try to act more like a tech company; try things, fail fast, realise what didn’t work and try some- thing else. Again, I think the quality angle is going to be important. There are a lot of unknowns, but what we

are seeing is that people want to come back to events. We hosted two events in May 2020. The second one, which was for owners of gyms, which have obviously been very impacted by the pandemic, was oversubscribed. We’ve got more people that want to come to that event than we can cater for. So I do think it’s far from doom and gloom, but there is a fundamental shift in the foundation of the business and that’s an opportunity and a threat.


In which sectors and locations are you seeing the most potential for growth?

That’s a bit of a mess, to be totally honest. Just speaking from aUSperspective, youcan

now host an event in Las Vegas, in Arizona, in Florida. There’snorealmaskrequirementintwo of those three states. You cannot do so in New York and similarly you will be able to host an event in theUKin late June but you’re not going to be able to host an event in Berlin until conti- nental Europe, and Germany in particular, gets its vaccination act together. So it’s a very lumpy kind ofcomeback in terms of geographies. Sectors-wise it’s a similar story. I will give you

anexample.Ourlargest event isthe International Hotel Investment Forum. It takes place in Berlin every year and it’s basically forowners and opera- tors of hotels meeting private equity and large investment companies, and lots of hotels are bought and sold at that event. You would think a pandemicwouldslowdownthat investment,and indeed it has to a certain extent, but the interest in thebuyingandsellingofhotels is atanall-time highbecausepeoplebelievewe’re goingtoentera RoaringTwenties type of environment. In other words, you can go to an event to

buy and sell products like a typical trade show. Some events are very educational. And then some events are very much networking-driven, you can do some buying and selling, you can do some conference work but there’s also a lot of networking going on off-piste. And it’s that last one that is very hard to replicate in a digital way although I personally believe that technol- ogy will find a way to do it. The conference can be replicated to a certain extent in a digitalway, but there is a feeling that those other big trade shows where thousands of people come in to buy and sell stuff, they may be the last ones to come back – outside of places like China – because there’s a lot of international travel involved, there’s a lot of density involved and those two things are at the moment the antith- esis of howto respond to the pandemic.


What is Questex’s current focus for 2021 and beyond?

We’re quite bullish. We kicked our strategy around pretty heavily last year [asking our- selves]: ‘Are we in the right markets? Are there

June/July 2021

ones we’re missing?’ We’re in travel, hospital- ity, wellness, we’re also in life sciences, health- care and tech. They’re kind of our six markets. We came out of that process with a doubling down [response]. We’ve reaffirmed that we like the markets we’re in. We believe they’re all going to come back; in some cases they didn’t goaway. Tech, life sciences and healthcare actu- ally performed verywell.Wedo believe that our mix will probably be more 55-45 [in favour of] live events [over] digital sowebelieve our digital growth is going to continue and we think events are going to come back to 2019 levels sometime over the next two years I would say, 2023 at the latest. There’s a sort of recalibration of the growth.

We’ve already made one acquisition in the first quarter of 2021 and we’re looking at more so we definitely believe in the fundamentals of connecting buyers and sellers, whether it be live or digitally and using data to make those connections more efficient. We believe that that fundamental model is not going away. We’ve looked at someadjacencies too.We’ve

entered higher education, for instance, where we think there is massive disruption [with] blended learning and hybrid learning so we think there’s an opportunity there. We like the experience economy in general. We believe humans are going to crave experiences after being locked away for a year and I think you’ll see the evidence of that as soon as people can get out. With regards to the flight to quality I men-

tioned earlier, I do think that live events were in oversupply so there is going to be a bit of a reckoning there. We’ve got to do things differ- ently. We’ve got to first, make live events safe and second, events have to be compelling. The experience itself has to be worthwhile.

out, it becomes less of an issue we hope. It’s going to be a very crowded last five months of the year because we’re all moving events to the last five months. Certainly from my perspec- tive, I’m expecting fewer people to attend and fewer exhibitors to be there.


digital. And as MICE organisers, don’t get car- riedawaywheneverybody comes back to events over the next year. Understand that under- neath that foundationally, technology is in the space and you need to make the most of it. Disruption is coming, so be prepared for it.■


Paul Miller is the CEO of Questex. 45

Finally, do you have any key takeaways from last year?

My key takeaway would be to be aware of what happened when print transitioned to

You mentioned before that live events must be safe and that health and safety is

important. What impact is health and safety having on Questex’s operations?

Health and safety remains an interesting issue in the short term. As vaccinations roll


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