The European Label Forum 2016 has come to an end, but the buzz it created continues to swirl in our minds. The second edition of FINAT’s rebranded annual conference again added some new features, in our aim to ‘turn around’ the event to make it an interactive, engaging and business- oriented meeting forum. Judging by the feedback from regular attendees as well as newcomers to the event, ELF #2 more than fulfilled its promise. One seasoned editor even described ELF 2016 as “the best FINAT event I have attended so far”…

Some reflections before we all disappear into the summer (if it ever arrives)…

In ancient history, the forum was a public facility where people met both to trade and to participate in open discussion. The best-known  of the fora is, of course, the Forum Romanum —  the centre of public life in the city of Rome and beyond (it was not for nothing that all roads led to Rome!)

In modern times, the forum still performs the role of discussion platform and ideas hub:   a ‘place’ (whether physical or virtual) where people, know-how and opinions from different viewpoints and backgrounds meet to create new networks, knowledge and inspiration. We are all familiar with the World Economic Forum, the annual get-together of opinion leaders from politics, business, the arts and society in Davos, Switzerland.

Amsterdam – cradle of the ELF

It was exactly with this purpose in mind that FINAT transformed its annual conference into the European Label Forum last year.   For the first two editions, Amsterdam was chosen as the most central go-to meeting venue for the European label community.   As a recognised centre for international business and the arts; located close to the heart of Europe; and with easy connections from all over Europe, Amsterdam represented a symbol of our intention to focus on relevant business content and interaction rather than location.

New features in 2016

The idea of having a permanent venue for our industry was perhaps a step too far for the long run, as was demonstrated by the slightly lower attendance in the already overcrowded and booming business agenda of 2016.   And yet, both facts (same venue, smaller crowd) did help by allowing us to introduce and experiment with some new features in the programme this year (in addition to those  already launched in 2015):

  • Round tables instead of the more ‘passive’ school style, which enabled more natural interaction between delegates and also facilitated better teamwork.
  • New ‘technology’ features added to the meeting via the Buzzmaster concept, designed to engage the audience in discussion with the experts on stage via the use of their smartphones.
  • Offering interactive parallel workshops on value-based pricing and collaborative innovation —  two topics of high business relevance for our industry. Both sessions offered delegates the opportunity to take a deep dive into a specific topic, to learn, and to participate in round-table exercises using what they had learned.  Both parallel conference rooms were packed.
  • The ‘fun’ element of engaging in dialogue via smartphones and undertaking exercises in round table teams continued with the ‘Label Masters Challenge’: a team competition based on the Label Academy modules, which put the combined technical knowledge in the room to the test. The fact that four teams out of 12 achieved a score of 72 out of 80 questions (and that the competition had to go into a tie-break) demonstrated the high quality knowledge level of the audience.

Programme first…

Needless to say that these innovations certainly added complexity to the programme planning., Concepts had to be developed and tailored; panellists and moderators had to be briefed;   and topics chosen had to be relevant for our target audience and our audience.     For the Secretariat, it was for sure no longer a matter of simply browsing a speaker catalogue and picking some big names!

… But let’s not forget the networking

In this respect, the fact that we had the same venue as last year helped us to focus on the ‘working’ part of the programme.    This did NOT, however, mean that the social networking side was ignored. I trust that the entertainment, and the FINAT outdoor lounge on the opening night – not to mention the Ocean Diva dinner cruise on the second (including food, casino, and Blues Brothers party) will remain in our collective memory for some time.

All credit to Jakovina who put together this part of the programme!

Next year

The challenge for the ELF Programme Committee and the programme director will be to continue the agenda of change, and raise the bar even further for the next edition.

At the same time, we should not forget that, in the new ELF concept, the participation and engagement of FINAT members is as much part of the programme delivery as is their role as recipients of its content.  We therefore look forward to see you all again at next year’s third edition at the Berlin Intercontinental from 15-17 June 2017!

Jules Lejeune Managing Director