Where there’s CCOs, there’s conference brass

Conference News’ research into the UK CCO market has found that it is hugely fragmented, largely unrepresented, often secretive, and keen to distance itself from traditional association and corporate conference organising communities or any broader marketing. However, it is clear that the non-association, CCO and PCO-led event market is significant, with the QEII Conference Centre in London reporting that 20 per cent of its events come to the venue via these organisers.

These commercial events are often conferences attended by paying business customers and interested consumers, with sponsorship almost always making up part of the organising company’s revenue.

London Technology Week and the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict were well publicised this year and both featured paid-for conference elements.

Clarion Events’ Group Managing Director Lisa Hannant says commercial conferences and trade shows often go hand-in-hand, with organisations from both sides increasingly keen to gain a slice of each market.

“We tend to operate in niche vertical sectors, building a presence in communities and offering content that delegates believe offers paid-for value. We strategically look at opportunities within existing geographies that we understand, but also with new and developing markets.”

One of the biggest players in the UK CCO market is Informa, which positions itself as a supplier of proprietary business-to-business knowledge with ties to brands in the world of publishing, conferences, exhibitions and training.

Our source at the company, who did not wish to be named, says that, although the company is one of the biggest organisers of paid-for conferences, its market share is probably only around two per cent of the overall market, indicative of how atomised this sub sector is.

“Very few players in this market have a monopoly on any sector. We’re a very different proposition from traditional event agencies. Whereas a major financial institution might ask an event company to produce a conference within a given budget, we can actually stand to lose money from our events if they are not well targeted,” our source says.

The high stakes nature of the commercial conference market means that there is a large onus on the active CCOs to deliver a targeted concept which will deliver strong ROI. 

For Tandem Events, which operates in the commercial conference market exclusively, building strong links with a target demographic is key.

Tandem’s Director Andrew Lane says his company’s in-depth understanding of what computer game developers want was critical to the success of Develop and Evolve, which took place back-to-back at Hilton Brighton Metropole from 8 to 10 July. “We believe in attracting the best people who can give advice that the market really wants to hear. On the back of this, having exhibitors that can be of real value to the developer community helps the business model,” adds Lane.

Clarion’s global show ICE takes place at Excel London and features more than 500 exhibiting companies active in the online, mobile, betting, bingo, casino, lottery and street gaming sectors. Alongside the exhibition, ICE includes a programme of eight conference tracks covering innovations in gaming. The conferences encourage networking and debate and focus on niche areas across the industry, from casino innovation and strategic industry growth, to combating cybercrime and the growth in mobile gaming.

Hannant says: “ICE  is a strong brand, with a significant conference stream, and adds an additional platform for the industry to meet on a peer-to-peer level, which runs successfully alongside a traditional trade show. Clarion also has strong paid-for content streams with the oil and gas, power and utilities, telecoms and life science sectors.”

The pressure to deliver a strong concept means that many CCO companies either have a research arm, or a research background.

Gartner is a global information technology research and advisory company which uses its expertise to justify a case for paid-for events. Gartner is headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, USA, and has 6,100 associates, including more than 1,460 research analysts and consultants, and clients in 85 countries.

Our source at the company says that its events, including the Gartner Security & Risk Management Summit which will take place in London’s Park Plaza Westminster this month, are heavily researched in terms of whether the demographic will be willing to pay for the content.

Our source at Informa adds: “We have people in each division that search out opportunities within their sector. For us, these include the maritime sector, the transport sector, telecoms and financial markets.”

Terrapinn business media company is another CCO working closely with sectoral publications to stage lucrative paid-for conferences appealing to niche markets whose members are ready to pay a price for quality information and networking opportunities?but don’t tell anyone.

Case study: Paying to Develop

Event: Evolve Brighton and Develop conference
When: 8-10 July 2014
Where: Hilton Brighton Metropole
Organiser: Tandem Events
Who was it aimed at?

The events are aimed at game developers keen to gain insight into the gaming market, its key suppliers and market insight.

Who were the event partners?
The event was partnered with media companies including gaming magazine Edge and gamedev.net and partners including Microsoft, Sony Computer Entertainment and Autodesk.
What did paying visitors gain?

Talks at the event included a session by Microsoft on Cloud Gaming, a session on designing for virtual reality and topics including gamification.
What were the highlights?
Visitors to the show got to be among the first in the UK to try out Sony’s Project Morpheus technology, which is still in the prototype stage. The headset immerses the user in a virtual world.

This was first published in the September issue of CN. Any comments? Email Paul Colston

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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