26 March 2024, The Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh


"The flagship industry conference for the event sector in Scotland"

More than 250 delegates joined 45 speakers and a range of exhibitors at the sold-out Scotland’s National Events Conference on Tuesday 26 March at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh.   

Held for the first time in four years, the conference entitled ‘Resetting the Perfect Stage for Events’ covered a range of themes across the programme including Scotland’s future events ambition and global status, international perspectives, responsible events, community engagement, workforce development, Artificial Intelligence (AI), measurement and evaluation including the importance of social impact, and much more. 

The day started with an insightful keynote address from the Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development, Kaukab Stewart. In her address, she recognised the important role the events sector plays in Scotland and how it delivers across a number of key Scottish Government ambitions. She highlighted the importance of continued collaboration and how the forthcoming refreshed National Events Strategy will provide focus for the whole events sector, bringing everyone together to deliver a relevant, refreshed and shared ambition.  

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland Director of Events, reflected on the industry’s journey over the last 20 years, celebrating the unparalleled global success and impact Scotland has had on the events landscape.  He also discussed recent global impacts and innovation, as well as the role of the upcoming refreshed National Events Strategy in maintaining Scotland’s global events status. 

Representatives from the Event Industry Advisory Group (EIAG) discussed the important role the EIAG has played in the industry’s recovery from the pandemic. Discussion centred on their role in the development of the refreshed National Events Strategy, as well as the challenges and opportunities facing the sector. 

The morning session was brought to a close with two keynote addresses from Susan Sawbridge and Gordon Johnstone. Susan, Managing Partner at New Zealand based company Daylight LTD, brought an international perspective to the conference as part of her presentation. She highlighted the similarities between New Zealand and Scotland’s approach to events in delivering social impacts and lasting change for people from major events.  

Gordon, Communications and Events Manager at the Scottish AI Alliance, helped navigate the wide-ranging and complex debate on artificial intelligence drawing on the challenges and opportunities for the events sector.  

Afternoon breakout sessions provided delegates with valuable insights on a range of topics covered by panellists drawn from across the UK. The sessions included: 

·        A deep dive into the upcoming revised national events strategy, Scotland the Perfect Stage 

·        Developing the Events Workforce 

·        Events & the Visitor Economy  

·        Event Impacts, Measurement & Reporting  

·        Events & the Journey to Net Zero  

·        Community, Diversity & Events 

Closing the conference, a panel session on ‘Life Changing Events’ provided the audience with both personal and professional experiences from Stuart Cassells (The Macallan Estate), Amy Akino-Wittering (Young V&A at the Victoria & Albert Museum), and Eilidh Doyle, (double Olympian and Scotland’s most decorated track and field athlete) who all reflected on how events can deliver impact and change lives.  

The conference was co-hosted by celebrated British broadcaster and author, Gemma Cairney. She was joined by Briadh Parker and Jemma Totty, two representatives from Jupiter Artland’s ORBIT Youth Council, an outreach programme that provides opportunities for young people aged 16-18 to use their creativity to have an impact and make a difference. The young co-hosts showed the audience at the sold-out event the future is bright, as well as the reinforcing the importance of providing a platform for future generations.   

Paul Bush OBE, VisitScotland Director of Events, said: “Scotland’s National Events Conference 2024 was a fantastic day and there was a real buzz in the room as industry came together for the first time since 2019.  

“The discussions and presentations from a diverse range of speakers covering all aspects of the events industry ensured it provided a great springboard for the sector as it embarks on the journey towards 2035 under the revised strategy.  

“Thank you to all the delegates, speakers and exhibitors who made it such a fulfilling and rewarding day.”  

Culture Minister Kaukab Stewart said: “We know that great events help make great memories. The National Events Conference provides us with a space to hear about some of the incredible work being undertaken by organisations of all sizes from across the event sector in Scotland. It helps us all understand just how interconnected all the parts are and how vital it is that we all continue to work together in order to continue to make Scotland the Perfect Stage.” 

Delivered by VisitScotland’s Events Directorate, the National Events Conference is the flagship industry conference for the events sector in Scotland. It is produced for all those working to create, deliver, and support Scotland’s cultural, sporting and business events. 


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Photography credits: © Chris Watt Photography

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