This article is written for event directors, event company CEO’s and other senior decision makers. In this article we will discuss topics that will be top of mind particularly focusing on what the corporate event strategy looks like in today’s new world. You’ve had the challenge of COVID19 which has either bankrupted companies, forced huge redundancies, or advanced digital transformation within the industry by three or four years. Now the focus is on how to manifest digital communities that are engaged each day, each month, each year becoming more than just an events provider.
Events as a Service, the future for B2B Events Companies
The events industry is facing a pivotal turning point in the way that content is now absorbed by and delivered to its target audience. From a primarily in-person provider of service and experience model, it had to adapt quickly to delivering content online.
We are all keenly aware of the challenges that COVID19 forced upon the events sector which resulted in an explosion of technology that was designed to reduce the impact of non-attendance but also provide a visitor experience.
We question did we truly see that?
Sure, from single service online event platforms to more experiential 3-D platforms that showed us sim-city style avatars, the new abundance of online event technology left event directors and ops directors with difficult questions to answer.
- What platform will provide the best experience?
- Which platform will provide the best ROI?
- What platform will give the best mobile experience?
- Which platform provides the most interactionable experience?
- Does your platform provide the best data and analytics?
- How will my sponsors benefit from using your platform over “X” platform?
- What happens if you lose your internet connection, how do you plan for that occasion?
- What platform allows the most customisation?
I could go on, believe me, these are many of the easier questions we had to answer, but all of them are valid, if not often repeated.
So how do we pivot as an industry to ensure new best practices?
Focus on the Customer
That’s obvious, I already know what you’re thinking. But in this case there is no more hiding. Poor events are poor events and digital events will ensure their quick demise, which can only be a boon for those events more customer-centric in their approach.
But this is about more than content, which can be excellent on a per event basis. It’s about more than experience as much like design, it’s subjective to the recipient. There’s more to decide than live events vs online events (streaming) vs hybrid events. Simply put, think bigger.
It’s about putting the customer first, building your community, enabling conversations of purpose to take place and treating your attendees like members of an exclusive club…
Building an experience for your audience
Your customer attends your event for the latest updates for sure, but also for the potential opportunities it affords to do business with other attendees. This is the biggest opportunity to grow your business and use your customers to do it for you.
Sure it will require financial commitment, but in an era of change you simply have no choice. It’s your job as a business to out innovate the competition and increase your traction with your customer/audience. It’s now time to become an engagement platform and leave single-approach events in the pre-COVID events era.
The purpose of an events platform
The purpose of an events platform is to enable your community to engage every day, any day, all year around. It’s to keep your audience engaged both at and between events, no matter the format of the event itself.
You want to focus on:
- Being on 24/7/365. By this we mean enabling conversations within a brand platform, like a mobile app for instance that also has a desktop experience, so a web app would suit this purpose superbly. You should have rooms designed for specific topics within the app to help your community meet and liaise. In addition, you could allow job postings and potentially if inclined add localised micro-meetups, to your repertoire of events? I mean you are events companies right and an engaged customer is a happy customer. You can also roll this out on a global level, so something to consider.
- Add subscription for the app. Our research shows that apps that have subscriptions are being widely adopted with fees of up to £49.95 per month being acceptable. This in addition to the localised networking events throughout the year having ticket prices to attend. We are discussing revenue as these ideas we suggest need paying for, but the opportunities are out there if you consider them practical, applicable and easy to adopt.
- Continuing the conversation. Most events have a theme or story they are trying to tell, and it’s summarised in post-event communications with attendees. But imagine with live events making a return, how you can use interim online events to talk through the findings and feedback of the main event, giving rise to a strategy of perpetual engagement. By strategically using all of the event formats, you can build a community of engaged attendees around a seamless experience of live, online and hybrid events. This seems like a win-win scenario for the industry and the attendees.
As you can see, our experience of events and our relationships with those building them has given us the ability and insights needed to provide impartial suggestions from outside of the process. However, no matter how much insight you garner, with largely outdated processes impeding the likelihood of delivering a strategy of customer centricity there are still several hurdles to overcome.
The Pro’s and Con’s of thinking financially in the supply chain
Let’s face it, within the event building or design process there are recognised procedures for suppliers to go through. The main one is the Tender or RFP.
Whilst we appreciate the significance of being financially astute, in an industry that relies so deeply on its suppliers, could it also be time to digitally transform the management of the supply chain?
Is it now time to benchmark suppliers on pricing but measure providers on the value of their relationship with the business?
With many of the leading event providers going bust during COVID, the void is being filled rapidly with new providers, but one thing none of them will have yet, is big event experience. It is now that you could focus on driving down your supplier costs with more inexperienced providers and focusing totally on the bottom line. Or you cement relationships with more experienced suppliers based on the equity of trust you have developed over time and go with that.
But how do you measure that value?
We reached out to Sheldon Mydat the Managing Director of Suppeco.com whose platform was designed to help large organisations define the value of the relationships of their suppliers in the supply chain.
We asked him for a quote on this particular subject and he said “Companies that don’t take a structured approach to relationship optimisation are restricting their own access to an additional 10 – 15% annual value creation.”
He also shared some interesting quotes from other well recognised companies like McKinsey and Co who quote “Innovative digital solutions in procurement can unlock as much as an incremental 3 to 10 % in annual cost savings.”
KPMG who said “Companies spend an average 15-27 % of total revenues on external suppliers. But a full quarter or third of the negotiated value is lost over the term of the deal.”
And finally, Tony Reynolds, Global Head of Procurement at BAE Systems Applied Intelligence is quoted as saying “Post COVID-19, our ability to generate savings from cost-based procurement strategies will diminish. Organisations will adopt positions to protect themselves against impending recession. To continue to deliver our ‘value’ targets we must work together with our suppliers, to innovate. Our suppliers will welcome this collaborative approach.”
So what does this mean for the events industry?
Are we going to see a slow but deliberate migration towards a closer value based supply chain proposition?
Or like its current roots firmly fixed in the status quo, will it eventually slide into a lame duck position of RFP to RFP?
Let’s face it, suppliers can only cut percentages so far before it becomes unviable to service event organisations making hundreds of thousands to the low millions on events, who focus on driving down the figures for those who bring this all together.
Moreover, driving down figures may mean your current provider can’t service you then you have to build a relationship with new providers who may or may not deliver. This causes problems with understanding your brand, your culture, your audience and so on.
Fiscally smart over fiscally tight is the call for the day!
Then focus on your business…
Okay so we have made the case for the customer, and we feel that this is the smartest way to approach the conversation as they are key to your communities success. But let’s look at how we see events as a service being particularly beneficial.
Allow me to first establish that this particular section of the article is aimed at those companies that outsource the production of their events to third party providers. I say this because the sole purpose of EAAS is to show how outsourcing must change for long-term success of the industry.
If this no longer sounds interesting then feel free to switch off, sometimes a new approach simply isn’t of interest and we understand that.
What is events as a service (EaaS)
Put simply EAAS is a model of close alignment with a single provider of services that your organisation cannot fulfill. A company like our own.
I’m sure the thought of that for some readers is crazy? I can literally hear the gears turning as you digest the very thought.
- Are you crazy, no company is committing to any provider long-term
- How would we know if we were getting the best value for our money?
- If we put all of our eggs in one basket and you go out of business, we are literally done for
- How do we know you will always deliver event production that is top of class or at the height of technological advancement?
Again, these are just what spring to mind if I were in your shoes. So let me try and answer them as best I can for context.
Committing to a single supplier for event production
As challenging as this may sound, you really can get the best out of a production company if there is long-term alignment. Having support that is fluidly experienced in the three main types of events in your corner speaks volumes about your commitment to each other.
Of course, your partner needs to show demonstrable skill around set design, graphics and backdrops, but that’s really easy to assess. The best ED’s we deal with are constantly checking out the competition to ensure their own events are bigger or at least better.
So this comes back to my earlier statement about the value of the partner in the supply chain.
For your organisation it’s really easy to benchmark pricing in an industry as close knit as ours. Reputations are easily built, but as we saw with COVID, reputation alone will not save your business. Therefore, you can check the industry for the strength and quality of your production company. That solves one problem for you.
Secondly, you can benchmark our costs against other providers so you can always check to see if you are getting competitive advantage or cost efficiency, whichever works best for you.
Third, the personal relationship. Many companies use the RFP as it has been touted as the fair and transparent way to choose third party providers. It’s fair but it’s still risky. You don’t know who you get into a relationship with until you’re in it.
In addition to this, companies are wary of backhanders being taken to provide providers with lucrative contracts. We’ve addressed this by mentioning platforms like Suppeco which would easily cover you for this in a transparent way which can be easily audited.
Fourth, financial responsibility. You would wonder if your provider was financially solvent. All you need to do is to agree to a disclosure of the annual return to satisfy any worries or concerns.
Finally but not everything, service and delivery. A production company literally is only as good as their last event, budgets notwithstanding. It would be folly to assume that Showcase or any other provider rests on their laurels and takes things for granted. And if companies out there did, they likely did not survive COVID19. Effectively the great reset.
Creative alliance with key team members
One of the biggest assets of having a EAAS approach to your events company is that your event directors, ops directors, content directors, marketers and sales team can all easily align. This enables your team to get really creative and tell that story through content and design both online and offline with maximum effect.
I guarantee that if you asked your ED’s and OD’s, even your CD’s if this approach would be welcome, 60-70% would say yes.
It’s not just a suggestion, I believe it is a requirement to partner for value because it’s the human part of the relationship.
And just off of the cuff, to throw a curveball into the mix, events are given a budget on a per event basis, wouldn’t it be easier to set an annual budget and work out how to best maximise the utilisation of that, with a hybrid team?
Starting your event planning with the production team at the table rather than at the point where budgets have been approved – which we know often change, would be a better use of time and money.
The power of relationships in event design
To wrap up this article, on a topic we will spend more time exploring, I want to come back to discussing the power of relationships. There are so many at stake at all times with this new events landscape:
- Brand to audience relationships
- Live audiences
- Digital audiences
- Brand to speaker relationships
- Brand to supplier relationships
- Brand to staff relationships
- Attendee to attendee relationships
- Live experience
- Digital experience
There are literally a dozen or so relationships and they are all key, and events as a service neatly stitches them together.
It’s like EAAS is a new culture of event looking at the year round engagement of the audience for the brand. Working closely with a success partner like Showcase to manifest the production, creative and live, hybrid and streaming (online) platforms.
Please feel free to comment, engage or even critique this approach. We want to open up conversation and discuss what we see as solving the challenges of demand for you, our partners, for your own partners, the audience.