Event Trends 2014

#-Healthy Stadia Conference 039Last year we wrote a blog post on Conference Trends 2013.  Reading back over the post we think that we predicted the year ahead fairly accurately (even if we do say so ourselves!) and so here is our post looking forward to 2014….

Although some sectors seem almost immune to the economic downturn we have witnessed that it is really tough and complete “doom and gloom” in other areas.  We know our public sector and NHS clients are finding the spending cuts very deep which is heartbreaking and frustrating for them.  There is no doubt that the North of England has suffered significantly from the economic downturn and is taking much longer than the South to recover.  Nevertheless as we enter 2014 the mood overall seems to be lifting and the business outlook seems to be more buoyant.  Dare we hope that we are finally over the worst of it?

For Events Northern Ltd we have some really great projects confirmed and in the pipeline for the year ahead.  We are also really fired up by our recent/forthcoming pitches, presentations, meetings and proposals for some other really exciting events we REALLY hope we get the opportunity to work on!  Already we have had 3 clients clamouring over one event date too.  We hope that all these indicators are positive signs that things are definitely “on the up.”

Nevertheless as you would expect budgets are still tight and as event managers it is up to us to work wonders, save our clients money and ensure we stick to the available budget, however small (see our post Is Your Event Management Company Saving You Money?).  This should be normal practice in our opinion anyway but it is even more vital currently.

The first thing that many companies do in times of uncertainty is cut their marketing budget, which often also means curtailing their event plans.  However the smart companies realise that this is counter-productive and that to survive they must be brave and invest or keep spending in these key areas.

We are still seeing very short lead times for certain projects as clients battle with numerous pressures.  In terms of organising an event it is definitely true that the more time the better though to enable us to fully achieve the objectives.  On the flip side it is also heartening and wise to see other clients approaching us at least 9 or 12 months in advance to discuss event ideas and start the event planning and marketing process in plenty of time.

Demonstrating Return On Investment (ROI) in every event project is more vital than ever before.  Determine at the start of the project the aims and objectives of the event and specific tangible targets and ensure that these are delivered or ideally exceeded in full every time.

cross platform social media managementThese are truly exciting times for business and for the events industry in terms of social media.  Every Event Manager should have embraced social media wholeheartedly and have an excellent working knowledge for all platforms relevant to their event communities and target audiences.  Some are however still burying their heads in the sand and missing the huge opportunity social media presents in terms of engagement, marketing, enhancing the live event experience and ensuring the longevity of each project.

Online registration sites are finally developing and becoming more beautiful, social and sophisticated.  It is great to see providers such as Evolero emerging and this is a platform I am keen to try out on a relevant event project during 2014.

People are accessing data and websites on the move through their phones and tablets.  It is really important to check that all web content, including event registration sites, are optimised across multiple devices.

Although the UK business blogging community is very strong the events industry seem to be slow on the take up, as discussed in my blog post The Event Industry and Blogging: Are Event Managers Missing a Trick?  I am sure 2014 will see a strong rise in the number of UK Event Professionals blogging.  Furthermore I think that Event Managers should develop closer relationships with key players in the blogging community and engage with them better on relevant event projects.  This is certainly something I am keen to explore and find out more about.

Video marketing and vlogging are also areas which are growing in importance.  These are definitely exciting areas we want to incorporate more whenever the opportunity arises.

The modern delegate rightly demands more and expects a truly slick and professional event experience every time!  If you are running an event or conference internally with little previous event management experience we definitely recommend that you should talk to and enlist help from a professional event management company such as Events Northern Ltd otherwise you risk damaging your company brand and reputation (and also being overwhelmed and stressed by the enormity of the task of organising the event itself!).

The modern delegate expects to arrive at an event to be checked in by a slick registration check-in system such as the barcoded registration management system we have developed.  We can’t believe that we occasionally still attend events without any badges (not helpful for networking and mingling) or with scruffy, handwritten badges or labels.

Event App from Advanced Event Solutions LtdEvent Apps are also becoming better utilized to enable attendees to have information at their fingertips at all times and also from an environmental and sustainable perspective (as it can reduce the amount of printing required).  Through our sister company Advanced Event Solutions Ltd we have developed a fantastic event app which is fully brandable and customizable and includes all of the key information such as venue information, directions, event agenda, speaker biogs, sponsor and exhibitor information and event feedback.  Also the app is able to offer live voting and results without the need of keypads and can integrate with our barcoded registration management system if you so wish.

We are itching to run our first truly hybrid event!  A hybrid event combines a “live” in-person event with a “virtual” online component.  We are seeing more and more hybrid events taking place year on year and it opens up a huge wealth of possibilities if done well.  Some people are nervous that streaming live content will detract from the live event or stop people from paying to attend in person however there is plenty of evidence of the virtual audience really enhancing the overall event experience.  Participating online in this way also sometimes gives the confidence to make the decision to attend an event in person after first participating as an online delegate, which otherwise would not have happened.

We hope you have enjoyed reading our thoughts on the year ahead in terms of the events industry.  We would love to hear your own predictions and whether you agree with our suggestions? 

Are Event Management Degrees Worthwhile?

Blog-Every-Day-in-November-with-RosaliliumIn October 2013 Conference and Incentive Travel Magazine published this article: The Big Debate – Are Event Management Degrees a Waste of Time?  The Event Wide Blog then responded with this piece: A Response from an Event Student and Joanna, another event management student, blogged about it here: To a Degree of Relevance.  Event Management qualifications certainly seem to be a controversial subject!  As a graduate with an event management degree myself (graduating over 10 years ago with a 2:1 BA Hons Events Management from Leeds Metropolitan University) I also wanted to write a blog post and to add my thoughts into the mix!

In the C&IT article Simon Maier from the TFI Group suggests that the degrees are too wide-ranging. He says “The content is too broad. It mostly covers management and logistics – very little about delivery, measurement, ROI and the full gamut of event technology. I suspect that not all the lecturers who design the courses are practising events professionals and tend to come from the academic, hotel or travel side.”

Obviously I only have first hand detailed experience of the content of my own course which I imagine has changed and developed a lot in the last 10 years and so it is impossible to speak authoritatively for all event management degrees across the UK.  I would suggest though that it was largely a business degree with elements of planning, finance, marketing, HR, etc, alongside the event planning specific content.  However with many of the modules we were of course expected to put the learning into an event context.

The events industry is varied and although certain principals and planning elements apply to any event genre the specifics of organising a conference are very different to managing an outdoor festival for example.  My degree opened my eyes to the many opportunities in the industry and like many I started the course thinking I wanted to get involved in music festivals and came out realising that actually conferences and corporate event projects are my forte and passion.

When I did my degree there were very few event management degree courses and Leeds was definitely the place to be!  We had less than 75 people in the year group and you could not progress unless you had completed a minimum of 48 weeks full time work placement in the industry.  This placement took place during your 2nd year and then you returned to university for years 3 and 4.  That first hand experience was essential and certainly made the rest of the university content more real, fusing together the academic with real life experience.  One thing that does worry me nowadays is the intake in each year group and therefore the amount of event management students studying each year.  In the current economic climate does the demand by students for work placements and jobs in the industry outstrip the actual requirement in the real world?

Another element that I really valued in my degree was the regular contributions from industry speakers.  This really brought to life the realities and scope of the world of events.
Glenn Bowdin was (and still is) the Head of UK Centre for Events Management, Leeds Metropolitan University.  He has written event management text books and is Chair of AEME (Association for Events Management Education).

I had some great lecturers and it was really apparent those that “knew their stuff” and had a lot of experience.  I particularly valued the knowledge of Nick Jordan and I was lucky enough to have Nick as my dissertation tutor (now a Senior Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University).  Perhaps it was Nick that sparked my love of organising conferences too!  Of course not all of the lecturers encountered had the same level of experience and one in particular seemed to crack under questioning from inquisitive students and seemed to have only have organised a handful of events (they are no longer at Leeds Met I hasten to add!).  I agree that it is absolutely vital that anyone who teaches the event managers of tomorrow must have credibility and many years of experience running events.  A background in event management (not hotels, travel and tourism or academia) cannot be faked and so you will soon be discovered and lose the respect of the students otherwise.  Also to be able to direct research or advise students around their dissertation topic you surely need to have that deeper understanding?

We did plan, develop and execute some real events as part of our course although sometimes we had to undertake the planning for imaginary event projects too which was perhaps frustrating.  Looking back though I imagine it was very important as it gave us the opportunity to think big as if we were planning a really innovative event project with a complicated brief and a specific budget and is similar to putting forward ideas to a client and developing new opportunities in the real world.

I agree wholeheartedly with Simon Maier that delivery, measurement, ROI and event technology are vital elements to be studied.  The events industry is moving at such a fast pace I would hope that event management degrees are keeping abreast and tweaking their course content every single academic year.  Social media and health and safety are other vital components I would suggest should be given priority and whereas 10 years ago we learnt about video-conferencing, students today should be learning about hybrid events.  I know we had the opportunity to learn video editing for one module and skills such as this are obviously more important than ever for a well rounded event manager.  I hope also that all students at all universities nowadays (whatever the course) also have access to training in entrepreneurship, business planning and guidance on how to set up your own company.

One thing I think it is important to remember though is that University is not school or college.  It is about independent learning – research, critical thinking, study, reflection combined with work experience.  University is not about hand holding and telling people what to think and do – the student must come to their own conclusions and it is true somewhat that they get out what they put in (as with life in general!).

More recently I have had some links with the BA (Hons) Event Management Course at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).  I have had the pleasure of meeting the Course Leader and Senior Lecturers, I have presented to students about my career and experience of the events industry, I have participated in an industry focus group around course content and development, I have interviewed students for an events role, I have attended events organised by the students and I have worked first hand with several students who volunteered and came forward to work on a challenging event taking place within very short timescales.  I have to say I have been nothing less than impressed – the students have been really proactive and keen, the lecturers have a true background in events, the student intake each year is small and as part of the course they have to put on real events.

VolunteerWhen I graduated my industry work placement as well as the other voluntary and paid work experience I had gained were essential in helping me find a job.  Then in 2004 I set up my own company: Events Northern Ltd. (note I wrote an earlier blog post here about Starting an Event Management Company).  I know of at least 2 other graduates from my year group that did the same.  Others went on to top high flying jobs with some of the biggest companies in the events industry.  Inevitably though there were also many that didn’t go into the events industry and found jobs in human resources, marketing, retail and so forth.  I think it is a strength that our course was broad enough to allow this if people decided the events industry wasn’t for them.  The business elements of an event management degree and indeed the skills developed in terms of event planning are easily transferable, whereas someone without that event management background would not necessarily have the skills an event organiser needs.

I would suggest from an employers perspective if someone has a degree in Event Management this shows me that they are very focused on their career path (like I was – I couldn’t imagine studying anything else).  I agree that event experience would have the greater weighting if I had to choose between event management experience or having an event management degree but if recruiting I would largely favour someone with an events management degree rather than someone who had studied another subject.

I really do not envy current event management (or any students) today.  Not only do they have to pay high tuition fees (up to £9k per year) they also face a really difficult job market at the end of it.  Luckily the top students seem to realise that this is a competitive market and are raising their game and thinking ahead.

I have been impressed by the event management students I have come into contact with in person and also via Twitter and #eventhour.  They have shown an inquisitive and intelligent perspective, are gaining valuable work experience whenever they can (both paid and unpaid) and it is great to see them networking with event professionals via the virtual world through Twitter chats and face to face opportunities as well as taking the time to blog.  For me as an employer this shows real commitment.

In conclusion I would wholeheartedly defend my event management degree.  The academic preparation and inspiration it provided, in conjunction with lots of work experience has prepared me for my career as a professional event and conference organiser.  I would love to hear more from Universities that offer event management degree courses and find out about their specific course content and how they respond to this debate.

Personality Traits of Event Managers

Blog-Every-Day-in-November-with-RosaliliumAt EIBTM last week I had the opportunity to mingle with many event organisers (#eventprofs as we are affectionately known on Twitter).  Whenever you attend event industry exhibitions such as EIBTM, Confex, the Conference and Hospitality Show, etc or go on a ‘fam trip’ or similar opportunity which gathers event planners together you know that you are guaranteed to meet like minded people.  It seems that to work in the events industry you need to have certain character traits and this almost guarantees that you will get along with each other!  It made me think about what the key personality requirements are and I came up with the following list.

1. Friendly, outgoing and able to talk to anyone (about almost anything)!
An event organiser has a very public facing job in terms of face to face contact with clients and attendees so unsurprisingly you need to have great people skills.  If you are the shy and retiring type this probably isn’t the career choice for you!

2. Happy and positive outlook
The best event managers and the most successful people I encounter in life in general all seem to have a positive and optimistic outlook on life.  At Events Northern Ltd service with a smile is vital.

3. Confident
I think a level of confidence is required to manage people and attendees effectively and deal with any challenges that come along calmly with a level head.  Refer back to point 1.

4. “Grafters”
Event Managers often work very long, unsociable hours.  It is often fairly physical work too and you need to ‘get stuck in!’

5. Organised
The most obvious personality trait that an event planner needs is to be very organised and methodical, with excellent attention to detail.

I would love to read your comments on other key personality traits that event organisers should possess!

You may also be interested to read our earlier blog post: Business Etiquette Tips for Event Managers

Event Catering

Blog-Every-Day-in-November-with-RosaliliumDay four of Blog Every Day in November and the topic today is ‘Food Glorious Food.’  Relating this back to my own blog I wanted to specifically focus on event catering, specifically for conferences, workshops and seminars.

Catering is important.  When attendees come to an event I often pick up the feeling that they are doing something different to their everyday working lives and therefore almost expect to be pampered and to indulge.  They are certainly very well catered for by the many top class chefs and catering teams at venues across the UK.

CIMG1531By the same token many of our NHS and health sector clients understandably need to ensure the catering they provide is delicious but also nutritious for their delegates.  Healthy doesn’t have to mean boring but educating some Chefs about what counts as healthy and how they can prepare/cook things differently for a positive effect on health has been somewhat of a mission at times.

CIMG1534I have learnt a lot myself working with fantastic dietitians, caterers and various specialists to instill the ethos from the North West Healthy Catering Guidelines over the last 10 years.  I have learnt even more still working with the European Healthy Stadia Network in encouraging stadiums to offer healthier options alongside their traditional matchday fare, whilst still maintaining  a commercial outlook in terms of revenue and profits.

182A more recent trend from some clients has been a back to basic approach to menus with hot foods being replaced by simple “no frills” cold buffets.  This has not only been a cost saving exercise but has also been a case of ensuring they are “not seen as being too extravagant.”

I also have a client who decided to offer a fully vegetarian menu and cut out meat entirely to reduce the carbon footprint.

Top tip: Don’t forget to check the dietary requirements of all guests including delegates, staff, speakers, exhibitors and so forth so that you can advise the venue at least seven days before the event date and cater properly for your guests.  We recommend asking questions about dietary requirements and also any disability or access requirements at the point of registration e.g. via the online registration form.

Whatever the clients approach and thoughts on the menu this is something your event management company will be able to advise you on.  They will be able to suggest appropriate menus to suit your IMG_4040available budget and also to match the event timings and venue layout.  They will also be able to suggest the final catering numbers which should be confirmed based on the likely numbers of apologies and last minute registrations/registrations on site.

How do you feel about catering when you are attending an event? 

Do you expect to indulge?  Are you happy with a healthy menu?  Maybe you have been pleasantly surprised when faced with a healthy balanced lunch?  Would you be satisfied by a no frills buffet or a wholly vegetarian offering? HealthTrainerEvents 030

What about if you have any special dietary requirements?  Have these always been met adequately?

I will look forward to reading your comments below!

 

 

Conference Trends 2013

London New Years Eve Fireworks 2012

We can’t believe the first month of 2013 has gone already! This inspired us to think about the changing landscape of the events industry and changes and developments we foresee for conferences in the next 12 months. It will be interesting to review this post in early 2014 and see if our predictions were right!

Times are still tough in the UK economy and throughout the world and event budgets are tight or in some case virtually non existent! This is however encouraging some fantastic deals and rates throughout the industry from venues and suppliers for those in a position to take advantage. Good event organisers are rising to this challenge to become even more creative in making every penny go even further!  We also expect to see conferences and events held in more unusual venues and spaces in the future and sometimes shying away from the shiny purpose built venues we love so much.

We have already seen many events moving to a single day rather than a multi day programme and non fee paying events slashing maximum available attendee places is understandably a definite sign of the times. There has also been a push towards “no frills” packages e.g. providing a basic sandwich lunch and doing without the biscuits/fruit/pastries at refreshment breaks in order to make the books balance and also simply to not be seen as being frivolous in these times of austerity.  In our opinion content is always more important than the niceties and we are happy to advise our clients how and where they can save money on their conferences and events.

If you book to attend an event and cancel at the last minute do expect to incur a cancellation charge. No shows and late apologies cost the organiser money for the place that is wasted and cause frustration because it is then often too late to fill the place from someone on the waiting list. Attendees often don’t seem to comprehend that by booking a place and not turning up to an event you may be putting the future of the event happening again into serious jeopardy during these challenging times.

Social media will continue to have a massive impact in the event industry in terms of marketing, developing online communities, live tweeting, sharing photos and extending the life of the event well after the lights are turned off and everyone has gone home. No longer does attending a conference mean turning off your phone, instead delegates are often actively encouraged just turn to silent and to engage fully via social media. Virtually all of the events we work on now set a dedicated event hashtag early on in the planning process and we are happy to advise on a bespoke event social media marketing strategy. Tweets are often visible even to those without active accounts via Twitter walls and feeds via event apps.  Speakers at events are also expected to do more, be it by writing a guest blog post or simply telling their followers about the events they are involved in and tweeting live from the event.

event app for android and iphone

Event App from Advanced Event Solutions Ltd

Reliable wifi is essential in any event venue nowadays, where each attendee is often using multiple devices to connect online. Venues with less than satisfactory wifi signal, complicated log in procedures and expensive charges (or indeed any charges full stop for wifi!) will soon find themselves out of favour with organisers.

Tablets are having an impact on events, not just in terms facilitating attendees to connect with social media on site but also in terms of some organisers favouring their tablet instead of their traditional clipboard to quickly access important information on the move!

A hybrid event is a tradeshow, conference, unconference, seminar, workshop or other meeting that combines a “live” face to face event with a “virtual” online component.  We are already seeing a rise in events which cater for both on site visitors and also engage with wider audiences unable to attend in person.  Hybrid Events are set to change the face of the events industry and will become more and more common over the next few years.

Now more than ever it is vital to measure the return on investment (ROI) for each event.  Instead of gaining feedback from attendees about how they rated the catering what we really need to measure is how much business was generated as a direct result of an event or how it has influenced and changed opinions of those attending.

We are seeing a movement by forward thinking organisations who want to be respected as experts in their field and are hosting workshops around the country.  These organisations are putting on a free half day seminar in their area of expertise and inviting a targeted list to take up free places.  The seminar gives an introduction into their services via a number of guest speakers and case studies.  Attendees can gain valuable insight into the subject area, ask questions and get free advice.  The seminars then generate leads and business over the medium term which more than compensates for their initial investment.  We are pleased to be working with a number of clients who see this formula as a vital component in their marketing strategy.

In 2012 we produced a number of events that invested in an event app to improve the attendee experience.  Sponsorship is sometimes elusive in the current economic climate with sponsors rightly demanding more and looking for a unique package in return.  A bespoke branded event app such as those provided by Advanced Event Solutions Ltd offers real tangible benefits to sponsors as well as adding value to delegates, speakers and exhibitors.  In this age of technology having information at your finger tips via a mobile phone or tablet is expected and demanded more and more.

Event Registration Management

The face of event registration is changing.  For bigger and slicker events gone are the pre printed badges laid out in alphabetical order on the registration desks.  Instead we are seeing a much faster and less wasteful way to check in delegates via barcoded registration technology.  The attendees barcoded ticket is scanned at the desk triggering their badge to be printed within a matter of seconds.  We developed this registration management system ourselves in 2010 and it continues to grow from strength to strength.  It can also be integrated with the event app mentioned previously.

Over many years the favourite staple presentation tool has been PowerPoint.  Many speakers are however now favouring Prezi.  Prezi is a slick way to visualise and share ideas and information via zooming technology.  It certainly looks beautiful and is easy to understand why it is attracting over a million new users a month!

We believe that we will continue to see those that have cut budgets and stopped running events start to return to funding face to face opportunities to learn and connect. We have already seen examples of this throughout 2012 as clients realise it is actually often the most effective and cost effective way to achieve their objectives and alternative methods are simple not able to provide comparable results.

Online event registration sites have come a long way over the past few years and hopefully we will continue to see further improvements.  There are some great sites out there but not one provider is perfect yet in our opinion – every platform has some annoying imperfections, oversights or are simply overpriced and there is still work to be done.  We have a good working knowledge of event registration sites and are able to advise our clients which of the providers are most suitable for their event and which are the most competitive in terms of commission fees charged on each booking and card payments.

Following on from the success of the Olympic Games 2012 we hope that the UK will continue to benefit from increased tourism and hospitality spend as one of the premier destinations for conferences and events.

2013 is set to be an exciting year for Events Northern Ltd. We already have a great list of events confirmed, including our first European Conference.  This blog post has looked at just some of the ways we expect to see changes over the course of 2013.  We would love to hear your thoughts on this blog post and to hear your predictions and trends for the 12 months ahead!

TechFest 2012

On Monday 18th June Becki Cross from Events Northern Ltd attended TechFest 2012  at the Mermaid Conference Centre, London.  Read more about the event in this blog post….

TechFest (http://tech-fest.co.uk/) is an event aimed purely at event organisers and focused on Event Technology.

I have to admit that it was lovely to be attending an event as a delegate for a change rather than to be ensuring everything runs smoothly behind the scenes for others!  I started the day armed with a brand new notebook – not sure if that is allowed at an event focused on event technology but as a stationary geek it made me happy at least (simple pleasures)!

We were greeted and welcome to the event by Oscar the Robot.  It was good to see Oscar live in action as I am desperate to use him for my own future events but haven’t yet had the opportunity!  Oscar was at his most charming, commenting that he “liked my red bag” as I went past.  As anticipated Oscar proved a great hit throughout the event talking to delegates, smiling for photos and generally attracting attention to himself – an excellent engagement tool which is proven to be particularly valuable in terms of attracting footfall to exhibition stands and other promotional activities.

The event had tried to do things differently, rather than by traditional means; for example attendees were invited from the “Making Good Organisers Great” LinkedIn Group and there were no delegate packs at the event.  We did find however that by our very nature event planners are generally very meticulous and so many of us attending the event had printed out our own event programme and brought it with us to refer to!

At the registration desk we had to choose a badge based on our knowledge of event technology.  Gemma thrust a Pink Badge onto me – signifying that I was knowledgeable about event technology!  Other colours signified those that had some or little expertise in this area and the badges were designed as an ice breaker and conversation starter.

The event was expertly Chaired by Alan Stevens (@mediacoach).  He highlighted that technology can be a great thing if used appropriately but also gave wise words of warning that all speakers should be prepared to manage with or out technology when presenting “just in case.”  He also outlined a true story of an event which had the event Twitter feeds prominent on the stage behind the speaker but in full view of the audience.  The audience used Twitter to complain how bad the speaker was and then collectively decided to do a countdown to leave the room, at which point three quarters of the audience departed.  The remaining audience then had to point out the Twitter messages to the bewildered speaker to explain the reason for the mass departure.

Jamie Vaughan, Sales Director at So Visit gave some interesting facts during his presentation:

80% of leads from an event are never followed up.

As an event organiser this is both baffling and disappointing as this is a massive lost opportunity.  Proving the Return on Investment of attending or exhibiting at an event is vital to ensure the business opportunities and revenue is maximized and ensure future approval.

94.9% of attendees welcome ongoing communications post show.

To highlight once again the lost opportunity represented by the previous fact – leads from an exhibition are generally “warm” and receptive to communication.  This should be seized and definitely not wasted under any circumstances!

Hellen Beveridge, Trainer and Consultant at PureRocketScience gave a commons sense presentation on social media campaigns.  She stressed the importance of knowing your audience, seeing your event from the audience perspective and setting the goals you want to achieve from the campaign.

After hearing from Quick Mobile about the many benefits of using a mobile app for events William was asked why he hadn’t had an event app for the event.  This started comments about how mobile apps can be time consuming in terms of adding the event information.  Many of the audience disagreed with this, telling others they were using the wrong apps if it required hours or days of work!  (By the way – if you are looking for a competitively priced mobile event app we recommend that you should investigate www.advancedeventsolutions.com).

In the afternoon we joined tables for World Cafe Discussion Groups.  The groups highlighted the difference in experience and knowledge between some of the attendees (e.g. some still use paper registration forms) but the groups I joined sparked some interesting conversations and discussions.

The day was frankly over too soon with cars waiting to whisk us over to HAC for champagne and show rounds.

I got a lot out of the day in terms of the networking opportunities and some of the presentations.  I met some fantastic people and it was great to finally meet in person some contacts I only knew previously through email or social media.

All credit to William from Gallus Events for putting on this free conference for event organisers – probably the most critical audience he could have targeted!  Well done and thanks also to Gemma Pears for looking after everyone so well.

I will definitely look forward to TechFest 2013!

Did you attend TechFest 2012?  What did you get out of the day?  What would you like to see from TechFest 2013?  I would love to hear your thoughts below. 

Is your event management company saving you money?

English: ceramic piggy bank
Image via Wikipedia

There are countless benefits to using an event management company and in these difficult economic times it is crucial that every penny counts.  So what should you expect from your event management company when it comes to saving you money?  How can you be sure that you are getting best value?  This blog post will focus specifically on some of the cost saving benefits every event management company worth their weight in gold should be demonstrating to their clients.

Knowledge

Event Managers are an encyclopedia of knowledge.  We often know venues, suppliers and contacts that you may never even have heard of.  These little gems may not have the marketing budget to get them to the first page of Google to compete with the big boys but you can rest assured that they can offer you knock out rates as a result.

Special Offers

We like to be in the know and venues and suppliers ensure they regularly communicate special rates, offers and discounts to us.  Often the savings and offers are only open to past customers and/or event management companies/agencies on their database and we like nothing better than matching up the deals with our clients needs.

Preferential Rates

We have great relationships with many venues and suppliers which encourages them to give us excellent rates.  Venues and suppliers like working with professionals because we understand the process, we are organised, meet all deadlines and save a lot of leg work and time for the venue/supplier as a result.

We really value our suppliers and our suppliers value us.  In recognition of the value of work we place with our trusted suppliers throughout the course of a year we are often lucky enough to get discounts, meaning that our clients benefit from the economies of scale of our total annual spend.  For example our preferred and fantastic audio visual supplier is Active AV.  They automatically offer us 20% discount off all equipment hire.  This saving is then passed on directly to our customers.

We cultivate good relationships with our suppliers which often pays off for our clients in terms of added extras chucked in.

Negotiation

We will always negotiate to ensure our clients get the best possible price.  And then we make comparisions between the offers made.  And then we negotiate some more!

Research

Good research skills are an essential part of every event managers CV.  How can you be sure you are getting the best rates unless you shop around and triple check?

The Bigger Picture

We know the questions to ask.  Unfortunately some organisations and venues prefer to hide the true costs and land customers with unexpected expenditure items after contracts have been signed, rather than being transparent.  We like to ask questions from the start so you are not going to get charged £50 for use of a plug socket (I kid you not!).

We also know where money should be spent and where it can be scrimped without compromising on quality – for instance two pull up banners for £99 – yes please, versus £300 for one (of comparable quality I hasten to add).

Often we can suggest viable alternatives.  Often things can be done differently to make the event slicker and save money.

On event days we are never without our “event managers box” – a box of essential equipment and items close to hand which often prove to be invaluable.

Beg, Borrow or Steal

Recently a client needed an expensive piece of equipment and had no budget to pay for it.  I was the first person they contacted to help.  It is always good to pick up the phone and hear “I didn’t know where to start but I thought that if anyone will know you will know!”  And it paid off for them too!

Don’t Pay for Things You Don’t Need

We help our clients to work out what they need so they don’t have to pay for things they don’t need.  We always have a clients best interests at heart – for example is a DDR (day delegate rate) really best for your needs or would it be cheaper to pay for room hire, catering and audio visual separately on this occasion?

In terms of catering have you taken into account the speakers that cannot stay for lunch, the late arrivals and the likely number of no-shows?  We can advise on these headaches so you don’t have to worry or waste your valuable budget.

Budget

Many of our clients want us to create and control an event budget so they can make pricing decisions early on in the project and have regular updates in terms of income and expenditure and surpassing the break even point.

We care about the event as much as you do and we will be watching every penny to ensure you maximise your budget throughout the life of the project.

Technology

We like to be up to date with the newest technologies.  We can advise what will have the wow factor and maximise the event experience without necessarily costing the earth.  Text to screen systems, barcoded registration systems, event apps, twitter walls are just a few items that can be low cost but really transform the event.

Do you need a registration site but are you baffled by the different rates and commission charges?  We can look at what you need your registration page to do and the payments involved to give a clear idea of which sites can work best for you.

Work in Your Best Interests at All Times

Sometimes the unexpected can happen and you may need to change to a larger or smaller venue, change dates or even cancel your event completely.  The terms and conditions of the contract can be baffling but should this happen we will work with the venue and suppliers to minimise the penalties and negotiate the best deal for you.

This post has focused on some of the direct monetary savings an event management company will make for you.  Of course one of the huge advantages of contracting an event manager is the time savings you make, leaving you to focus on the job you are paid to do and earning money for your organisation, whilst you leave the planning and organisation to the experts.

This blog has given just a few examples of how Events Northern Ltd add value, save money for our clients and maximize their budget.  Are you getting excellent value from your event management company?  Are they saving you money?  If not, or if you are not so sure, then contact uswe would love to hear from you!

Top Tips for a Successful Career in Event Management

The recent A-Level and GCSE results got me thinking about what advice I would give to anyone interested in Event Management.  You may be considering studying an Event Management degree and/or want to embark on a career as an Event Manager?

I was 17 when I set my mind on my future career path and I have enjoyed writing this blog post and looking back at the information and learning that I would give today to anyone just starting out on this journey.

Be warned and be prepared though; this is a very competitive marketplace with hundreds of people applying for every university place and job.  To succeed you will need to stand out from the crowd and be the cream of the crop!  Here are some of my top tips to give you the best chance of a long, exciting and rewarding career in the events industry.

Read all you can

Read as much as you can about the events industry, including event management books, industry magazines, press releases, blogs, websites, etc.  This is a fast-moving industry and it is important to keep up to date.  Not all of this information has to be purchased – there is a wealth of free information out there which will help to give you the bigger picture and teach you some of the basic principles about event management.

If you are looking to study for an Event Management degree authors such as Goldblatt, Getz, Bowdin, Watt and Tarlow (to name just a few) will help to introduce you to the subject area.

Don’t just limit your reading to purely event management based articles either, reading around marketing, customer service, presentation skills, health and safety, social media, creativity, project management, business planning, management, negotiation, finance/budgeting and so forth will all help in any future event management role.

Don’t specialise too early

Even if you are adamant that you wish to work in a particular area of the events industry I would urge you not to specialise too early, to ensure that you gain a broad range of skills and experience.  Although organising a music festival is a very different area of expertise to organising a conference or exhibition the basic principles of event planning are the same and experience of managing a live event in any shape or form will help to make you a better and stronger Event Manager.  When I started studying for my event management degree at Leeds Metropolitan University I was certain that I wanted to specialise in the music industry, organising festivals and gigs.  Throughout my career I have been lucky enough to work on every type of event imaginable; from fashion shows to awards ceremonies, exhibitions to weddings, music festivals to conferences, sporting competitions to open air movies and everything in between.  Today though, although I still really enjoy working on every single event management project, I get the most satisfaction from organising conferences and this has become my personal niche and speciality.

Organise anything you can

If you are considering working in the events industry you are probably already seen as the natural organiser within your friendship group – the one that makes things happen and generally looks after the arrangements and finer details.  Although organising friends birthday parties, holidays and nights out may be on a much smaller scale compared to organising public events it is still a little more practice for your future role and every little helps!

You can make other opportunities for yourself too.  Could you organise an event for a local charity for example?  If you are willing and able to take the initiative and help with fundraising on any scale I guarantee that they will be very appreciative.  And what about getting involved with your local amateur dramatics or other performance group?  That would be a great opportunity to shadow a sound and lighting engineer and to learn a little bit more about how it works behind the scenes.

During your career you will often be working with a tight or very small budget and so being imaginative, negotiating, making every penny count and generally making magic on very few resources is something that you should be working on at every opportunity (and your friends/local charity/theatre group will thank you for it too).

Get to grips with Social Media

You are no doubt already really comfortable with the internet and social media such as Twitter, Facebook, Blogging and Google+.  Incorporating social media and marketing into events is common practice nowadays so ensure that it is a routine part of your day/week too and think about how you could use it in a professional rather than a personal capacity to help promote your own future events.

Start to follow #eventprofs on Twitter and learn from the thoughts, knowledge and discussions they inspire and share.

Ensure you have a good computing skills

A lot of administration is required when planning an event and as an Event Manager you will need to be well versed in using a range of different software and tools.  Get as much working knowledge as you can of Microsoft Office (particularly Word, Excel, Access, PowerPoint, Outlook, Publisher) and also learn basic accounting, project management, web design, video editing, design, writing and marketing skills if you possibly can.

Being familiar with the keyboard and typing quickly will be essential!  Likewise experience of writing professional correspondence in the form of emails, letters, reports and budgets will be a regular requirement.

As an Event Manager you will need to be technically proficient in many areas so seize absolutely every opportunity to learn.

Get a driving license

Event Managers often work unsociable hours and venues are not always accessible by public transport, particularly at 5 am!  Likewise you will often have a lot of equipment to transport so having a driving license and ideally your own vehicle is essential in my opinion.

Volunteer and get work experience

Volunteering and paid or unpaid work experience are absolutely vital and this cannot be stressed enough.  This shows a future employer that you are serious and committed to your chosen career and hungry to gain experience whenever you can.  Find out about local events and event management companies and ask them if they have any opportunities for you to get involved.  Don’t just think this should relate to the live event period either – the hard work is done in the office during the planning stages in the weeks/months/year leading up to the event.

Often it is possible to volunteer for events such as music festivals and aswell as gaining essential work experience and knowledge of a live event you often get a free ticket and “time off” to enjoy the festival in return for a set amount of working hours per day.  Regardless of whether you have chance to work on large-scale events such as the Olympics, Glastonbury, V Festival, etc, or events on a more local level, nothing should be discounted.

Although it may be difficult juggling your paid work commitments with your eagerness to volunteer you must do it to set you apart from the masses.  This has to be done as a long-term investment as without proof of experience working on actual events you are unlikely to even get to the interview stage.  Show willingness to volunteer and prove yourself to an Event Manager and this may of course then lead to paid work in the future.  Without getting your feet on the first rung of the ladder though you are never going to progress and develop your skills.

Of course if you can gain paid experience in the events industry that is even better.  Be open-minded about how you can gain experience too, for example could you work as an event steward?  This is a good grounding in terms of managing crowds across a venue or event site, dealing with different health and safety issues and ensuring the smooth running and safety of all attendees.

Go to events

At every possibility go to a broad variety of events and observe how things are done as a spectator.  What has worked well, what could be improved?  Why do you think things have been set up that way?  How has it been marketed?  How is everything managed?  What did you learn?  Consider jotting down notes, questions and observations that you can refer back to in the future.

I hope this post has inspired you to begin your exciting career in event management.  I love my role as Managing Director of Events Northern Ltd and find it extremely satisfying and rewarding working on events both large and small.

We wish you the best of luck to fulfill your dreams too!

25 Years of Event Innovations

The Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster, London is celebrating its 25th Anniversary this year and to mark the occasion they appealed to key industry spokespeople, event organisers and suppliers to tell them the innovations that have made the most impact on the events industry during the same time period.

There have been so many exciting advances in the event industry this really got us thinking what would appear in our top 5 list.  The landscape has developed drastically even in the last 10 years, never mind the last quarter century!  Events Northern Ltd were keen to support this Twitter promotion as the QEIICC is an excellent venue that we have really enjoyed working with.

A summary of some of the top tweets and suggestions put forward by other key industry figures are listed below:

‘Comfy shoes!’
Mike Fletcher @MikeyFletch

‘25 yrs ago we used glass slides – chaos. Then PowerPoint invented; most important change ever!’
Martin Lewis @meetpie

Internet changed events forever. All could access info, so organisers had 2 show added value’
Rochelle Long @meetpie

‘Internet, opened regional events 2 world: instant comms, bringing people 2gether virtually 2 improve face 2 face’
@harrisonrobert

 ‘The advent of social media & its ability to extend an event community, before, during & after’
@mexiaPR

 ‘Mobile phones, whatever you need there’s an app for it, or there will be soon’
Michelle Chenery @ITCMmagazine

 ‘The impact & importance of providing a sustainable catering service 2 clients’
Leiths @compassgroupuk @limevenues

Innovative minds creating successful conferences – confirming events will prosper & survive’
Ernest Vincent, CEO, QEIICC

 ‘The Event Safety Guide -where would #eventsprofs be without that purple bible’
Caroline Clift @StandOutMag

‘The single European market may still fail banks but it helped shape border-free event explosion’
@MikeBellDotEu

This campaign really got us thinking about the top innovations we wanted to put forward.  We finally settled on our final top 5 as follows:

5. The memory stick

Even the simple memory stick has made our life easier and has made saving and loading presentations so much faster!  Gone are the days of floppy discs with limited space capacity or CDs which take so much longer to transfer files and save data to them.  Memory sticks are an essential part of every event managers tool box – be it to load final presentations from speakers onto the laptop and save back the final version at the end of the event, to check electronic information quickly or reprint an extra copy of something onsite.

4. Laptops, netbooks and tablets

Technology is mobile – now wherever you are in the world your desk can come to you!

3. Communications

How did we survive before email?  Emails ensure we can be responsive and adaptable right to the last moment.

Mobile phones and radios are essential for communication between event staff and often save lengthy trips across large venues or event site.

The internet has revolutionised the way we research and has opened up conferences to an international market.

Social media has revolutionised the way events are marketed and how delegates communicate with each other before, during and after an event, especially now smartphones are so widely utilised.

2. Online event registration systems

Gone are the days of hard copy registration forms which had to be painstakingly typed into the database each day.  Now delegates have a fast, painless online form to complete and submit so they know immediately if their place is confirmed.  Importantly this gives us the details we need in real time, ensuring we have up to date registrations and information available 24 hours a day.

1. Barcode registration management

In our opinion this is the only effective way to check in 1,000 delegates in under an hour and we couldn’t operate without this technology on our largest events!

Which innovation do you think has made the most impact on the events industry in the last 25 years?  Do you agree that it is one of the advances listed in this blog or is there something we have overlooked?  To join in please comment via Twitter using the hashtag #25QEIICC on your tweet or comment on this blog post.  You can follow the QEIICC on Twitter @TheQEIICC.