Q&A with Neil Judson
Q: iGaming NEXT Valletta 2021 is your first in-person event since joining the company earlier this year. How is the event different from the previous events you have been involved in?
A: Yes, it’s my eagerly awaited first live event since I joined iGaming NEXT in May of this year and my first live industry event since the pandemic of course. The main difference between previous events I have been involved with is obviously the Covid situation and having to work to those guidelines and knowing how things can change so quickly and dealing with clients all over the globe, you must take their situation into account and not just Malta and the UK where I am based.
Q: The venue of the event is something extraordinary. Has it made it easier for the sales team to sell such a unique experience?
A: I would not like to say anything is an easy sell ever to be honest, but the feedback from almost everyone on the venue has been fantastic. As far as I am aware it’s a new venue for any gaming event and when like me, many have been to hundreds of events over the years, a new venue is always welcome – especially one with the history this venue has and with fantastic views across the Grand Harbour in Valletta.
Q: The extraordinary venue opens up for quite a few new sponsor opportunities. Can you tell us a bit about those?
A: I’d say venue-wise, the most glamorous sponsor options would include being a networking party sponsor on day 1 or 2, on the roof terrace at the MCC with the panoramic views I mentioned earlier. We also have a very impressive auditorium to host the main daily conference tracks in of course where our key Presenter sponsors such as Evolution, Quickspin, Playtech, Fast Track and many more can really get their message across and host our c-level attendees in a really grand environment.
Q: COVID-19 is obviously still the elephant in the room for event organizers. Is it difficult to convince people that the event is actually happening?
A: What I really like about iGaming NEXT Valletta is that the plans have always been very realistic based on current guidelines, with a view to subtly expand them if / when we can. Its appeal is that it’s an intimate high-level conference with an expo area that matches the event’s size. Most people are very positive about the event going ahead because of these reasons. Even the expo hall is set up to host 30 or so exhibitors in moderate sized booths that we set up, build and take down for our clients, so it’s one less thing for them to think about in the planning for the event.
Of course, we do have companies who cannot send a large team to travel to iGaming NEXT due to their country’s travel restrictions so they opt for a high profile conference sponsorship which means just a handful of their senior employees will travel over for NEXT. This is Malta too remember, it’s such a huge iGaming hub, where a vast number of gaming companies have c-level employees based here and who can easily attend this world-class event.
Q: Some event organizers have scaled down their events due to the pandemic. Looking into the future and post-covid, do you see the industry moving away from “bigger is better”?
A: Good question, I’d say so yes, or at least for the next year or two when the world adjusts to ‘normal life’ again. Much of the feedback I receive is that the more intimate events such as iGaming NEXT are much easier to plan for and are actually more highly effective results-wise due to their extremely high levels of quality.
I think also, many gaming companies have wisened up to the fact they don’t need an enormous booth size at events anymore that need manning in their droves by staff that cost an arm and a leg to book travel for, accommodate, feed etc. The old phrase of ‘less is more’ rings true I sense.
Q: Exhibition booths and tickets are selling out rapidly. Can you give us an update on the current status?
A: Yes, we are very happy with the booth and ticket sales. In fact, we have just a small handful of expo booths remaining so I have advised our remaining potential sponsors to act fast. We could of course have more scope to expand the expo hall but we would only do that if we can accommodate more attendees as per the current Malta guidelines. We want to provide the best value for money for our current exhibitors so around about 30 booths for an event with 850 approx c-level attendees is about right.
I have worked on events in the past with too many expo booths and it just doesn’t work for the footfall there is. Ticket demand has been excellent and I presume we will fill our allocation very soon, but like I said, we hope to be able to free up lots more if we get permission to.
Q: You have already confirmed quite a few tier 1 operators and suppliers. Why is iGaming NEXT Valletta THE most popular iGaming event in Malta?
A: I believe it’s because of the good nature of iGaming NEXT and who we are as a company. I have nothing but good things to say about Pierre, Martin and the team since I joined. As a company we don’t take ourselves too seriously but still work very hard on providing the best service we can for our clients and the best events with the best content, the best speakers, and the best venues possible but never with any arrogance at all.
Q: Finally, what are you looking most forward to?
A: Never thought I’d be so happy to board a plane, so that’s my first thrill. I am also looking forward to meeting all my contacts and friends in the industry, both old and new, and just seeing everyone again in general, including my new colleagues who have had the misfortune to just see me on their laptops so far. Event wise I am looking forward to all the major presenters, after seeing the 2019 highlights of these I can see these really are a step up conference-wise and great to watch and very educational of course. Naturally, I am looking forward to a drink on the roof terrace too and iGaming Idol which is being held on the first night of iGaming NEXT Valletta.