THE STATE OF THE U.K. SPECIAL EVENTS INDUSTRY

In the midst of the worst economic crisis in living memory, the U.K. event industry is suffering. With large corporations using the cancellation of their Christmas parties (which once underpinned the U.K. event calendar) as a high-profile public relations stunt (and in some cases, this is even being portrayed as corporate social responsibility!), you would be forgiven for discounting the special event industry as a nonviable, unsustainable discipline.

However, this is thankfully not the case. During the last recession, our industry was hit hard (or knocked for six, to use an ancient cricketing phrase), and this sector annihilation stretched beyond mere budgetary constraints. Back then, the special event industry was not recognized as a professional (or even credible) vocation. Nowadays, events are increasingly seen as a viable (dare I say, crucial) element within wider marketing campaigns or initiatives. Every effective campaign has a tangible anticipatory buildup, a pinnacle focal “crescendo” whereupon one comes face-to-face with the target audience (the event itself) and, perhaps most illusively, a measurable lasting legacy. It's all about three magic letters — ROI. Each stage is vital if a brand, company or even private individual is to realize its goals. Indeed, one could argue that the event itself is the crucial element where key messages and set objectives are communicated directly to a target audience — all the more high-impact and relevant in the digital age.

So why is it that the U.K.'s most well-respected national newspaper, the Daily Telegraph, reported gleefully that corporate Christmas parties were down 15 percent in 2009 over the year prior (which in itself was pretty dismal), and that those that “must” take place are “rightfully” no-frills affairs. (One major bank disclosed the fact that their budget for Christmas was just £10 per head — barely enough for a glass of wine in London!)

This is not a budgetary but a political statement. It seems it's all because the office Christmas party is the last event industry activity that is seen to be politically incorrect in this climate, whereas last time around, all events were tarred with the same brush. This is progress! One can understand taxpayers' concern if a national bank, having been bailed out by the government, were seen to be spending their money celebrating and “getting drunk,” even though I would argue that bonuses and events are crucial for morale as they enable professionals to operate and deliver more effectively for the benefit of all. Again, it's all down to PR.

So there we have it, even within the whirlpool of the media's obsession with depression, those who have survived will resurface stronger, better equipped, more resilient and, perhaps most importantly, more credible than ever before. The soft underbelly of our industry in London, the office Christmas party, may be down 15 percent and this may have brought down some big players, but many have survived, and as an “anthemic” British pop star once sang, “The only way is up!”

Name: Will Broome

Company: londonlaunch.com

Address: Balfour Lodge
240 Dawes Road
London SW6 7RG United Kingdom

Phone: +44 (0) 20 7471 2600

E-mail: will.broome@londonlaunch.com

Web site: www.londonlaunch.com

10 TECHNOLOGY TRENDS TO WATCH IN 2010

Meetings, events and trade-show technology continues to advance, with technology products becoming better, cheaper and easier to use. Innovation is bubbling with new options. Here are some of the major technology trends to watch for.

10. Mobile phones are morphing into advanced mobile meeting technology platforms. The advent of the iPhone two years ago was a game-shifter. Rich mobile Web browsers with wireless broadband Internet access are now common with most business travelers. This is opening up a range of mobile applications for meetings and trade shows including exhibit hall guides, mobile surveys, text messaging, wake-up calls, entertainment and more.

9. Social networking technology finds many meeting applications. Meetings are the original social media. Facebook, LinkedIn and dozens of other social networking sites are helping to bring people together before, during and after meeting events and to enrich the meeting experience. Facebook Connect allows people registering online to invite their Facebook friends, with everyone getting a discount. Conference managers and attendees are sharing their event photos on Flickr.

8. Micro-blogging (i.e., Twitter) is proving particularly well suited for events. Attendees are using the Twitter back-channel to connect at meetings and to share event epiphanies. Tweet-ups (face-to-face meetings of groups of Twitter users) are popping up at events. Exhibitors are tweeting to promote their offerings; and conference managers and hotels are monitoring tweets for problems or opportunities.

7. Social review sites are moving to meetings. The model provided by TripAdvisor, where guest hotel reviews help guide purchasing decisions, is moving to meetings. Several sites have emerged providing peer reviews of meeting facilities by and for meeting planners. Included are meetinguniverse.com, elitemeetings.com and reviewevents.com.

6. Strategic meetings management program (SMMP) options are increasing. SMMP allows companies to track meeting spend with a range of meeting approval, sourcing, event calendaring and spend-analysis tools. This can save a large corporation millions of dollars annually in meeting spend. StarCite is a leader in meeting technology.

5. Video can promote and improve the meeting experience. Speakers, exhibitors, meeting planners, hotels and attendees are loading videos of events and trade shows to YouTube and other video-sharing sites. Remote speakers are presenting to their audiences via Skype. Speaker interviews, meeting attendees and presentations themselves are available via Web video. Attendees will see more, higher-quality video before, during and after events.

4. Audience-response technology gets cheaper and more diversified. Audience-polling systems are a great way to find out what the audience is thinking and to engage them as well. The challenge for many planners, however, is that it has been expensive to rent these systems. But as the technology advances, the units are getting smaller, cheaper and easier to use. Additionally, text message polling and mobile Web polling using phones are coming into use including www.polleverywhere.com, www.quickmobile.com and www.validar.com, at even lower costs.

3. Low-cost, two-way, mobile lead retrieval options for meetings and trade show attendees are emerging. A number of mobile options are becoming available that may replace the antiquated method we are now using, opening electronic lead retrieval to everyone at the event. They include Near Field Communication , a telephone communication standard designed for micro-payments in Europe, and Quick-response (QR) codes, which are two-dimensional bar codes designed to be displayed and read by current mobile phones.

2. Telepresence is finally gaining a foothold at hotels for virtual meetings. Telepresence is video conferencing on steroids: life-size, high-resolution, eye-to-eye with excellent audio designed to simulate face-to-face interactions. Unfortunately, these installations are pricey, often well in excess of US$100,000. Fortunately, telepresence rooms are opening to the public for rent and are being installed in hotels.

1. Despite the economic downturn and the increased use of virtual meetings technology, face-to-face meetings and trade shows remain viable. The event, trade show and hospitality industries are relationship-based, and events and trade shows are some of the best ways to build relationships. The conversations in the hallways, receptions and exhibit halls contribute greatly to the information exchange. After all, there is no such thing as a “virtual beer!”

These innovations in meetings and trade show technology are just a few in this rapidly growing field. All will help improve efficiency, reduce costs and make for a better meeting experience.

Name: Corbin Ball, CSEP, CMP

Company: Corbin Ball Associates

Address: 506 14th St.
Bellingham, WA 98225-6107 USA

Phone: 360/734-8756

E-mail: corbin@corbinball.com

Web site: www.corbinball.com

ISES ESPRIT AWARDS: A SNAPSHOT OF THE NEW ENTRY PROCES

What's new with the ISES Esprit Awards®, you ask? Well, in three words: no more binders! The ISES Esprit Awards have made the leap to greener pastures and a smaller carbon footprint. Although your local late-night FedEx drop box might miss you come May 2010, our planet thanks you and ISES for making the leap!

The ISES Esprit Committee has been working to streamline the process, making it easier to apply and easier for judges to review the outstanding contributions by ISES members in the industry. Below is a snapshot of what to expect:

To start, none of the rules have changed. However, the move to an online process did give the ISES Esprit Committee the unique opportunity to reevaluate the questions and information that we ask for during the entry process. We put a lot of thought into how we ask the questions; you will notice some of the questions have been specifically tailored to their respective awards category.

Binders, among other things, are a thing of the past, as is trying to figure out if something counts as a sleeve or a page, double-sided, single-sided and more. Not to worry, though — the creativity that the binders allowed has not been lost. There are still plenty of opportunities for you to showcase your award-winning innovation and creativity — just in a new way. New features of the entry process allow you to upload up to 10 event photos and a short video highlighting your entry.

Ultimately, these changes will help level the playing field for all those entering the ISES Esprit Awards and Competition. The new system will make it much easier for the judges to make an “apples to apples” comparison of each event. More importantly, it will be easier to judge each event on its individual merits as opposed to being influenced by the way a binder is assembled.

As we get closer to the launch, keep your eyes out for Webinars hosted by the ISES Esprit Committee. This will give you the opportunity to see the new system and ask any questions you might have. Watch the ISES Web site and e-newsletter for other exciting updates as they become available.

Don't wait until the last minute! Keep in mind that this new process will not take as long as it once did to create an entry, but it may take you a bit longer to become comfortable navigating the online entry form. In an effort to help you, the new Web site gives you the opportunity to start an award entry, save your progress and come back to complete it later.

Don't include any names (com-pany name, logo or staff photographs, client names) anywhere in your entry or the collateral that you upload. Be extremely careful when uploading collateral; the majority of disqualifications occur because a logo or company name is left somewhere in collateral material. Be thorough, because the disqualification might be hiding in your standard header or footer, or in page 10 of a 20-page document. Unfortunately, no matter how small the mistake, if identifying traits are found, your entry will be disqualified.

As a best practice, start your awards entry in whatever word-processing program you typically use. This should give you the opportunity to edit, spell-check and count words more easily. Once you are happy with your text, then you can quickly copy and paste the text into the appropriate box.

Enter early, and enter often! The ISES Esprit Awards are probably one of the most inexpensive ways to promote your company. With business being slower this past year for many companies, this is the perfect opportunity to enter. Everyone was dealing with the same challenges, so don't shy away from entering those events with smaller budgets or even the ones that did have healthy budgets.

And, as they say, you can't win if you don't enter! Be prepared, be concise and think in advance about the things that you will need to submit and make that part of the planning process for your event. We look forward to seeing you on stage at the ISES Esprit Awards ceremony at ISES Eventworld® 2010 in Baltimore.

Best of luck!

Name: Karl Heitz, DMCP

Company: The Arrangers

Address: 1425 Market Street, Suite 100
Denver, CO 80202 USA

Phone: 800/432-1492

E-mail: karl@arrangers.com

TARGETING NEW MARKETS IN CHALLENGING TIMES

As the event industry continues to struggle with a shrinking economy, dramatically reduced budgets and a disappearing client base, many event professionals are seeking new markets or attempting to expand their offerings to create new revenue streams.

In a survey conducted for the 2009 ISES Eventworld® conference, companies who had undertaken this challenge recently were interviewed to evaluate the success of the process — with surprising results. Whilst most companies eventually succeeded, valuable lessons were learned along the way.

The biggest hurdle to success was in the lack of research into the financial viability of the expansion. Far too many companies relied totally on “gut instinct” in their evaluation of the market, which resulted in a huge underestimation of the funding needed to bring the operation to fruition. The internal time resources became a problem for many, resulting in the neglect of the existing client base in the excitement to generate new business.

Many also failed to fully evaluate cultural differences when expanding geographically. “Hiring locally is a must,” said one company that recently set up in China. Having a native management team was the only route to success because operational procedures are so different in Asia.

Even careful planning was no guarantee of success; one respondent said, “You do everything 100 percent textbook and for some unexplained reason, the outcome was an absolute disaster.”

In expanding your current offering of services, it is important to remember that your core competencies should remain your strongest selling points. Offering services to generate revenue in other areas that are not your main business focus or area of expertise may bring short-term income, but can cause problems for both the company and the industry as a whole if service price rather than service quality is the driving factor.

However, there are tangible positives to starting a business in times of economic depression. A staggering 50 percent of current top Fortune 500 companies started in times of economic uncertainty. There seems to be value in the statement that companies which continue to promote themselves heavily during tough economic times fare exceptionally well when markets begin to turn.

It is vital to the success of our industry to band together, share resources, form partnerships and look for cost-savings that can be gained from working together with our fellow ISES members.

My company formed a working partnership two years ago with our main production, catering and decor vendors (all ISES members) in North Carolina to share offices, resources and, most significantly, overhead, which has enabled us to be cost-effective and lean in our operational costs.

This is the time when ISES membership, support and, most importantly, friendships can be the deciding factor in the survival of your business.

Name: Sally Webb, CSEP

Company: The Special Event Company

Address: 23 St. Elmos Road
Surrey Quays
London SE16 6SA United Kingdom
100 Capitola Drive, Suite 305
Durham, NC 27713 USA

Phone: +44 (0)20 7740 2514

E-mail: sally@specialeventco.com

Web site: www.specialevent.co.uk

ISES EDITORIAL TEAM AND STAFF

Alexis M. Gorriarán, CSEP
Volunteer Editor
(add)ventures
agorriaran@addventures.com

Amie Shak
Editor/Coordinator
ashak@smithbucklin.com

Kevin Hacke
Executive Director
khacke@smithbucklin.com

Kristin Prine
Operations Manager
kprine@smithbucklin.com

Lauren Rini
Education Coordinator
lrini@smithbucklin.com

Jamie Devins
Membership Services
Coordinator
jdevins@smithbucklin.com

Tom McCurrie
Membership Services Associate
tmccurrie@smithbucklin.com

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