Quick Q&A with First Choice Conference and Events

Kate Warr, marketing consulting from KEW Marketing speaks to Daniel Sweet from First Choice Conferences and Events on why events are so important to businesses.

How important are events to businesses these days?

They
are very important (but I would say that!). While online events can
work well, there’s still the need, and always will be for people to meet
face-to-face. We’re hearing more these days the importance of people
buy from people so you need that physical meeting too. Whilst it’s good,
not even Skype can replicate the real world. Businesses also need to
spend money on their own staff, getting them in the same room and ‘on
the same page’. Communicating messages and getting information through
to people can take  several months , conferences and events can do that
for you in one day. It’s not just about large events though – any event
from coffee with a client is important.

You’ve recently won an award – how did that come about?

We’re
a member of HBAA (Hotel Booking Agent Association) – it’s the biggest
and main association in the event world. They gave out an award for the
‘meetings’ agent as a result of a mystery shopping initiative, testing
that people are practising what they preach. We were scored the highest
of all the agents in the association, we’re really happy as it proves
we’re very customer focused.



If you had a limited budget – what type of events can small businesses do?

Take
a few small ingredients from the big guys and start on something
manageable. Look to your local community and do joint events, buddy up
with others to keep the cost down. Often local restaurants or smaller
venues will negotiate a rate with you as you’re attracting people to
their venue. Focus on what you want to achieve, whether that’s a coffee
with a client it still makes a big difference. It doesn’t have to be
high level experience – it’s about quality.

What are the top 3 things to get right at an event?

1. Having
clear and measureable objectives
(this isn’t always easy!). Before you
design the event you’ve got to be clear on what you want to achieve and
then work backwards. Getting feedback is a given – all events should
have this. Unless you ask, how will you know if it was worthwhile doing?

2. Creating
the right memories
– This is massively important (and no negative
memories). Any negative experience tends to overtake the whole memory.
This is what we do for our clients – we work with the venue to ensure
all the ingredients are done right and memories are created. A Great
experience will allow them to remember you and what you did.

3. Quality
of interaction
– There’s no point in just having people ‘there’. For
example, if you’re putting on a seminar, do some speed networking at the
beginning rather than leave people to just ‘chat’. Give them a game to
do! People might argue there’s a cringe factor, but if the objective is
for people to meet others – get them to meet everyone and talk. We had a
recent event at Twickenham and were given a Twix on the way out of the
seminar into the coffee area. You had to go and match your question (on
the Twix) and find the answer (on someone else’s Twix) – when you got
your match you could then win a prize.

What do you think the biggest mistakes people make at an event?

Quality
of content. If you put on an hour or so session but the audience feel
it was superfluous, you then lose their interest. Conferences can be
brilliant or dire depending on content. You need to audit what’s going
up on the screen, for example, if you have an external person or a
member of staff doing a presentation – make sure you check it. Are they
good enough? Not everyone is a ‘born’ speaker and can engage with the
audience. Don’t underestimate the importance of the speaker.

Also,
rather than thinking objectives and aim, people start with a budget,
find a venue then make things fit and grow an event around it. The venue
can affect things massively. Our biggest mantra is ‘site inspections’ –
logistics and layout can make an event fall flat.


You jointly manage your business with Penny – what advice would you give to people who manage their own company?

You’ve
got to make sure that you’re not just ‘doing’ the business that you’re
in. You’ve got to give time to marketing. Otherwise you’ll never move
past a point. You’ve got to think beyond the day to day stuff. It’s not
good enough to be just very good at what you do – you’ve got to be
proactive in getting your message out there. Sitting in your office
isn’t going to grow your business. Prioritise moving the business
forward.

What’s the best advice you have been given?

If
you’re starting your own business, you’ve got to enjoy what you do.
It’s not all about the money and status and what you might end up
achieving, it’s got to be something you want to do and can enjoy for a
long time.

If you could do an event anywhere in the world – where and what would it be?

I
would actually really like to be an event manager for Comic Relief or
Children in Need – something that gives back to charity – you’re
motivation level would go through the roof especially with their
achievement at the end of it. There’s all the celeb bit of course that
would be quite fun too. Or something like the official launch of
Ferrari’s latest car so I could get a free sample!

Image:
HBBA Meetings Agent of the Year 2013.

Any comments? Email sarah@mashmedia.net

ConferenceNews Guest Author

Conference News hosts great guests on its pages. Our Blog section is the collection of the best opinions in the UK and international events industry.

ConferenceNews Guest Author

Author

ConferenceNews Guest Author

Conference News hosts great guests on its pages. Our Blog section is the collection of the best opinions in the UK and international events industry.

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