Takeaways from AEO 2019 Conference

AEO Conf

It is just before 11:00 on 05 September 2019. I’m at the De Vere Beaumont Estate, Windsor ready for an action packed day of insightful sessions. This year’s AEO Conference (Association of Event Organisers) theme is “Live – Survive or Thrive?” The title reminded me of a Scouts Jamboree I attended back in 1994, funnily enough also in Windsor. This was likely my first experience of an immersive live event. I can still remember highlights of the event 25 years later!


Who Dares Wins

The path to success can sometimes feel like climbing an inflatable slope covered in bubbles! It is important to try something new and not to be afraid to fail. James Dyson created 5,127 prototypes before the first model, DC01 was created. With any new idea, the final event is just the tip of the iceberg. It is important to create a culture where employees at all levels can contribute ideas and do not see failure as a bad thing. The ability to fail fast is key in creating the next disruptive event. Failure is success in progress.


“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan


“A concert is not a live rendition of our album. It’s a theatrical event.” Freddie Mercury

Once you have an engaged audience, how do you translate this into an event? The key is to rethink how the current brand can be transformed into a truly immersive experience. A great example of this is BBC Countryfile. I would not travel to watch a live stage version that I could watch at home. However, I would attend an event which was full of interactive content including workshops, kayaking, zip line, BMW Mini test drive track, food tasting and much more. It is also worth considering talent fees. It is great to meet a celebrity. However, it is only one reason to attend.


For the first time in history everyone has a channel

The attention of an audience is now the most powerful commodity in the world. We live in an information overload age. It is becoming more expensive and difficult to pay to interrupt an audience’s time. Media owners need to focus on building and retaining their audience throughout the year, instead of paying for transactional marketing a few months out from an event.


The Experience Generation

Events are more relevant now than ever before. We live in a new generation that thrives on experiences. How can you create a truly immersive brand experience for your audience? What Instagrammable moments will your event have? A simple example of this was from Neil Laughton “Who Dares Wins” session arriving on the stage by penny-farthing. This generated more photo posts on #aeoconference than any other speaker.


Think about how you can start this immersive experience ahead of your attendees arriving at the venue. Engage local taxi ranks a week before the event with free pizza and tell them about your event. They will then become your brand ambassadors whilst transporting your attendees.

Exhibitors can become an essential part of your immersive experience. Many exhibitors simply hand out brochures and do not truly engage with your attendees. Before exhibiting at any event I would recommend a visit to Hamleys toy store in London. You could probably buy the same toy online more cheaply but visitors still choose to travel to their store. Why? You are transported to a magical place with live demonstrations and knowledgeable staff who want to engage. Exhibitors need to capture this magic and use it on their stands.


Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Treat every year as your launch and never take your audience for granted. Within an ever changing environment it is vital to continually disrupt or be disrupted! Have a mentality of launching against yourself every year.


Use meetups to keep your audience engaged between your “Mothership” events. The key for large event organisations is to remain agile. This will enable topical meetups to be planned in weeks rather than months. A time restricted example could be a meetup that addresses the wildfires raging in the Amazon rainforest.


Be an active participant of your audience and not just a spectator. It is important to truly understand the sector and its challenges and not just its exhibitors. This will forge deep relationships within your audience which ensures your brand stays relevant. Do not be too greedy and when possible reinvest money back into your audience sector.


Create a community not just an audience

Create an ecosystem within your audience which will make it hard for a competitor to replicate. TripAdvisor has developed its own ecosystem that enables its audience to contribute content. It would be very hard to replicate this with a competing brand.



I have many takeaways from this year’s AEO Conference including a few injuries from the “It’s a Knockout” interactive session. I blame Alex Temple for a bad team warm up routine! On a serious note, remain agile and launch against yourself every year. Become an active participant of your audience with a deep understanding of the sector. What memorable events will your audience remember 25 years later?


I would like to thank the AEO, Host (Sameena Ali-Khan), speakers, sponsors and delegates for making the conference a truly enjoyable and insightful event. It is the must attend industry event of the year! Hope to see you all next year!