posted on 9 march, 2017

EWL London held their first Mastermind lunch of 2017 in February on the topic of making events memorable at etc.venues Avonmouth House.

The lunch attended by event professionals from Sequoia Partnership, Jeremy Jacobs Communications, Evotion and Tentickle Stretchtents, looked to address how our event offering is formulated.

Traditionally people think of events in the sense of ‘theatre’ or ‘weddings. With so many agencies and event companies out there how do we define what the substance is of what we do – how do we make a difference.

Guest host Ben Cole from Inspired kick off the group discussion by stating that events professionals are made up of ‘how’ people and ‘what’ people.

How – focused on the practical side of event management, how are we going to deliver the event – budget, venue, catering?

What – understanding exactly what it is the client wants to deliver, what are the objectives and what is the target audience, traditionally more marketing, strategic type roles?

Ben’s thinking is there is too much focus on the how in events and we don’t get under the skin properly of what our clients are trying to achieve.

The point in which the agency gets the brief from client is almost too late. We need to be part of those discussions much sooner to be able to try and deliver something that really understands the brand and what and why we are delivering it. Sometimes, an event may not be the most appropriate medium, rather a digital piece of content. Often the brief doesn’t contain the information we need to know to deliver an event.

It was concurred and said that it is as much about why we are delivering an event – really understanding what and why a brand wants to deliver an event based on objectives.

Ultimately Ben says it is about making memorable experiences for clients that add value not just bums on seats, but how do we ensure that people go away with a better perception of that brand and a truly good experience from attending an event. Furthermore, how do we measure that in a qualitative way and ensure that we capitalise post event.

For him, Ben states, it’s the difference between an event and experience. He said pitching as an ‘experience’ suggests more than just delivering an event and can be more of an offering than a standard conference or exhibition. Event suggests more of the physical entity whereas experience goes beyond and for Ben that’s where the value lives and more memorable events happen.

It’s about emotional engagement with attendees, and the importance of bringing people together from the experiences they deliver – that’s why they do it. Capturing that post event is the hardest but it should be used as a catalyst to drive brand, experience, relationships and further work.

Too much of a perception in industry that you do an event then it finishes – time needs to be invested in fostering value from events and the relationships built. He thinks this is less likely to come from event manager type roles who are focused on practical side of delivery and suggests organisations need to invest more resource into marketing and strategic roles where the focus is around content and insight.

It was agreed by both Ben and the group that ultimately there needs to be a shift in what we are doing to add value as there is a habit in the industry to do what has been done before, whether it be a shell scheme exhibition stand or conference. People perhaps aren’t getting true value from this.

So how do you bring about this change?

Ben’s view was that it’s difficult to change the mind-set of brands who contract agencies to deliver the same event year on year when there isn’t a lot of leverage to change the format and style to add more value and consumer experience.

The group agreed that we need to change the mind-set and ultimately this needs to come from the top (from key influencers and decision makers) and being able to under the skin of why we are delivering an event and what is the most effective way to deliver it.

The events industry is very pigeon holed and boxed up in terms of what we offer – very focused on event organising as opposed to creating live experiences, that give attendees memorable experiences.  It was noted that on Goggle the only category available to promote our businesses is ‘event organisers’.

It was noted from the group that the UK is ahead of other countries in terms of their event offerings including France, and Ben agreed that the US are also behind.

We need to drive advocacy for the brand not just from agency perspective but also from the client’s perspective. Often clients and their stakeholders aren’t sure themselves why they are doing an event, and we need to be questioning this.

Another comment from the group was that the events industry has a silo mentality which needs to be addressed to allow it to keep up with cultural changes, shifts in technology, and other trends. People outside of the industry follow, evolve and adapt to these trends so why can’t they do the same within the industry?

Another group member added that the problem is events people are too ‘planned’ to risk moving out of the box to create new, more memorable experiences.

There needs to be more marketers and strategic thinkers for this and brands need to maximise the resources they have. One example given was how a company hired a marketing agency to deliver work completely unaware that it had its own in house marketing team.

Ben added that marketing/strategy/content side isn’t taught as part of event management training. He has an intern who studied as degree and they only learned the practical side of organising events.

The group added that the events industry is very disjointed and a lot of the time people just aren’t talking to one another which makes it hard to add value to event. We aren’t very collective as an industry and communication is quite poor. We need to work together more to create bigger and better things for our clients.

Ben concurred with the group adding that agencies and suppliers don’t talk enough and share what they are doing, lessons learnt etc. He said he would find this more useful, but people unfortunately are very protective.

Key take aways:

  • The industry appears ready for a shift but we need to work together to do that – more collegiate working to add value.
  • Memorable events are about creating experience and getting really under the skin of the brand and why and what we are delivering. Not just about delivering something that is always traditionally done and may not actually be adding any value!
  • Change in mind-set needs to come from the top – key influencers and decision makers need to advocate to break the mould and not always do what we did before.
  • Events need to excite and be a truly memorable experience for attendees – this needs to be measured and used as a catalyst post event.
  • Perception of events industry – it is quite out of date – event vs. live experience.

What are your thoughts? Are you a ‘How’ or a ‘What’ person or both? Do you agree with the above and what changes do you think are necessary to drive the industry forward in terms of our value and worth?

Leave us your thoughts and comments below…

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