A profitable enterprise

Incentive programmes are making a comeback as employers seek to recognise their best performer

In the aftermath of the financial meltdown in 2008, the role of incentive programmes in rewarding employee performance took something of a back seat.
But now event agencies and their clients are reporting an upsurge in activity as employers seek to motivate their strong-performing staff.

Hannah Wilkinson, Zibrant director of sales and business strategy, says:  “We are seeing a significant shift in requirements for incentives to motivate in order to improve results within our clients business. For the first time in a couple of years we are also seeing new CEOs joining businesses, using incentives to re-energise and motivate employees.

“In some cases it is the first time these businesses have decided to develop a programme, therefore they need help getting it off the ground and that is where we are supporting. What has also changed is that all clients are now running RFP processes to get the best from their chosen agency, and what wins these opportunities is offering more than just the trip. A ‘money can’t buy’ experience is the most common request.”
Wilkinson says  that it is crucial to focus on clear objectives about what the incentive needs to achieve and then be able to prove that the pre event communications and the event itself provide ROI. The agency is seeing more consideration of partners attending trips and the part they play in supporting employees to achieve.

She says: “In healthy, growing and confident markets across all business sectors, incentives are incredibly important in boosting profits, improving employee engagement and in attracting and maintaining the best talent.”

Her point is underlined by Paul Banham, head of business development at Wildgoose Events.

He says: “We have certainly been seeing a steady increase in enquiries for larger audience and longer duration events. We have developed our range of products to match this trend with the most recent additions being an Exhibition Explorer that encourages audience/exhibitor engagement, along with a Conference Challenge. Both of these products are scalable and able to cater for B2B events of a large size. The flexibility of our technology allows the client to incorporate a competitive, engaging and fun element into the event that supports business objectives and combines learning and development, teambuilding and training.”

Banham points out that Wildgoose has pioneered technology for competitive, learning environments and gamification, a combination of which is becoming a mainstream activity for businesses planning and hosting events. In whatever we do, whatever the size of audience, we aim to incorporate a healthy dose of fun while also delivering, serious measurable objectives.”

At the TFI Group, account manager Adam Said explains that mobile technology is at the heart of its motivational work.

He says: “Clients from the direct selling sector, for example, can see the value of technology. It will give a high return for them. They know that incentive mobile apps pre and post event will generate interest. These programmes won’t replace events, they raise communication and extend face-to-face communication. They offer an extension of the programme. It will build on them. TFI has an in-house team of developers to develop apps and build web sites which allow participants to communicate.”

Jo Austin (pictured, left), head of sales at the Lime Venues portfolio, which includes the 02 Arena and the Natural History Museum, believes a general trend that is evident across its venues is an increased investment in conferences and meetings and the creation of a more experiential tone of these events. She says this is leading to more incentive extensions, and also to an understanding that these extensions are as critical as the conference itself.

She says: “A lot of this is down to the fact that we are all unusual venues, and those organisers looking to create a more ‘brand led’ experiential event will naturally come to more creative spaces. Equally, this underlines the wider trend of fewer events with more investment in them, that is fuelling our own growth and that of the incentive part of the market. The longer we can keep the delegates on site, the better value they get from their event, and the bigger return for the organiser. From an incentive extension point of view, because these are often brand led, we are also seeing a departure from just the golf/spa extensions, but to more creative incentives; from Segway, to treasure hunts and even duck herding. Again, this is a feature of unusual venues, where we can offer extensions into museums, gardens and stadia tours.

“For us 2016 is about continuing to encourage this trend with our customers, being advocates of ‘better events’ and encouraging them to make their events mean business.”

The resurgence in incentives was underscored last year when delegates boasting a combined spending power of more than half a billion pounds headed to Edinburgh for a convention billed as “once-in-a-generation opportunity” for Scottish businesses.

The Meetings & Incentives Forum Europe, Summer 2015 was held in Scotland having previously taken place in the likes of Barcelona, Lisbon, Istanbul and Oslo.

The event at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC), gave the capital an economic boost of nearly £1m. The successful bid for the M&I Forum Europe saw more than 7,500 meetings take place in the space of four days, under the aegis of the Business Events team at VisitScotland.

Some 380 influential planners from across Europe and the UK were introduced to 290 European suppliers, with 40 partners from around Scotland among those hoping to win big business at the event.

Scottish companies taking part included The Gleneagles Hotel, Glasgow Science Centre, The Royal Yacht Britannia, Crieff Hydro, Trump Turnberry, and VisitAberdeen. Approximately 75% of the buyers – who boasted a combined purchasing power of £575m – worked for event agencies. The remainder were corporate event planners representing the likes of Renault, Johnson & Johnson and Canon.

Among the suppliers from around the world were the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, Hilton and Royal Caribbean International. The main workshop for the conference was in the new Lennox Suite at the EICC. In addition to the conference, VisitScotland organised a series of familiarisation trips, allowing buyers to extend their stay and explore other parts of Scotland, such as Glasgow and the West Coast, the Highlands, Aberdeen, Fife and Perthshire. Around 100 delegates took hese additional trips.

Amanda Ferguson, meetings and incentives marketing manager at VisitScotland, said: “Quite simply, Scotland has never before hosted a MICE industry event on this scale. Not only did it provide us with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to showcase Scotland to hundreds of lucrative buyers from across Europe and the rest of the UK, but the event itself also provided a significant economic boost for Edinburgh.

“Business tourism is worth nearly £2bn to the Scottish economy and this event will ensure that this country continues to punch above its weight in this key industry.”

Fiona Fraser, senior business tourism executive for Convention Edinburgh, said:  “The opportunity to have more than 380 event planners visit Edinburgh and experience the full conference and events offering first-hand was immensely valuable to the city and our members.  From the world-class facilities at the EICC, to enjoying gala dinners at unusual and unique venues such as Gosford House and the National Museum of Scotland, buyers had a truly unforgettable experience and we are confident they will go on to book future events in the city.”

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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