really unnoticed and really undervalued as a sector, if I’m honest.

[00:22:58] I try and say a little, ’cause I tend to get myself in trouble,

[00:23:00] Rachel Moore: Well, the next thing’s not gonna get you in trouble. This is the easiest question of all Adam. Where can we find and follow you online?

[00:23:06] Adam Parry: Sure. The best place, honestly is either Twitter or or LinkedIn at PunchtownParry, Adam Parry on LinkedIn. You can follow me there or if you’re really interested in seeing pictures of food and my kids, um, you can follow me on Instagram. 

[00:23:22] I’m on there as well. 

[00:23:22] Rachel Moore: Can I ask where Punch Town Perry came from?

[00:23:25] Adam Parry: You can. Absolutely. So not for a while, but for many years I did mixed martial arts, so I did Brazilian jiujitsu and kickboxing and Muy Thai and things like that. My surname is obviously Parry and there is a equipment brand called Punch Town and a close friend of mine, I don’t know why he just blurted it out.

[00:23:50] It was like, oh look, it’s Punch Town, Parry. I think I might have some of the gear on at that point, or something like that. And it just stuck. And you know what, it’s been perfect. Do you know why it stuck for me?

[00:23:59] Nobody’s got it as a social handle,

[00:24:08] ​ Rachel Moore: As we pivot to this episode’s Skill Up segment, Adam’s advice asks each of us to pivot to what we can learn outside of our own industry.    

[00:24:17] Adam Parry: Event industry events are great, right? They are great places to network and catch up with people and access specific content and things like that. 

But I would honestly say if you are as an event professional, you are not attending other business events, conferences, trade shows, totally irrelevant to you as an event planner or as an event professional, you’re probably missing out.

Now it could be MJ Biz Con, it could be CES, it could be just a local business event, right in your hometown.

And go there open-minded to look at how their approach is. ‘Cause often I find smaller events actually, you know, independent people are often approaching their event for their industry in a totally different way that you plan your event for your industry. And I’ve had that experience of going to a number of events over the years that had nothing to do with the events industry and taking things away from that and even talking to somebody who organizes that event is never going to give you the same picture and ideas as actually going physically attending that event. 

[00:25:19] ​ Rachel Moore: Thanks again to Adam Parry for joining us on Event Experience, and thank YOU for listening. 

If you’re enjoying this show, we’d love to hear it!

Connect with us on social and subscribe, rate, and review us wherever you’re listening. Also, don’t forget to share the show with your colleagues and friends. 

You can find transcripts of each episode and key takeaways on bizzabo.com/podcasts.

On behalf of the team, thank you. We’ll gather again soon for a new episode of Event Experience.

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