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Winning over the doubters

Whenever a company appoints a new supplier it creates a degree of change which is not always appreciated by employees. Whilst the majority within the company will embrace the change and understand it is being done for good reason,  a number will rally against the change and continue utilising their old method regardless.

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The State of the Industry: Insights from Our Survey

As part of the extensive research carried out for the Grass Roots Meetings Industry Report, we surveyed over 1,000 people from corporates, agencies and suppliers in Europe and the US. Having presented the findings at The Meetings Show on Thursday 15th June, I wanted to share some additional insight here.

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Ch-Ch-Changes – Forecasting a Disruptive Future for Travel and Meetings

One of the biggest changes I’ve seen in my working life is the trend for businesses to constantly question how they do things. Until 10 or so years ago the status quo was there to be respected and adhered to. Now by contrast the term disruptive is very much in vogue. Everyone is being challenged to do things differently and rip up the existing model. In short – If it ain’t broke fix it anyway. The need for change is now constant.
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Improving the performance of Learning and Development programmes

What if I told you I could save your organisation 32% of your meeting spend, just like that?

It’s certainly a headline grabbing figure, and in today’s business environment it’s one that many couldn’t choose to ignore, particularly for companies who spend more than £2 million a year on external venues for their learning and development programmes.

But what if I also told you that saving money could also lead to a better learning experience for those attending your events? And is it true, can you really cut meeting spend and make a better meeting?

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Performance improvement needs to lie at the heart of our events

I was recently asked by a junior member at the cricket club what I do for a living, which is harder to answer than you might imagine. Whilst we are certainly in the business of meetings and events that doesn’t really get to the core of what our industry is about and stands for. The truth is that events are really just a channel, a means to an end, and it is that end goal that really matters because ultimately for meetings and events to be successful they need to change behaviour and have a positive effect on business improvement.

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The Good Old Days of Travel

As a growing Event Management and Venue Finding Agency, we are finding ourselves more often than not at Birmingham Airport as we depart to operate and manage our events. Occasionally we may be lucky enough to venture down the M40 to London Heathrow if we are going somewhere a little more exotic than Glasgow. I have always loved travelling, but as I travel more in this new world of airline cost cuts, I shudder at the mere thought of boarding a short haul flight and treat long haul with a sense of trepidation (if turning right at the door, which is always the case).

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Where has customer service gone?

As an event management and venue finding agency, it’s great to be busy and being busy means that more than ever, we are working with a number of different suppliers to get the job done. I often describe our role as a form of brokerage, acting as the middle man between the client and supplier to deliver an extraordinary event.

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Walking the Tight Rope

It is great to be sitting back at my desk after a very busy 8 weeks helping the team deliver some incredible event management solutions across the UK and Ireland. From managing roadshows in muddy fields to delivering a prestigious gala dinner for 370 guests, our team has combined muddy wellies, hospitality desks and dinner jackets with both style and ease.

After 18 months of operation, our event management and venue finding solutions have found their feet and we continue to develop our products with customer service at the center of everything we do. Our team is growing and our client portfolio is increasing.

With this, I personally feel that I am now walking the ‘tightrope’, balancing enquiries with live projects and ensuring we have the right balance of resources to deliver extraordinary event management solutions.  As I balance, I am juggling projects such as a website rebrand and development of bespoke delegate registration software so we can further grow. It’s daunting and exciting.

The first year as expected was a year where we had to earn our stripes. My own reputation as an Account Director helped generate industry awareness, but our event management and venue finding product offering was new, untested and as with any new start up there was skepticism. The first year was about pure hard work, determination and breaking down hurdles.

In the last year, I have seen a shift in the way suppliers to include hotels and venues approach us. When we started, there was limited interest. Now we have earned some of our stripes, suppliers are knocking at our doors for appointments with requests to work together.

Now we are in our second year, I would say that we are working even harder with greater determination for Clearwater Events to be seen as a serious industry player. But, added to that, I am walking the tight rope.

We have two major client accounts supported with standalone event management and venue finding projects, which keeps our team very busy. We have a fantastic Sales Manager who is helping to strengthen our business and our team of Event Managers is growing. But, with our growth, I can’t do everything by myself now. I have to balance profit with overheads and ensure we have the right resources for the right events. And it does feel like walking the tight rope whilst juggling a number of balls in the air.

When you work for a large established event management or venue finding agency, regardless of your position, there is a level of comfort. You know that in your tightrope walking there is likely to be a crash pad under you to break your fall just in case you side step. You may also have very big hands to manage your juggling act. But, as owner of a start up agency, that crash pad isn’t there, so each step you take needs to be carefully planned, managed and delivered with precision and accuracy.

As I continue to walk the tightrope, become a juggling master and side step without losing my balance, I can see the crash mat start to form under me. Growing Clearwater Events ‘is’ all about the balance, keeping focused and ensuring the team deliver extraordinary event management and venue finding solutions whilst keeping costs to a minimum. Our next chapter in our start up will be very much how we as a company master our balancing act…….

High Street vs Megastores

As I sit here, with it positively freezing outside, I am listening to my favorite morning radio chat show as I work through my to do list. Half listening, they have been chatting about how many large retail chains have closed down in the last six weeks. It’s kinda scary. At the same time, there is a huge uproar as horsemeat has been found in certain mega food store burgers.

It seems there is a significant shift and conflict in how people purchase goods now. Online presence seems to be key for retail success where discounts and cost savings run supreme. Whilst vast megastores seem to the preferred method when consumers actually want to shop in real time.

However, it looks like we might start seeing a shift where consumers may now potentially move away from the big megastores and back to independent and unique retailers, ironically on the high street, as they fear what hidden nasties lurk in their mass-produced goods. It is often recognised that the independents are experts in their field, offer a highly personalised service with a quality product.

I can’t help but wonder how this relates to our industry for the year ahead and what lessons we could learn from the current trends in the retail industry? As an event management and venue-finding company, our growth and success is dependent upon cost savings, providing quality services with, of course, no hidden nasties along with having an online presence.

As a smaller, independently owned and financed event management and venue-finding agency, I think it fair to say that we represent the unique retailer. We compete in a world of online venue finding and event solutions along with larger agencies, which, we see as the megastores. In this shifting world, who will reign supreme?

Reading this month’s blog by Jane Hague, ‘Power to the People’, I think its clear that we too as an industry are facing a shift and need to act quickly in order to meet ever-changing and ever-increasing client (consumer) demands.

I am always dazzled and wowed by the technology in the market place, all promising to enhance our venue-finding and event management product. I certainly see its place and have been the first to try online venue-finding along with cloud-based event management tools. My fear in using these tools, however, is that it reduces the need to interact.  Can an online venue-finding tool ever capture the same cost saving as picking up the phone, building a relationship and selling the benefits of offering a better set of rates?

It is logical to use technology as our fundamental tool in delivering venue finding and event management and in fairness, it seems that our competitors (the megastores), are using it as a backbone to service delivery. So, should we follow suit?

I myself have been in the large agency world for many years, but often questioned the actual service we offered based on SOP’s, KPI’s, polices, procedures, templates, conference calls, and the list goes on. I set up Clearwater Events as I am a people person and I believe the best events are delivered when we interact with the best people. This stems from venue-finding through to negotiation and logistic delivery. To ensure this, we need experts, people who offer a highly personalised, individual service with no hidden nasties.

Now, I am not saying that our larger competitors (the megastores) don’t do this, far from it. But, what I am saying is there is a need, a possible shift and a market requirement for smaller agencies (independent retailers) such as Clearwater Events to coexist with the bigger boys. Coupled with this, there is a need for people.

As I reflect, I think I have answered my own question. For me, this year is about people, it’s about partnering with the best and interacting in the best way to offer the best event management and venue-finding solutions. I will always be fascinated by technology and we have some of own exciting technology developments that are about to go online. But, we need people to power this technology whilst offering a highly personalised service with a quality product. A machine is of course as only as cost as the person operating it.

It’s time we as an industry support each other, it’s a year where we need to dig deep and look at how trade shows and marketing opportunities can represent our own high street and mega stores whilst embracing technology that helps our people deliver events for our clients people. It’s a year which could see winners and losers, so isn’t it important we take stock and learn the lessons from the retailing world?

To Exhibit, or Not to Exhibit

Well we have survived another EIBTM in Barcelona and the trip concludes a busy year of attending exhibitions, trade shows and fam trips with the objective of increasing our event management and venue-finding knowledge. And boy, what a year it has been! We have worked out we have seen over 300 hotels, venues DMC and support services at these events, which made us question the actual return on investment achieved. Read more