LTW.MEDIA speaks to Anna Knight, vice president, Global Licensing Group, Informa Markets, about the Festival of Licensing. We asked her a few questions to learn more about what we can expect from the virtual market weeks. She also offered us some top tips for both attendees and exhibitors that will help everyone get the most out of this exciting new format!
A lot of events have transitioned to a virtual format, but how did you devise the structure of The Festival of Licensing?
In June, we ran a virtual licensing event, Licensing Week Virtual. We ran this because when we had to postpone Licensing Expo, we had a lot of people tell us that they still wanted to connect in the original timeframe. So we decided to run that event – almost as a test – because we knew that if the pandemic continued, we knew that we would have to have an alternative to Brand Licensing Europe. We wanted to run a smaller scale, but very good event, that we could then learn lessons from to launch a larger scale event.
We used some of the lessons that we learnt from Licensing Week Virtual to structure the Festival of Licensing. But we also knew, whilst working on Licensing Week Virtual, that we couldn’t really produce a global virtual event, because it’s very difficult to host everyone around the world during one timeframe. But we also knew that our events in the physical space cover all markets around the world. At the point at which we launched Festival of Licensing, we hadn’t run any physical events due to the pandemic. And there was such a thirst and a need for people to connect. So we decided to create regional events based around the markets that we serve in the physical space – the markets where we have customers and where we have the ability to bring people together. And then we also postponed our conference, which was due to be held in New York. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to hold the conference at the end of the Festival.
So, in terms of how we devised the structure of The Festival of Licensing, it was a combination of the lessons that we learnt from Licensing Week Virtual and then thinking about how to connect using the brands that we have already.
What did you learn from running Licensing Week Virtual and how will you be applying that learning to the Festival of Licensing?
We learnt a lot. I think the biggest lesson is: Don’t underestimate how much time you have to spend educating all customers about how to maximise the virtual environment. It’s critical that every exhibitor understands the platform: how to use it; how to get the most out of it; and how to best represent themselves online. And then attendees need to know how to use the platform; how to drive connections; suggested behaviour. The trade show physical format has been around for hundreds of years. Whereas online events are still fairly new. So guiding people through them is really important. So that’s definitely the number one lesson that we learnt and something that we’re really striving to do better with the Festival.
And then the other two things are:
Always realise that something will go wrong and just have a back-up to fix it. So during Licensing Week Virtual, we had a couple of issues that I felt we dealt with really well. But you just have to expect that it’s just going to happen.
And then the last thing is time-zone challenges, which we have already discussed how we’re overcoming that.
What do you consider to be the advantages of hosting BLE virtually?
The advantage is that holding virtual events makes them very accessible. So it doesn’t exclude anyone who perhaps can’t travel – or those who don’t have the budget. This is certainly an advantage as it will grow an audience.
I also think that it gives people the opportunity, who perhaps might be considering exhibiting at or attending one of our shows. It offers a nice entry point to experience this type of event for the first time – and then hopefully become more involved with the events moving forward.
I believe that hosting Festival of Licensing virtually will help attract new audiences and new exhibitors, which I think is a great advantage for the industry – not just ourselves.
Do you anticipate that there will be opportunities to integrate elements of these virtual licensing events into the next physical licensing events, making it more affordable and accessible to those in the industry?
Yes, I do. I am a very firm believer that it is going to be integral for events moving forward. I genuinely believe that face-to-face will become even more important off the back of the pandemic – particularly in licensing, which is such a relationship-based industry. People really do like to meet face-to-face. But I do also think that we are going to see certain organisations restrict travel and I also think that people will start to get used to attending these virtual events. And especially those that can’t get to a physical event will want that to continue. I wouldn’t want to take that away. Right now, how that works, is something that we are still working on! How we integrate those two elements together is currently still very much a work in progress. But it will 100 per cent happen in the future.
What initial response have you had to The Festival of Licensing?
Expect to see many of the same licensors that you would typically see at BLE. The feedback has been great. People have spoken really positively about it and everyone is being very supportive. In the next couple of weeks, we’ll be revealing our first wave of exhibitors. So, watch this space!
We understand that there will be four regionally tailored events. Can you give us a bit of information about what each of these different events will cover? Should people attend just one of these events – or more than one?
The first three weeks focus on regions. So, Week One is Europe; Week Two is Asia; and Week Three is the Americas. So the main focus of each of those events is on those licensing markets (in much the same way as our physical event focus on those licensing markets). So, for example, BLE is about doing deals within the European Licensing industry. Although we have a global audience for BLE, it’s still all about European licensing – in the same way that our Asian events are about licensing in China, or licensing in Japan. They’re very market specific.
The final event is our Global Licensing Leadership Summit. This is a paid-for conference, for those who want to learn more about strategic business issues – it’s less about deal-making.
And so, for me, you can just attend one event! You can do whatever you want to do really, that’s the idea. If Europe is the only market that is relevant to you, you can just attend Week One.
My advice is for people to attend the event(s) that is/are relevant to you!
And how else will you be facilitating the inking of new licensing deals?
In a few ways. Matchmaking is definitely the fundamental offering, and that’s going to be the foundation of Festival of Licensing. We have a really robust Matchmaking service that people can use to reschedule meetings or have drop-in meetings during the event.
We also have exhibitor showcase pages for all exhibitors. And those pages are built to really allow an exhibitor to really show the licences, services and/or products that they have. People can view that page and request meetings with that exhibitor, or have drop-in meetings on that page, too.
We also have a lot of content that we’re producing and that our exhibitors are producing, which is aiming to showcase why people should want to work with that exhibitor. Exhibitors have been making videos about a property – or a range of properties – designed to get people excited about that property/properties, and make them want to license it/them. And the hope is that they will then organise a meeting off the back of that video. Everything that we do is designed to lead to meetings being booked, which could then lead to deals being made.
It’s very similar to the physical space – it’s just done slightly differently!
Have you got ideas on how people could overcome the challenge of not being able to touch and look at samples in the flesh, as you would at a physical event?
In terms of samples, there is a number of things that people can do. When people have meetings via the Matchmaking service, they are video meetings, so there is a way to show the sample on the screen.
You can also produce 3D imagery around those samples that people can really look around. There is a lot of innovation in that space at the moment.
And also, with video, people will be able to show others around stores or factories. This could help show the quality of the manufacturing and the product ranges.
While it’s not a really simple answer, I do think that virtual events are really making people innovate and think differently. So I think that we’ll see a lot of ways that people are bringing the physical space into the virtual world.
And is there anything that you would suggest people should do prior to the event, or can people just turn up on the day?
Our website, which is www.festivaloflicensing.com, is the first gateway. So, go on the website, view the events being held and what content there will be at each event, and then decide which events you want to attend. That’s step one.
Step two will be registering. You’ll get access to the platform for first three events in early September. The sooner you register, the sooner you’ll get access.
Once you’ve registered, you can then login and really build out your profile. This is important both if you are an attendee or an exhibitor. The more information that you give the platform, the more it will give you back – in terms of recommendations, or meeting suggestions.
The last thing that I would advise doing is pre-scheduling those meetings. You have a set window of time to pre-schedule meetings. So, research who is there and reach out and schedule meetings and book your diary up. Also look at the live content and add the bits of interest to your diary, too. And then everything else can be watched on-demand.
Of course, you can just turn up on the day without pre-planning. But I think that it would be a little disconcerting if you haven’t planned ahead.
You mention a window of time to pre-schedule meetings. When will this open?
Our plan is to open this window up during the second week of September. So, there will be six weeks to plan for the first week, seven for the second, and so on. Plenty of time!
Who is invited to the Festival of Licensing? And how do you get on the guestlist?
Anyone in licensing is invited. And all you need to do to get on the guestlist is register when registration opens, which will be the w/c 17 August. I would encourage everyone to register. It’s going to be a great event, centred around deal-making. There’s also going to be a lot of fun elements and a lot of community elements. It’s well-worth attending!
And how about your keynote headliners. Who can we expect to hear from?
I can’t tell you that just yet. We’re planning to release these details in the first or second week of September. But they will be great!
Do you have anything further that you would like to add?
All I would say is that virtual events are very new. And people have a lot of questions, so I would just encourage people to get in touch with me or anyone in my team. We would be more than happy to answer questions and explain how to make the most of it. That’s what we are here for, so don’t be afraid to ask!
We have a customer service email that people can use: email@example.com
Or if they would prefer, they can email me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org