If an event’s worth doing…

Nobody likes being taken for a sucker. So if your eyes glaze over at the mention of the acronym ‘ROI’ think instead about how you would react to a sales professional pitching you opera seats at pub prices. What’s in it for the seller, you ask? That’s a good start.

Nick Terry (pictured) boss at events agency Top Banana believes that a good working definition of return on investment (ROI) is ‘proving the effectives of an event against criteria agreed with the client’.

He says: “It’s about understanding what you set out to achieve. Where are you now and where do you want to be? Where is the audience and where do you want them to be? What do you want them to think, say, do feel, after the event?

“We did a job for a client in the building materials sector quite a while back where the goal was to launch a cost-saving initiative. The battle was convincing the client a live event was the way to do it. Once we had done that we then had to convince them not to do anything else during the event. We added £13m to the bottom line from that event and we were able to track that.”

Mr Terry likes to quote George Bernard Shaw on the subject: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

On a more prosaic level Mr Terry said that he knows the event is going to go wrong if the chief exec is writing PowerPoint at 2am the morning before the event.

He says: “You have to be authentic. We will tell clients if we sense there is a disconnection between the ‘say’ and the ‘do’. Your audience will forgive you if you are not that great at speaking if you have clarity about what you are trying to say.

“A while back we got a call from a PR company asking if we did live events. They had a client with an event coming up very soon.

“We took it on and I was sitting next to a guy writing up slides as the room was filling up, so I turned to him and said: “This isn’t going to work”. I asked him what the chief exec had said last year and he told me: “Oh he gave us a right b*ll*cking!”

“So at lunchtime I introduced myself to the chief executive and told him he needed to make some changes. I said the first thing he needed to do was apologise to his staff. He gave me a look and I thought, oh no I’ve said too much. Then he said: ‘OK how do we do it.’ We have been with that client 14 years now.”

Net promoters

DSEI, which takes place at Excel in London in September,  is the world’s largest land, sea and air defence and security exhibition.

The show’s event director Duncan Reid said the acid test for the performance of the event is the extent to which the exhibitors express their support, both anecdotally and, crucially, by re-booking for the next edition.

He says: “Our opinion survey of exhibitors at DSEI 2013 show that 92.9 per cent considered exhibiting as very important or quite important, while 86.3% said they were going to rebook their stand. When you take into account the fact that the 2013 show hosted nearly 1,500 exhibitors from 54 different countries, we feel this is a pretty satisfactory outcome. Furthermore, we achieved net promoter scores of 28.58 per cent for military visitors and 17.16 per cent for general visitors.  This highly positive visitor opinion means they, too, are promoting the event to exhibitors.”

“High on the list of reasons given for exhibiting was the opportunity to meet quality defence and security buyers, both from the UK and the established and emerging markets around the world. We have worked hard on this in recent years, spreading the DSEI message by exhibiting at major trade events in key overseas markets, such as the Middle East and Asia. We have also cultivated valuable relationships with top defence and security decision makers and influencers around the world.

“Our strategy is ensuring that DSEI is perceived to be the leading global defence and security platform it has become. In the UK the government and armed services recognise the importance of DSEI – all three service chiefs made presentations at DSEI 2013 and we received high level ministerial visits. Security is also now firmly established as the fourth pillar of the event, together with aerospace, land and maritime.

Susan Lyne, regional managing director, Europe at the Harris Corporation, a manufacturer of communications and information technology, said: “Harris views DSEI as one of the premier defence exhibitions in the world, providing us a great opportunity to meet with European and other international customers, dealers and industrial partners in one location. Our participation in the US pavilion has never failed to attract high levels of attention from senior representatives of government and user organisations.  Consequently, Harris highly values DSEI, and frequently takes advantage of this show to launch new products and showcase emerging technologies to our valued global customers.”

Stephane Doutriaux, the founder of Green event platform Poken, whose clients include Inntel, Microsoft, and Proctor and Gamble, says many event organisers are not clear about their objectives.

He said: “They do not start with the end in mind. You need to be certain in your own mind what the event has to achieve as everything else will be driven by this. Often the organiser will just think it is one more thing they have to do. Without a clear objective everyone’s time will be wasted. How often have you come back from an exhibition, for example, with no clue about who you spoke to and what you saw?

David Chalmers, marketing director at event technology specialist Cvent said that organisers must have a precise focus on how customers use the event and how they engage with the organiser.
He said: “We have found that some organisations do not look closely at the process or define what they want to achieve. My experience is that people are trying to find customers for new products or to get them to engage with existing products or services.

“The sales force is fundamental to the event. In my 25 years in business I have learned that the sales force has to be involved in the process of planning and managing an event.

“Companies like Cisco, for example, have got processes in place to make the most of the events they plan.

Jane Lees, director at Banks Sadler breaks down the problem into three pithy solutions.

She says: “Be sure to shop around for suppliers; make sure you get a least three quotes; and don’t accept the first price you are given.”

This was first published in the March issue of CN. Any comments? Email John Keenan

Paul Colston


Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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