When I wrote this round-up of the 2019 Spektrix conference back in November of that year, I had no idea it would be my last conference round-up — or indeed conference, full stop — for another 2+ years. It’s eerie to imagine that, on the very day I was cramming into a packed, windowless room for the Spektrix keynote, the first confirmed coronavirus case, in Wuhan, was only 24 hours away. If you’d told me that day what was in store for us all, I’m not sure I would have believed you.
So it was a real pleasure to finally get back to an in-person conference again last week, for the Ticketing Professionals Conference 2022, and to discover that many of the same, brilliant faces of the industry had made it through the last two years unscathed. Though you couldn’t really escape mention of the pandemic, whether in the panels and presentations or in the socialising and networking in between, it many ways it felt like we’d all just picked up where we’d left off.
For the first time, I was presenting at TPC. My session, “What cathedrals can teach you about ticketing websites,” was based on my work over the past year rebuilding the websites for Ely Cathedral (which launched in October 2021) and Durham Cathedral (which will launch later this year).
But I also took time to see as many other sessions as I could, and it was incredibly interesting to see the wide range of how other organisations have been grappling with their digital ticketing over the past two years.
Many speakers covered how they’ve implemented brand new digital purchase pathways for their ticketing. This included big-name players, like the Bridge Theatre moving to a new simplified ticketing journey for their Spektrix system, and The War of the Worlds, the immersive theatre and AR experience, rebuilding their ticketing site mobile first (and increasing their conversion rate by 20% in the process).
In the keynote we even heard how Eurovision ticketed their first post-pandemic final in the Netherlands in 2021, pulling together a patchwork of apps and databases with less than a month’s notice. Though maybe more impressive was the session on how Nevill Holt Opera, a tiny annual festival with a fraction of Eurovision’s budget and staff, managed to do more or less the same thing; they built a new digital ticketing system in just two weeks (!) by cobbling together their existing WooCommerce site and Salesforce database with the help of a few off-the-shelf integration tools.
Elsewhere it was nice to hear about our client Saffron Hall’s success integrating their websales with their EPOS and crowdEngage to enable them to keep operating during the pandemic with things like at-seat drinks ordering and digital admission, and how Roundhouse managed to compress a years-long plan for converting to digital ticketing into a single flip of the switch last year.
And of course, I also went to a lot sessions about website best practices, most notably "Ticketing Usability Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them" with Chris Unitt from digital consultancy One Further, and “Unexpected Item in Bagging Area” with Emily Childs and Joel Enfield from Substrakt. These focused on some really subtle points around user experience in ticketing, like: should your donations page be labelled “Support” in the navigation, or “Support Us”? Are users more likely to click “Forgot password?” or “Trouble logging in?” And do seemingly unremarkable phrases like “Book now”, “Best available”, and “What’s On” actually mean what we think they mean, or do users interpret them in different ways?
It was also especially great to see so much time in these sessions devoted to making digital experiences more accessible, and acknowledging that making websites better for users with accessibility needs invariably makes them better for everyone.
I’m still sifting through my notes and reflecting on what I learned at Ticketing Professionals this year, but without a doubt there was a lot that’s going to be finding its way into my own work over the coming weeks and months. This is what’s so valuable about industry conferences like this — so here’s hoping it’s not another two years until the next one.