News

Conference News column, January 2014
January 18th, 2014 3:09 pm

I am good to you. While you're partying, reading trashy novels or watching reality nonsense on TV, I'm constantly reviewing the torrent of research reports and White Papers that come across my desk to give you stuff that will make your lives worthwhile. Yeah, you're welcome. Just hug me when you next see me. So this month I read, amongst other things, 'The Use of Professional and Industry Speakers in the Meetings Market', produced by teams from Tagoras and Velvet Chainsaw Consulting. (And you can access your copy from the websites of either of these fine companies.) Now, the report has a strong US bias but that still makes it a useful read, based on replies from 175 companies, with 85% stating that they hired professional speakers, for their events of at least 500 people. And the Speaker budget was around $5000 So, here are a few tasty morsels. Firstly, companies were using speakers more; 14.6 times yearly compared to 11.2 in 2011 when the first version was prod...

Conference News article, December 2013
November 23rd, 2013 2:33 pm

If you look at the various products sold by the Volkswagen Audi Group you'll see they seem to offer a wide range of different cars. But, were you to humour yourself and put the Audi A4, the Skoda Octavia, the VW Passat and the Seat Exeo side by side, you'd notice they all look remarkable similar. Lift the bonnet, open the doors and scrape off the paint and you'd see the commonality is much more than skin deep; these four cars all travel down the same assembly line and are close enough to be considered siblings. The interesting thing is that the price difference between the models is quite dramatic, and you might like to consider which brand you'd like outside your house. There are some minor differences in bells and whistles and buttons and switches, perhaps a different paint finish, maybe some thicker floor mats; but nothing that really justifies the thousands of pounds that separate the Audi from the Skoda. 'Interesting, but so what?' you might be thinking. Well, here are a few...

Conference News column, November 2013
October 19th, 2013 10:04 am

Our industry PR guru Alasdair Turner recently did a splendid job at the AEME conference in Bournemouth, even though he'd lost his voice. (I could be cruel, and say a voiceless PRO sounds like perfection, but that's not my style.) After the showing of the upbeat 'What events means for Britain' video' (do check it out on YouTube; it's all very motivational) Alistair sprinted through a range of interesting topics. One of these piqued my interest; the issue of 'who pays for my space.' You see, more and more meetings and events organisers are saying, 'well, if we bring all these room nights and high spending delegates to a region, why do you expect us to pay for exhibition and meeting space? After all, we're taking enough of a risk and your city is reaping the benefit'. It's a great question, and again raises the issue of subvention to the fore. But industrial progress shows us that major change necessitates the need for new economic models. Consider the music industry, and the fai...

Conference News column, October 2013
October 19th, 2013 10:02 am

A few years ago there was a famous newspaper headline; 'fog in channel; Europe cut off from Britain.' Now it won't surprise you to know that it appeared in 'The Daily Telegraph'. I mock because it's what I do and also I sit on the side of Samuel Johnson; 'patriotism is the last scourge of the scoundrel' and despite my lack of linguistic skills, when travelling for business or pleasure I do all I can to avoid fellow Brits. I also recognize that, while knocking moronic jingoism is my raison d'etre, accepting the good things that come out of Blighty isn't a bad thing for industry, jobs and prosperity – hopefully mine. So, yes, I continue to point out that the Olympics cost around 5 times the original prediction, an error that would cost those of us in a real job the sack rather than the awarding of a knighthood, but we still put on a blinkin' good show. But here's the issue for me; while I attended the inaugural Meetings Show and thought the organisers had done a st...

Conference News column, September 2013
October 19th, 2013 9:59 am

So, there I was at the AEME conference (that's the Association for Event Management Education) down in sunny Bournemouth. To attend you have to be very clever, to the point of glasses and patches on jacket elbows – yes, it's that exclusive. And jolly good fun it was, too, listening to some interesting MA and PhD dissertations on a variety of event-related topics (although some of these students badly need some presentation skills training.) Glenn Bowdin, who set up AEME 10 years ago, was honest enough to admit the growth of events education came from the fields of leisure tourism and hospitality, although now the sector can stand proud in its own right. Our own MP, Nick du Bois (nice chap, even though I stand on the other side of the political divide) agreed, talking about the perception of events as the 'grubby' end of marketing when he built up his agency. And with little teasers of the latest MPI research on the value of events being dangled throughout the event...

Conference News column, July/August 2013
June 8th, 2013 10:28 am

Finding a venue that pleases everyone can be a challenge. How often have you found something that seems to be A Midsummer Night's Dream, and yet leaves other stakeholders in a bit of Tempest, with all your hard work becoming Love's Labour's Lost. How often has a venue hunt been a Comedy of Errors; so many people making ridiculous demands but frequently creating Much Ado About Nothing? Well, if you need something in Central London that's a bit different, consider The St. James Theatre, a state of the art venue that offers a unique and flexible setting for corporate events. Now, it's a working theatre, but don't be too concerned about constraints. Both the main auditorium and the studio can be hired during the day before evening shows, and the studio can also be hired on evenings when programmed events don't run. If required, pre-rigs can happen after the evening shows, although the building also opens daily from 8am (unique for theatres) so early morning set-ups are not a pro...

Conference News column, June 2013
June 8th, 2013 10:20 am

Now, dear reader, as you will know, I'm a huge fan of TED (TED.com) and I imagine you are, too (if you're not, you're clearly an idiot, so stop reading now). So I was interested to read, in the Harvard Business Review, (yeah, my copy of 'Nuts' was late) an article by a delightful lady, Nilofer Merchant, who'd spoken at a TED event in 2012, and was asked back, this time speaking on the same platform as Bono. Her reflections made great sense – so I'm sharing them with you. 'Find your one idea: TED asks you to distill your life's work or experience into a 3, 6, 9, 12, or 18-minute talk in a way no one else has ever done. Simple, right? No, not really.' She's right; Mark Twain was once asked why he'd given such a long speech. His answer? 'Because I didn't have time to write a shorter one' Getting to the nub of an idea that is profound enough to change the world but easy enough to explain in the time it takes to boil an egg is a challenge. 'Make the ideas transferabl...

Conference News column, May 2013
March 29th, 2013 12:03 pm

Now, last month's column saw me in a bad mood; blame the weather - made worse by that report from HRG (stating - for those of you with memories like goldfish - that, amongst other things, 56% of its corporate clients do not know how much they spend on events and meetings). So I'm back to be being my usual slightly happier bunny, because I can see there is a bit of light in this dark tunnel. You see, on behalf of a client, I went to an event organized by Gartner. Now, Gartner are a huge, international IT research organization who put on events for very clever people, which is why I went, and not you. (Nah, actually the truth is I was doing some research, and the content went way over my head.) But I was browsing the Gartner website prior to going to the event, and came across a couple of ideas which struck me as being both simple and brilliant. Gartner have created a section of the website called 'Event Approval Tools.' The first of these is a customisable letter for a would-be...

Conference News column, April 2013
March 29th, 2013 10:58 am

Although part of my career was spent in financial services, it was in the Marketing department, which is why I'm not great with maths. I leave the monthly accounts to Mrs John, although when she comes back from shopping laden with carrier bags, and starts the conversation with 'it's sale time, look how much I've saved,' I do start to get a nasty feeling in my water. However, when I'm working with clients, I feel confident that I can go in and say, 'I'm going to charge you £X, but I think I can save you £Y.' And when they've mastered that simply concept, I can move into a short treatise on the concept of Event RoI. Simple enough, you'd think. But clearly not; according to a recent survey from the Hogg Robinson Group (HRG), 56% of its corporate clients do not know how much they spend on events and meetings. That's pretty bleak news, and a terrible indictment on the people within those companies; although possibly also manna from heaven for HRG; it seems 53% of those...

Conference News column, March 2013
March 29th, 2013 10:41 am

In Washington DC at a Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, busy commuters rushed past a man with a violin who played Bach pieces for about
45 minutes. The man collected a total of $32 for his trouble. The violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million. The exercise was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social investigation about perception, taste and people's priorities. It was repeated recently on the London Underground with the mezz-soprano (and smokin' hot babe) Katherine Jenkins. In both cases the purpose was designed to raise questions about environment, attitude and perception, and if you want to know more, go Google the results. For those of us in the meetings industry, lets think about what it actually says. If you think about your life, some of the most wise, influential, hurtful and impactful word...