Argentina wins the World Cup.

That final – possibly the greatest showpiece of the tournament.

An extravaganza of footballing drama, lurching sometimes towards France, sometimes towards Argentina and then – on the edge of my seat – Argentina wins the Cup. There is nothing like being in the moment, part-taking – even remotely – in a live event.

It’s more evident than ever that the desire for live events and mass gatherings is in our DNA. We are, ultimately, herd animals and thankfully 2022 welcomed the return of mass attendance at live events. From the first Olympic Games to the modern-day World Cup, global summits to corporate conferences, rock concerts to brand experiences – the experience of being part of the event is unsurpassed.

For two years prior to this, it had felt like the entire events sector was holding its collective breath and finally, this last year we can exhale – with relief and renewed enthusiasm to really shake things up. While global factors are still having some impact on the events industry, the enthusiasm and demand for events is undoubtedly alive. We are back!

On Identity

At Identity quite a lot has changed and developed during 2022. We’ve a new MD – Paul Fitzpatrick takes the helm of the agency, allowing me to move to the role of CEO and focus on the global development of Identity. Janet Dodd moves into a new role of Chief Strategy Officer and Simon Dunnell is our new Executive Project Director. We have also significantly enhanced our senior leadership team firepower. I feel very fortunate to have this immense talent at the agency.

Members of the Identity team; Simon, Michael, Janet, Paul, Mary and Kal
Front row (L-R): Simon Dunnell, Board Director; Michael Gietzen, CEO; Janet Dodd, Chief Strategy Officer
Back row (L-R): Paul Fitzpatrick, Managing Drector; Mary Carter-Lee, People & Culture Director; Kal Bhadresa, Finance Director

Identity also opened its first offices in the Middle East in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Janet and I (and my wife, Antonia) visited both offices with special guests Mum and Dad earlier this year. My father, being the original founder of Identity some 22 years ago, was excited to see Identity on an international stage.

Paul and his family in Dubai
Front row (L-R): Janet Dodd, Chief Strategy Officer; Janet Gietzen, Antonia Gietzen, Paul Gietzen

On the subject of international expansion, I will be kicking off 2023 ‘across the pond’ with my focus on opportunities in North America – watch this space.

2022 has been very kind to us, with Identity having some seriously great client and project wins this year. Projects that stood from me, for quite varying reasons, are:

Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict Initiative, attended by the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska;
• Working on Operation London Bridge – the delivery Queen Elizabeth II state funeral, and
• EXPO 2020 in Dubai

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly meets the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, at the PSVI Conference
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly meets the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, at the PSVI Conference

And tomorrow, when I’m guessing that most of you will be getting merry, the team and I will be working on the delivery of London’s New Year’s Eve celebrations. Catch us on TV! A sparkling and fitting end to the year and the start of 2023.

On the sector

On the events sector : – when it comes to live events of the future, tapping into evolving audience expectations is key. Events are becoming more community-driven and people-focussed. The way that people interact with brands has changed – the long-lasting engagement that comes from shared values and missions is priceless.

Demand for the big, memorable event that brings large groups together in shared experiences will continue to grow. We will see brands and organisations using events to express their purpose and values, with an even greater integration of live events into the broader marketing mix. Ultimately, brands are recognising that face to face is the most valuable form of communication and will continue to support budgets for live events through 2023 and beyond.

The shape of things to come

Over the last year, I’ve been asked a number of times what key developments I believe are shaping the sector and it nearly always comes back to these three – sustainability, talent and tech.

  1. Sustainability
    2022 proved that sustainably delivered events rule. This is not going to change in 2023.
    More than ever before clients are keen for us to help them reach their net zero ambitions and, of course, we are happy to oblige.

From COP26 to the World Rowing Championships, Unilever’s Food for Humanity to Shell Smiling Stars, Identity’s ability to accurately measure carbon emissions from every aspect of an event, and then reduce these to an absolute minimum has helped achieve ISO 20121 sustainability accreditation for several of our clients this year. (Check out the info on our amazing Tracker+ app in our Carbon Reduction Plan).

We’ve written extensively on achieving sustainability in events during the year, contributing to various leading publications, so please do visit our website or here’s a link to one of our contributions to Campaign magazine.

For the second year running, Identity has been elected onto the ISLA advisory board, the independent industry body supporting the events sector transition to a more sustainable future. The icing on the cake was being awarded Sustainability Pioneer of the Year at a national events industry awards. On the subject of awards, Identity scooped a number this year – and who doesn’t like an award or five.

The Identity team collecting an award
Identity team collect two awards in one night

In the words of Paul Fitzpatrick, MD of Identity: “Achieving the standards needed to win one C&IT award, let alone two, starts with the ambition to create an event that has the whole world talking, for all the right reasons. A global ambition, underpinned by the imagination to bring the event to life, as well as the practical excellence to deliver flawless execution. We couldn’t be prouder as a team.”

So, basically…. what he said! (That’s why he’s a great MD).

Christmas decorations in the Identity office
Identity’s sustainable Christmas trees & decorations, supplied by Pallets and Things
  1. Talent
    The pandemic has been a double-edged sword on this front. It drained the events sector of some great talent, and this remains a challenge for many across the industry. However, the rise in remote working and our ‘pandemic adaptations’ has also allowed agencies like Identity to cast the recruitment net wider than ever before. No longer is our team limited by geographical location or commuting times – the pandemic simultaneously removed those recruitment barriers. That said, we do need to get together – nothing beats collaborating in person – so we feel very lucky to have filled our new office in London with incredible talent and expand at a pace in the UAE. We also managed to squeeze in two all-staff conferences – our delayed 2021 conference and our traditional annual one.
A group photo at the Identity staff conference
Images from our two staff conferences
  1. Tech
    Event technology is undeniably one of the sectors’ ‘magic tools’ and despite the massive comeback of live events, we are not writing off hybrid. Virtual and hybrid events have already transformed the conceptualisation, planning and delivery of events. Indeed, as inflation bites and budgets tighten hybrid solutions can help clients manage event costs more effectively, while newer concepts in event technology like the metaverse – will begin to shape the events sector even more in 2023. In times of uncertainty businesses need to communicate more than ever so we expect live events to dominate but perhaps live streaming will be replaced by on-demand, rendering hybrid unnecessary in due course. Let’s watch this space…

So on the cusp of 2023 what’s coming down the track?

It’s the start of a new era in the UK with the Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III in five months. I’m delighted to announce that Identity has been selected to deliver the production and infrastructure for the event. What an honour it is for Team Identity.

2023 also heralds the 75th anniversary of the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). This year the UK will host the Eurovision Song Contest in Liverpool and the UCI World Championships in Scotland. Closer to home, the Turner Prize comes to my hometown of Eastbourne!

King Charles III speaking at COP26
King Charles at the opening ceremony of COP26

This time last year I had Covid so I am very much looking forward to this Christmas break.
Indeed, I intend to do some mid-winter catch-up on the many (unread) business books by my bedside. It’s that time of year when many of us get to read and find inspiration for the year ahead. For what it’s worth, here are a few of my old favourite reads to help achieve just that:

Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
Nike co-founder Phil Knight talks about launching his start-up after business school with $50 he borrowed from a friend. Walk away inspired by his journey and empowered with his hard-earned wisdom on entrepreneurship.

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
Horowitz reveals the truth about what it’s like to lead a successful business through challenging times. A must-read for beginners and veterans and especially well-suited to those transitioning to tough times with challenging obstacles.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
An oldie but still very relevant and continues to stand the test of time!
Carnegie teaches simple yet effective technique built on good habits for communicating with people and winning others over to your way of thinking without burning bridges.

So that’s it for 2022. It’s just another four years to try again for the World Cup!

Thank you to all of the team at Identity, our freelancers, suppliers and of course, our clients that make all of this possible.

Wishing you all a relaxing Christmas and a peaceful, healthy and prosperous 2023.