IMEX CEO: For 2020, we’re looking on the bright side of life

“It’s been a turbulent year for the world in general and for so many of our exhibitors. In the past few years we’ve observed trends that, even though they eventually led to innovation, were essentially disruptive and extremely challenging, so coming into 2020 we’re focusing ‘on the bright side of life’.” says Carina Bauer, CEO of the IMEX Group.

“This shift towards the positive has been inspired by the creativity and resilience of individuals and companies in our industry and, in the wider world – projects such as David Byrne’s ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’, for example. So, we’ve chosen to highlight trends which we believe are going to change the world, our industry and the way we work for the better in 2020.

“These are all positive developments that we expect to see grow faster. Some are steps in the right direction, a turnaround from years in the opposite direction, others are new ideas that can enhance our environment and our well-being.

“Sustainability, health and wellness, diversity, inclusivity, collaboration, AI, VR, legacy, bleisure and mindfulness are all prominent at virtually every industry conference and in every trade publication. Campaigns to reduce food waste and single use plastics are widespread and well-established. That’s great to see.”

But what’s next? Looking to the future, here are four positive trends that the IMEX team expect – and want – to see more of in 2020 and beyond.

1. The Circular Economy

‘As an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose), in a circular economy we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life’.

WRAP, an organisation dedicated to improving resource efficiency, has clearly captured the essence of the circular economy.

‘Sustainability consciousness’ has contributed enormously to changing attitudes and behaviors for the better – stopping practices like single use plastics that harm the planet and its inhabitants; to reducing waste and encouraging recycling.

The next positive step is to create business models based on the circular economy in which the principles of zero waste, maximizing product life and the reuse and recycling of materials are intrinsic to their design.

An eye-catching story of the circular economy in practice came from the World Economic Forum with ‘Your next pair of sneakers could be made from coffee’. It’s a great, mind-expanding example of what can be done.

How far can it go? The World Economic Forum again gave a decisive answer and captured attention worldwide with the headline ‘How the circular economy could change the world by 2030’.

2. Taking up the challenge of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

“Producing sustainable events is the only way to ensure that your business will continue to exist. It’s not an addition – it’s the only option.”

Miguel Naranjo, program officer for the UN Framework Convention Goals, expressed this challenging opinion during a press conference at IMEX America 2019 to announce the Event Industry Council’s (EIC) Center for Sustainable Events. The IMEX Group is one of the Center’s sponsors.

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The Center has been created to align the industry with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which are increasingly becoming the ‘point of reference’ for businesses in all industries. This major initiative by the EIC, with the support of many leading industry organisations, follows the launch of the EIC’s Sustainable Event Standards, and together they have provided a new focus and raised the profile and urgency of this topic even further.

The annual IMEX-EIC Innovation in Sustainability Award has been generating great interest and is highly effective in encouraging the industry to create and celebrate new initiatives. The deadline for submissions is 20 January 2020.

3. Health & wellbeing; more focus on mental health

The sudden unprecedented avalanche of media coverage and activity around World Mental Health Day 10 October, in the events industry and the world at large, was testimony to a paradigm shift about mental health.

According to the Institute of Health Metrics Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease, about 13 per cent of the global population – some 971 million people – suffer from some kind of mental disorder. According to Arianna Huffington of Thrive Global, 300 million people suffer from depression, making it ‘the world’s leading cause of disability.’ Millions more now suffer from anxiety, stress or dementia.

The big change is first that the historic stigma attached to admitting to mental illness is being removed with so many campaigns that say ‘It’s OK not to be OK’. And second, there is more action, not only to provide greater help but also to reduce root causes. There are now many apps to help with everything from wellness to sleep quality and many employers have trained mental health first aiders who can identify and help staff. More employers are also taking steps to minimize the causes of stress and anxiety at work by, for instance, providing flexible working hours and places where staff can find peace and quiet away from their desks.

4. How AI can make travelling a more pleasant and less stressful experience

It’s no surprise that according to research from the University of Montreal commutes of 20 minutes or more can lead to chronic stress and burnout. So it’s great to find that real-time emotion detection and artificial intelligence (AI) are being used to combat stress and bring a sense of well-being and calm to travel environments.

First, across the Stockholm metro system, for two weeks this year, advertising space provider Clear Channel Sweden created the Emotional Art Gallery to help calm travelers. It synthesized real-time, publicly available data from Google searches, social media, news articles and traffic information to determine the mood of the city.

The data was used to select and display artwork meant to combat commuter stress and anxiety across 250 of Clear Channel’s connected screens. Six artists contributed to the exhibition, with bespoke pieces created to induce feelings of energy, love, peacefulness, calm, happiness, comfort and safety.

Emotion detection robots can be deployed for the benefit of travelers in airports as well. Istanbul New Airport is to use them to improve travelers’ experiences. Nely, a social robot from Turkey-based Human Age Technology, can provide information to travelers about traffic, gates and weather forecasts all while reading users’ emotions and reacting accordingly. The hope is that having the robot respond to emotions, interactions will be more useful and enjoyable for people and will decrease travel stress.

The idea is also being applied to car drivers. At the CES exhibition in January 2019 South Korean automotive company Kia showed its Real-time Emotion Adaptive Driving (R.E.A.D.) system designed to reduce stress levels. The system monitors the driver’s emotions using bio-signal recognition technology. The AI-based technology analyses facial expressions, heart rate and electrodermal activity to determine emotional state and then adjusts the interior of the car – such as lighting or music – to improve the driver’s state of mind.

“We’re looking forward to these trends making 2020 a year of positive changes,” Carina Bauer concludes.

MEDIA CONTACTS: Emma Blake: [email protected] or Chris Lewis: [email protected]

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Linda Hohnholz

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