New UFI Report Details Critical Concerns About Data Ownership in the New Era of Events

November 26, 2021

Members of the Global Association of the Exhibition Industry (UFI) released a white paper underscoring the importance of event organizers posing key questions to suppliers and vendors when processing their customers’ data.

The creation of the white paper became crucial since the pandemic has significantly accelerated the adoption of digital solutions by event organizers over the last 18 months, according to Douglas Emslie, group CEO of Tarsus Group.

 “As a result, there has been a substantial increase in the data ‘we’ are collecting on our customers and their behaviors, as well as an increase in the data our customers are being asked to provide, both explicitly and implicitly,” Emslie said. “Data has always been extremely important to organizers—it’s at the core of the connections we create.”

Emslie added, “As an industry, we need to recognize this change and put steps in place to manage it, otherwise we run the risk of losing our customers’ trust, their engagement and loyalty, which we have built up over many years.”

The paper emphasizes the need to remember that the data is owned by customers who entrust organizers with it to deliver events and services that benefit them. Moreover, event organizers must understand what data is being collected, where it is being stored and secured and ultimately how it is being used by all stakeholders involved, in particular any potential commercial uses in the future.

“We need to tighten up our data policies and processes so that we can demonstrate to our customers that we take protection of their data as seriously as they do,” Emslie said. “Finally, we need to put in more time assessing and selecting which digital partners to work with. A good user interface and a competitive price is not enough—we need to understand what’s going on under the hood while ensuring all the correct protections are in place.”

According to Merilyne Davies, global director of privacy and data protection officer for RX Global, in the new era of digital and hybrid events, the industry is processing more data on customers and providing greater insights and opportunities for data-driven innovation and growth.

“With increasing legislation, litigation, security threats and customer expectation around privacy and data security, it is critical now more than ever that we as an industry come together to develop the standards and collective knowledge that we need to protect the data that is entrusted to us to sustain our future,” Davies said.

Davies outlined three important steps organizers can take to be vigilant about data privacy and data ownership concerns as the industry continues to evolve.

  • Be aware of your legislative responsibilities in all jurisdictions to which you operate. Not all privacy legislation is created equally, so there are differences to be mindful of, as these may pose commercial risks depending upon your data processing activities.
  • Know your data and what you are responsible for. What data do you process, where, why and how? Does this align to your legislative responsibilities but also, and equally critical, your customer expectations?
  • Know what your supplier is doing with your data. Be clear on how your data is being processed by suppliers and vendors and what risks and liabilities this may pose. The paper provides an introduction to the types of questions organizers should be asking of vendors and suppliers to identify those risks and liabilities.

Lisa Hannant, group managing director of Clarion Events, emphasized the need for senior leadership of organizations to put the issue of customers’ data privacy on the agenda as soon as possible.

“This issue isn’t going away, and we all need to engage now,” she said. “This impacts the long-term value of the industry. A customer-centric organization where fostering customer trust is paramount will ensure topics such as data ownership are surfaced quickly and actions are taken to safeguard one of the most valuable assets organizers possess.”

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.