Lord Digby Jones inspires at Summer Eventia 13 in Birmingham

Summer Eventia 13 opened yesterday, 1 July, at The ICC Birmingham with 160 of the trade association’s members, invited guests and media taking part in a two-day programme under the strapline: ‘Be part of the story’.

Keynote speaker Lord Digby Jones kicked off proceedings with some stories from his time in government. The former Business Minister and CBI chief wove fascinating tales from high politics and business, with some homespun Brummie common sense and set a vibrant tone for discussions to follow. For once a keynote was not looking back on a devastating macro economic backdrop with grim messages for survival techniques.

Lord Jones reminded the Eventia audience that Prime Minister David Cameron had said the business tourism and events industries were fundamental to the rebuilding and rebalancing of the UK economy. “It contributes £115bn and employs 2.6m people,” Lord Jones said. “Not may sectors create growth like the UK events industry.”

Dealing with the ‘new normal’ was the main thread of the panel sessions and breakouts at Summer Eventia 13, with tracks on Strategic Meetings Management Planning with Kevin Iwamoto from Active Network and Live Union’s Jez Paxman and George P Johnson’s Kevin Jackson sharing insights from agency operations and new ways of communicating with clients.

Smyle’s Rick Stainton said it was important to get right to the heart of what customers wanted. The recession had changed what customers wanted, he believed. “Before, a lot of organisations were not strategic with their event spend and it wasn’t recorded.” Organisations not monitoring spend, he added, were missing out on opportunity.

Paxman gave a clinical case study example of the effectiveness of a client engagement event for EDF Energy. His checklist for ensuring experiential events success was to remember to deliver on the six ‘Cs’ for delegates: 1. Concentrate 2. Context. Contribute. 4. Collaborate. 5. Connect. 6. Cascade.

In engaging with the EDF frontline staff, Paxman said creating a focused, contextualised event with plenty of opportunity for consultation and participation had helped get across many tricky messages.

“New technology also leads to a massive uplift in engagement,” Paxman added.

Other industry big hitters contributing their business stories included Aileen Reuter from Grass Roots Group, Stephen Richards from The NEC and John Sharkey from the SECC in Glasgow.

Eventia Chairman Simon Hughes, pictured, moderated proceedings, assisted by Vice-Chairman Dale Parmenter and Chris Elmitt’s Crystal Interactive supplied iPads to speed audience interaction along the way. All housekeeping and conference diaries and messaging were handled via the devices.

Some of the Day One take-aways included the importance of ‘Maintaining promises’ in everything you do, a point stressed by multiple speakers.

Another message coming across loud was the fast changing nature of the meetings and events industry, within a fast changing economy, which called for changed management practices and increasing flexibilities.

Although the procurement champions hammered home the savings and consolidation in spend that could be made by introducing better processes, the case for the added value and creativity inherent in our industry was also championed, with Lord Jones emphasising the huge contribution business tourism and events made to national wealth.

Sessions on globalisation were somewhat less incisive, perhaps betraying the fact that many UK-based event companies still require a lead and insights into global opportunities and markets beyond the obvious tip of finding local partners.

Reflecting the industry’s changing face and personnel, the conference programme offered updates from Freeman’s Richard Pegler on the acquisition of SO group in the exhibition contractor market and from Simon Hughes who hailed the achieved merger of Eventia with the International Visual Communications Association (IVCA).

Membership voting in favour of the merger was over 93 per cent in both associations, a figure the North Korean leadership would be proud of, and most delegates endorsed the merger.

The merged association will be provisionally known as Eventia-IVCA.

Hughes said: “The new brand association will represent the creative and communications industry and has been a long time coming”.

Summer Eventia 13 delivered a powerful first day and an evening reception at Fazeley Studios. The conference runs also today, 2 July.

Do you have news for CN? Email: pcolston@mashmedia.net

Paul Colston

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Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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