Directors Blog: The Business of EventsPosted on November 26, 2019
I have been working in the events industry now for almost 15 years. I have delivered complex events in the North East of England (where I am based), UK wide, and Qatar in the Middle East.
From small workshops and dinners to enormous international petroleum congresses in Qatar and complex national Government events in the UK, I have delivered most types of B2B event in my career.
When people ask me what I love most about events, it often surprises them. It’s not actually the event itself – although that does gives me an enormous sense of achievement – it’s the business behind an event.
Strategy is key to any business, and the same goes for an event. An event without thought, planning or direction, will more than likely fail to deliver impact. Strategy is crucial. I absolutely love turning profits and surpluses for clients. A carefully planned and well thought through event, taking the aims and objectives from the client, creating something that delivers and exceeds expectations, is a must.
Anyone (sensible!) can take a budget, spend it on food, drinks and a room and get people there to listen to someone speaking. The key is finding how that event will deliver results for the client – whether that be buy in from staff, customer acquisition, income generation or something else entirely. How will the event be sustainable and become an annual fixture? How do you make sure your content is relevant? How do you make sure people want to attend? How do you make sure there is sponsor engagement? The answer is always – through being strategic and respecting your audience.
An engaged audience is surely what we are all aiming for. Otherwise what’s the point?
At BeaconHouse Events we have worked on many seed event ideas with our clients. Some literally start at zero. Nada. Nothing. No budget, no speakers, no location and no audience. Just an idea. I love the challenge of creating something from nothing. And making the event cover its costs and generate a surplus. It’s all in the strength of the idea, the contacts, the network and the knowledge of what the audience will want to hear – why will they come, what do they want to learn, do, see, hear and feel at an event?
All too often, the value of the audience’s time is underestimated; “it’s free to attend so people will come along, right?” Not right, not always. In fact, not charging people to attend an event often results in the audience not putting as high a value on the experience. With a price tag attached, your audience has to make a conscious decision to invest not only their time, but their money. People value their time perhaps even more than the money it costs them. If they won’t achieve what they personally want to from attending – learning, making new connections, sharing knowledge – they won’t come. Even if they have paid, even if you do put on a glass or two of wine. No-show rates for the events industry can be up to 40% for free of charge events, but still up to 25% for paid for ones. The more reason you give your audience to attend, the more likely they are to show up so the journey shouldn’t stop with them booking their ticket.
Money is of course critical to many businesses, events and clients. Events don’t necessarily need to make money, in fact for many of our clients it’s not about that. However, often, events do need to cover their own costs. Working out how an event can be monetised, and in turn deliver value to the sponsor, partner, attendee is really what makes me tick and in fact what keeps us in business! Here at BeaconHouse HQ, I proudly sport the ‘finance queen’ badge. I love number crunching, but without strategy, without understanding the business of your event you may as well give up before you’ve started.