Redesigning the ASIS Europe Event
Transforming an annual regional conference into a vital platform addressing security challenges in the digital age
ASIS International is the leading professional society for security professionals, founded in 1955 and headquartered in Virginia, USA, with over 35,000 members around the globe.
Security professionals today are faced with an increasingly IoT driven, and rapidly changing business environment where the traditional divide between physical and cyber security disappears.
To address this new environment, the ASIS Board of Directors adopted a new, highly ambitious strategic plan. The association is working through an intensive change process to reinvigorate itself for the digital age, with an updated value proposition for current and new members globally.
In Europe, there were the additional challenges of a US headquartered organisation creating a regional value proposition for Europe, and an extremely congested and competitive market for events (with both association and corporate organisers).
Exempla helped facilitate the alignment of the ASIS global strategy with the vision of ASIS European volunteer leaders, and in parallel, performed a full review of the regional events commercial potential. This three-way process defined specific areas where ASIS could excel and deliver value within a crowded marketplace.
The focus was placed on the annual European event which was to be redesigned and rebranded, so it could spearhead the change and bring the society’s new strategy to the European market. Leading with the event provided a much faster route to market than changing membership models or structures.
Throughout the change process, established groups of volunteer leaders were engaged to maintain momentum and continuity, whilst new audiences and contributors were attracted to the repositioned event.
A key element was to adopt a much more deliberate event design approach, where a central theme and story line was chosen, and specific thought leaders recruited by leveraging ASIS’ extensive expert network and their connections. The call for presentations then became a source of new and additional ideas in support of the theme, rather than the principle means of generating content, as although this approach provided a broad mix of quality learning, by itself it did not provide enough focus to differentiate the event.
Fundamental to the new approach was providing the means for ASIS members to develop additional knowledge to help them evolve and adapt their core skills to thrive in the new business environment.
Key elements of the new event included recruiting keynote speakers who were business and innovation focused rather than security experts – this was a deliberate choice to challenge delegates and ensure they understood emerging issues from the perspective of business leaders.
In collaboration with the Conference Chair and a pool of volunteer leader experts, new session formats were devised, mixing up deep dives and scenario-based training with quick case studies and pitches of innovative ideas. Interactivity was encouraged by adapting the role of moderators and incorporating live polling.
As the core delegate audience comes from large multinationals, new offers for team attendance were created so that Chief Security Officers and Regional Directors were encouraged to gather their teams at the event. Leading companies such as Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Deutsche Telekom and Zurich Insurance are regular attendees at the event.
Exhibitors were recruited with a focus on those whose products and services closely matched the event concept, so they could seamlessly fit into the conference and present innovative solutions with educational value for delegates.
With a view on the future and attracting the next generation of security talents to ASIS, a Career Centre was added with particular focus on the diversity of skills, perspectives, and experience required to create effective teams in complex business environments.
For the new event concept, a completely new visual identity was created, with accompanying key messages to drive home the focus on the blurring boundaries between physical and cyber worlds. A range of digital and print formats were used to convey the new vision in different settings.
Having delivered a successful pilot of the repositioned event in Milan in 2017, consecutive editions in Rotterdam in 2018 and 2019 broke attendance records. Most importantly, attendee satisfaction was exceptional with 95% of survey respondents saying they would recommend the event to a colleague. ASIS Europe 2020 was postponed due to COVID-19 and a hybrid edition of the event is planned for 31 May-2 June 2021. This will take the event concept into a new phase in its evolution.
Exempla is a valuable partner for ASIS International at a time of rapid change in our organization. One stand-out element of their work is their ability to understand our industry and strategy, and to use this to help us and our volunteer leaders create events and content that address the complex, emerging challenges our members face. They are always looking ahead on our behalf to identify opportunities and foresee potential issues so we can achieve sustainable success.
Peter J O’Neil, FASAE, CAE,
Chief Executive Officer,
The wrap up video for ASIS Europe 2018 features an interview with former Microsoft Chief Security Officer Mike Howard: