Step into the Future with RX CEO Hugh Jones: A Sneak Peek into 2024

RX CEO Hugh Jones reveals what's in store for 2024

Step into the Future with RX CEO Hugh Jones: A Sneak Peek into 2024

As the curtains closed on 2023, RX celebrated unprecedented engagement across its events. We sat down with CEO Hugh Jones to uncover what this means for the pulse of the event industry and what's on the horizon for RX in the upcoming year.

Q. Trade shows made a remarkable comeback in 2023, fuelled by customers’ need and desire for face to face business. Which event sectors can we look to for the strongest growth in 2024/25? 

I think we will see dynamic growth in three key areas. First, tech’s unstoppable rise will continue. The increasing influence of big data and AI is creating vertical opportunities in sectors like cybersecurity and healthcare, while simultaneously finding relevance in every industry. Specific events targeting these advancements will see growth, but the broader interest in incorporating these capabilities across existing industries is also on the rise. Second, sustainability will become a cross-industry imperative. From the robust growth of renewable energy in the energy sector to the wider push for green growth across all industries, sustainability is a driving business transformation and events are becoming crucial platforms for fostering innovation on the journey towards net-zero. Third, as consumer confidence gradually rebounds, I expect sectors such as tourism, interior design, beauty, cosmetics, fitness, and entertainment to experience a surge in growth. Our experience at RX suggests this return to spending is a positive indicator for economic recovery.

Q. The development of digital event technology was rapidly accelerated by the pandemic. What does AI have in store for our industry?

RX is proud to be a leader in digital event technology. We have developed a suite of business building tools which are transforming the ability of our customers to make valuable connections and analyse and improve their event performance. And as part of RELX, a global leader information-based analytics and decision tools, we benefit from the expertise and scale of some 11,000 technologists who work in our company.  There is no doubt about the potential for AI to transform the events industry and leverage the event experience for all.   

Customers today want and expect personalised experiences, and AI enables us to offer real time recommendations to connect buyers and sellers based on their behaviour at the show, while at the same time giving us deeper insights into what works and what doesn’t for them.

Q. What are your business priorities for 2024/5?

Our unwavering focus at RX is on enhancing the value we provide to our visitors and exhibitors by fostering connections that fuel their business growth. Our strategies are meticulously designed to accelerate this goal, and the groundwork laid in recent years positions us for success. 

We are leveraging digital tools and data insights to elevate customer experiences, drive marketing and sales effectiveness, and create more magical, informative and interactive events. Exhibitors and visitors should come away from our events feeling that they have gained something really valuable from the time they invested with us. So, every year, we have to present them with something different, something new. Successful shows don't remain static, they change. It's up to our events to show our sectors what the future looks like. 

Cultivating talented and motivated events teams and equipping them with the training to deliver for our customers is also essential for continued success. And it goes without saying that we are actively exploring opportunities in high-potential sectors through launches and acquisitions.

Q. What challenges and opportunities do you see ahead for the events industry?

Fewer people will go to exhibitions, but more of them will have significant buying power. Going to trade shows used to be a fun reward for doing your job well; but with today’s focus on ESG, carbon footprints and tightening spend on business travel, the concept of business tourism is likely to diminish. Seeing trade shows aisles rammed with visitors is no longer a good barometer of a successful trade show. Nor should it be judged on how many square metres an exhibitor takes. The barometer should be how much value the event brings to a customer and how much business is done. There will still be fun and networking, but trade shows will develop reputations as more serious places for business building.

Engaging people is at the heart of our business and it’s important that we continue to create meaningful opportunities for our people and our customers to develop and grow.  At RX, we have a long-standing code of ethics and a global Inclusion and Diversity policy which stresses that ‘everyone belongs’ at RX, and our events.  Open to all RXers, our Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), foster a creative and innovative culture that improves networking, communication, personal development, and inclusion throughout the company. Our events need to reflect the communities we serve, which means engaging and attracting the broadest possible mix of employees, vendors, speakers, and attendees.

Q. What action is RX taking to reduce the environmental impact of exhibitions and meet the industry’s Net Zero Events targets? 

At RX and throughout the events landscape we are making great strides in this area – which is testament to our industry’s leadership. RX was a founding signatory to the Net Zero Events pledge and in February 2023 we launched our RX Net Zero Carbon Events roadmap sets out our pathway to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and achieve net zero by 2040.    

Events offer the efficiency of bringing everyone together at one time – where else do you get that kind of opportunity? We are working with our sectors across the business to help them with their individual sustainability missions and we’ve already seen phenomenal changes to the way our venues, events, teams, visitors, and exhibitors are working. It’s such an important topic and one where we know we can really make a difference. 

Q. In summary, what can we anticipate for the events industry this year?

Events are well and truly back.  The industry has recovered, and the pandemic is far behind us in the rear-view mirror. Now it’s about delivering value – value for our customers, our visitors and our fans. The challenge is to keep our events fresh, surprising and magical, while focussing on reducing carbon footprints and paving the way towards a more sustainable future.

Technology continues to play a role. AI, data analytics, and digital tools are enhancing attendee experiences, fostering meaningful connections, and driving business outcomes.

Consumer confidence acts as a catalyst for growth, spurring resurgence in sectors such as tourism, entertainment, and wellness. Events serve as hubs for economic revitalization, offering platforms for networking, innovation, and collaboration. 

Challenges persist, from navigating changing attendee demographics to ensuring inclusivity and diversity within the industry. Yet, with these challenges come opportunities for adaptation, innovation, and growth. 

In conclusion, 2024 and beyond holds immense promise for our industry. With a commitment to sustainability, an embrace of technological innovation, and a focus on delivering value for attendees and exhibitors alike, here at RX we are poised and ready to thrive in the years ahead.