Side events at conferences are nothing new.
They are especially commonplace in large multi-disciplinary events, and are used to address topical issues or views that are not prioritized in the meeting agenda, but nevertheless align with the overall conference theme.
Side events have started to creep into smaller sector specific meetings too.
While the needs of various stakeholders have to be carefully balanced when designing the conference agenda, side events have created an avenue where planners can capture an even wider audience. Additionally, they enable attendees to customise their own meeting experiences.
In the recent past, side events have been used to address a variety of issues including as gender, diversity, social responsibility and even technology, many of which are mainstream agenda items today. With innovations like Uber and AirBnB going global in the space of few years, innovation sessions are now becoming mandatory in professional and business events.
Planners are now using side event to showcase industry innovations either through concurrently running innovation pods, or via innovation pitch competitions.
While start-ups and innovators have been traditionally excluded from conferences because of cost, innovation side events allow them a platform to be seen and heard, and for other stakeholders such as investors and potential partners to get a feel for what is brewing in the sector.
Planners are now collaborating with start-up and innovation hubs to fill this gap.
Last week, during the Renewable Energy Solutions For Africa conference, energy group Enel partnered with global accelerator Seedstars to host a Renewable Energy Innovation Competition that saw five start-ups pitch their solutions before an investor panel and a room full of other interested parties.
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