Rotterdam ‘Experiments’ with the Future of Events 

Starting back in May 2020, I was supposed to report on how Rotterdam was gearing up for the Eurovision Song Contest 2020.

I was excited to find out how, a city renowned for its experimentalism, innovation, sustainability and prominence in the circular economy, would present such a high-profile event. Of course, the Corona crisis put pay to that and many more worldwide events. The pandemic’s global impact on the events industry is well reported, offering up new challenges and opportunities. 

On that basis, the Rotterdam Partners Convention Bureau suggests the time is NOW to innovate, experiment and investigate what the future holds, in the form of the ‘Rotterdam Experiment’. The primary goal is to find solutions for the ‘event of the future’ with seven different Experiments and seven different themes. In a series of hybrid collaborative experiments, innovative solutions within and outside the sector are shared and tested with the industry. All acquired knowledge is, as befits a true experiment, shared online. The data and themes of the upcoming Experiments can also be found online. 

Covid-19 has certainly been a catalyst to progressing digital transformation within the events arena, something that was moving at pace pre-covid but which has had to supercharge itself during the periods of lockdown. Thus, it has prompted event planners and suppliers to reflect, search and develop their business processes, event formats and test new ways to progress in a new-normal world. 

One supplier using this hybrid format as a training and sales tool is the Melia Hotel Group, who have designed the ‘Melia Pro Travel Labs Community’ via Linkedin and Facebook for an exclusive community of event professionals and travel agents.The community is then presented with a programme of hybrid events in which planners and agents have the chance to take part in webinars, workshops, round tables and virtual visits of their hotels on a weekly basis. 

Each of Rotterdam’s experiments takes place at a different location and is organised in a hybrid form. This means that a select group is physically present, and a larger audience can interactively ‘experiment’ with it at home or elsewhere. Each Experiment focuses on one theme and holds a panel discussion with relevant guests. 

The first edition of The Rotterdam Experiment focuses on mixed reality and connecting the ‘real’ and virtual world within networking. It will take place both online and in the Postillion Hotel & Convention Centre WTC on Thursday 3 December. VR expert Freek Teunen is one of those involved in this first experiment. 

The overall project takes place under the direction of Yuri van Geest – Futurist & best-selling author who states “For the event industry this means, among other things, space for co-creation, longer substantive sessions, deep, personal and professional stories, retreats and new forms of being together.”  

It will be interesting to see how the data and results of ‘The Rotterdam Experiment’ compliment and agree with the GCB German Convention Bureau’s ‘Future Meeting Space’ (FMS) project/ network which was founded in 2015. In September 2020, they undertook “BOCOM - Experience Borderless Communication", a hybrid conference interconnecting in different physical locations and featuring a corona-compliant set-up. BOCOM grew out of the “Future Meeting Space” with the aim of defining technical, organisational and spatial conditions for successful events of the future.  

This Dutch city’s desire for innovation remains strong and often asks of its residents and entrepreneurs to contribute to the new, resilient, circular economy with their initiatives and sustainable solutions. Itseems apt that a city with the world’s first floating farm, an innovation district which garners and aligns start-ups, incubators and accelerators with institutions and businesses, should create the ‘Rotterdam Experiment’, thus participation and resulting data will, I am sure, create some new strands of thinking. 

What is of certainty is that both projects have and will help shape the future of the events industry and has created a new era of sharing knowledge for the greater good of us all. 

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by Ramy Salameh

Tags: Rotterdam, Hybrid Events, Destinations