The Event Industry Guide

The Event Industry Guide

Face-to-face live communication is reaching new levels of sophistication and evolving to become a more valued part of the marketing mix.

The events industry really only began in the UK in the 70s, but has since become an extraordinarily diverse business. It is a challenge to talk about what exactly constitutes an event because of this diversity, but it can best be described as any situation in which a company presents itself face to face with its target audience. Live events agencies, some of whom also call themselves brand communication agencies, help to define how to express a brand in a live event situation and advise clients on the most effective way of achieving that communication. This encompasses anything from product launches to conferences and exhibition communications, roadshows, company fun days and Christmas parties -- any situation, in fact, where the corporate client has a live communication requirement.

It is no longer a cottage industry, the British Conference Market Trends Survey from 2000 estimates the overall value of the conference market to be almost £7bn.

Like advertising, events companies find themselves pitching, with up to eight agencies usually invited to pitch on a credentials level and that is honed down to three or four who are asked to respond to a brief.

Sometimes, this can take up to three months to prepare and, although some clients pay a pitch fee, it never covers the costs.

Although it is a frustrating aspect of our business, and one that has failed to change, on the whole the events industry has become so much more sophisticated. In the past, events agencies would be asked to develop the emotional element of an event only. Now, the involvement begins at a fundamental level and agencies offer strategic advice on communication issues.

Linking into advertising

What is clearly emerging is that the big advertising networks are realising that they need a presence in this industry and, so, there are constant acquisitions. There is a shift in clients spending their budget on above-the-line advertising and looking at more targeted marketing activities, and event marketing is becoming a more valued part of the mix.

If agencies do not seize that opportunity it is likely that advertising agencies will set up divisions to deal with live events. Competition on that front and competition from Europe, plus the fact that with the UK outside the Euro yet still has to quote in Euros and take the exchange rate risk, are the challenges the UK industry faces.

The events company

Agencies help clients to define and communicate their objectives. For example, if a chairman has a subject he wishes to relate to his staff, we can start at the most fundamental level to set up the processes to develop that vision. In addition, there are many parallel strands to organising an event. Events companies establish a work group and a budget and move from the whole planning and commissioning phase through to the more literal requirements.

These include researching and booking venues, which range from the practical and economical hotels and purpose-built conference centres to more unusual empty spaces in warehouses and museums.

Finding a venue is driven by the communication brief and agencies always try to find a location, which in itself will add a lot to help people emotionally to communicate with a brand. At the same time, it will set in train the whole communication process which may necessitate preparing paper and email teasers, invitations and creating a bespoke website.

That works alongside the creative strands -- the script writing, design, the physical props for a workshop demonstration or product launch. At each stage, there are check processes and analysis and it will refine the work, all the while keeping the core brief to the fore.

How agencies are structured

Most agencies have a core team of disciplines: creative, production, technical, film and video, and logistics.

There are two key client-facing roles: the account director, around which agencies build a core team that involves a minimum four people; and the producer. Both set up the relationship, establish the brief and seed the elements of the event.

Servicing them is the technical department, headed by the technical production manager and the logistics manager, who creates and manages delegate databases and sorts out all the travel arrangements and accommodation, invitations and catering.

The film and video department, which now also includes new media, is responsible for all the film, video and website products relevant to the programme, while the design studio creates an overall visual identity for the event.

Agencies also rely on a huge support industry of freelancers and sub-suppliers and we are used to collaborating with agencies in other industry sectors, such as those in advertising, design and sales promotion, plus architects with overall responsibility for an exhibition design.

The key industry bodies

Independent Visual Communications Association (IVCA)

Tel: 0207 512 0571 Web:

The largest trade body of its kind in Europe for everyone involved in the world of business media. It keeps the creatives abreast of technological developments, promotes them to key markets and gives them representation at a high level with government and other industry bodies. It grants commissioners access to a wide range of case studies and introduces them to more than 1,000 communication professionals that operate under the association's code of ethics. For freelances, it provides industry-specific training courses and access to production companies and commissioners.

Incentive Travel & Meetings Association (ITMA)

Tel: 01737 779928 Web:

UK trade association for companies involved in the incentive travel and meetings sector. Members include airlines, hotel groups, event organisers and tourist offices. Flags legislative developments, assists with tax issues and organises industry forums. Also runs an annual awards programme showcasing successful events in various industry sectors.

British Association of Conference Destinations (BACD)

Tel: 0121 212 1400 Web:

Offers event planners access to comprehensive information on the UK conference industry, primarily through a directory it publishes yearly.

Corporate Hospitality and Events Association (CHA)

Tel: 01932 831441 Web:

Represents more than 150 companies in the UK hospitality industry, promotes best practice among members and grants access to a network of like-minded organisations, including activity operators, entertainment agencies, special event caterers and venues.

Meetings Industry Association (MIA)

Tel: 01386 858572 Web:

Professional trade organisation for the conference industry in the UK and Ireland. It seeks to strengthen members' businesses through educational seminars and networking forums and has introduced Hospitality Assured Meetings, an accredited industry kitemark.

Association of Exhibition Organisers (AEO)

Tel: 01442 873331 Web:

The voice of the UK exhibition industry with strong views, an online recruitment service and CV shop and respected training division set up to combat the shortfall of serious training for new entrants in the events industry. The trade body targets those who create, manage, sponsor, supply and service trade exhibitions and consumer events. 

Suggested reading

The Dictionary of Event Management by Goldblatt.

Special Events: Best Practises in Modern Event Management by Goldblatt.

Event Planning: The Ultimate Guide to Successful Meetings, Corporate Events, Fundraising, Galas, Conferences, Conventions, Incentives and other Special Events by Judy Allen.

Complete Idiot's Guide to Meetings and Event Planning by Robin E Craven and Lynn Johnson Golabowski.

Planning Successful Meetings and Events by Ann J Boehme.

Planning the Perfect Party by Elegant Days (UK event management company).

 A new book about Imagination, assessing the agency's approach to communication in the two decades since it was founded, has recently been published by Phaidon.



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