Randle Stonier, boss at Adding Value, believes that technology can transform events, but that changing behaviour is even more crucial. John Keenan reports
You always know when Randle Stonier is in the room.
It is not only a matter of his looming height (six-four and counting) but also his booming voice. He exudes enough energy to power a small town and, after a lengthy and distinguished career, he is full of enthusiasm and ideas for the events industry.
His career trajectory includes serving as a Royal Navy officer, working for Virgin, Procter & Gamble and agency, Euro RSCG Skybridge. Along the way Stonier has won a Guinness World Record, on behalf of Vodafone, for the largest silver service dinner party in the world, served as an industrial advisor and external examiner to Leeds Beckett University, held the chair at The Institute of Promotional Marketing and been elected a Fellow. He has also produced channel marketing and community solutions for Microsoft, Vodafone and IBM and produced events in 56 countries. He was awarded an honorary doctorate in events management by Leeds Beckett University. In 2006, he successfully established his third start-up, the multi-award winning communications and events agency, AddingValue. He says: “I launched the firm almost by accident. It was triggered by a marketing director of Vodafone who called me and asked me about the handover when I was preparing to leave Skybridge. He said ‘make sure we have a Plan B, Randle’.
“I was hell bent on trying to do something in the app space but I got a call from Vodafone following up our conversation and went in to see them. We took it from there.”
AddingValue now employs around 30 staff with an average age of 29. Stonier says that award recognition and incentive travel comprises around 20% of what the agency does, alongside training events, roadshows, dealer incentives, annual conferences, and press events. One of Stonier’s long standing business relationship’s is with Louise Dowling, PR manager at Peugeot in Coventry. She says: “I first met Randle about 15 years ago, when he was working at Skybridge.
He has worked closely with us for years. AddingValue works with us on our dealer conferences and car launches.
“Right now the agency is organising our latest dealer incentive in Bordeaux. “We tender every piece of work but AddingValue wins a lot of them. “We organise two big conferences every year, plus dealer incentives and one to two car launches.
“Some agencies, when they pitch for business can give the impression they are ticking the box, but AddingValue are genuinely excited. You feel they are as excited as you are. It makes a big difference.” One of the agency’s most interesting clients is the Milken Institute, a nonpartisan, independent think-tank, launched by the so-called ‘junk-bond king’ Michael Milken.
Stonier says: “Their agenda addresses social and economic challenges. Together with business, foundation, academic and public policy leaders, they identify and implement new ideas that they hope will make a difference to lives worldwide.” AddingValue was engaged to support the Milken Institute’s inaugural London Summit in 2011, and, Stonier says, continues to build upon the think-tank’s reputation with successive summits in London and Singapore annually.
Poor Wi-Fi can do more than create a bad user experience. It reflects poorly on your brand
He says: “The aim is to create a conference series that could capture the ambition and intellectual thought-leadership of the world’s financial capital, political, academic, entrepreneurial and philanthropic communities.” Stonier is a self-confessed tech geek and he knows that his love of gadgetry can drive those around him to distraction”
He says: “I candidly know that my fluency in digital is way better than most people my age. When people complain that I am texting and not listening I tell them ‘I am with you! I am not missing a single thing!’ and it is true. “But I recognise that what works for me is not going to engage lots of other people.
So you have to ask what is the budget, lead time, what is viable? It’s about getting key stakeholders to buy into the long term strategy and do not try to tick every box the second you adopt it. If your audience is already there, if it is primarily made up of Millennials, it is less of an issue. And when you are dealing with a multi-lingual audience the app comes into its own.
“In Asia maintaining face is very important and technology can help delegates do that and still engage in the event.” He is positively evangelical on the role of Wi-Fi in events.
He says: “Almost no event can be successful without the aid of Wi-Fi and other technology. Wi-Fi networks at events and tradeshows are becoming more and more crowded as attendees use an ever-greater number of devices including smartphones, tablets, cameras and laptops.
“Poor Wi-Fi can do more than create a bad user experience. It reflects poorly on your brand, it can cause attendees to disappear so as to find a better connection, or even keep them from attending the event at all if they think their productivity will be limited. “Bad Wi-Fi can also ruin a keynote and ruin exhibitor interaction – along with your reputation. Because every venue has its own unique characteristics, and every event has attendees with varying needs, there is no simple formula you can use to ensure a great event Wi-Fi experience. Unfortunately, many event organisers do not have the technical background or skill set to truly determine whether or not a vendor has the ability and capacity to provide the needed Wi-Fi for any particular event. Which means hiring an expert during the event-planning phase is easily worth the investment when that expert can help ensure a great user experience and smooth running talks and presentations.”
Stonier insists that technology can be harnessed to serve the human purpose of events.
It is part of an ethic which he sums up as : “We are successfully growing our business by creating emotional advantages for brand owners with their audiences through live experiences and compelling conversations that connect, resonate, share and wow.”
“To keep the team on board we organise weekly team meetings which are very operationally focused. We have an agency fitness training event on Monday and Wednesday evenings and Friday drinks from 4pm onwards every week.
“The Friday email is a round up of the week and what’s happening next week. It’s very low key and totally inappropriate and always drives banter. The monthly Dutch Lunch is a show, tell and share session. The content varies and lasts about two hours. And we hold a six-monthly ‘something’ such as a Christmas party and rounders or cocktail making.” He says: “AddingValue’s point of difference is about creating emotional advantages, using behavioural science and technology to provide real time information. You should be able to tell exactly what your audience is thinking and doing in real time. Call it a happy index.” Stonier’s position on that on that index it would seem, is very secure.