In the business events’ industry, we are ready to put Covid-19 behind us and get out there and have events again. But in the wake of the pandemic, a lot of managers are starting to question the value of events. How come we have made it through the pandemic relatively well without being able to conduct events as usual (and here I am not thinking of the hospitality sector which has suffered greatly all over the World)? Are events really necessary, then?
I say they are, but we event professionals have a heavy weight to lift: To make managers alike understand the value we and our events provide. But first, let us start somewhere else.
Where is the management?
In most of the organizations and companies I know, meetings and events is a task that is carried out in the appropriate department – be it Marketing, Events, Training & Education or the like. The key word here being TASK. For meetings and events is not a task (well, it is for those of us who work in this field) – it is big business and branding that can make or break an organization or company, and they are simply too important and too expensive not to be a part of the corporate strategy.
I know! You do establish a purpose for your event (see the article ‘Meeting booker vs. meeting planner’ if you want to know more about purpose for events), but that is not enough, since that is a purpose (and maybe KPI) for that specific event. You need to include the event in your event strategy which again should align with your corporate strategy, since each event has an impact on your brand.
And what do you want this impact to be? Or, should I rather say: What does the management want this impact to be? Most of the people I know in this business juggle with this on their own. This means that decisions are made by people who are brilliant at their job as event professionals, but who doesn’t know the connection between the event itself and the company strategy – who doesn’t have the right competences for those strategic decisions (like I wrote about in the article ‘Education, education, education’). It is not easy hitting the target when you don’t know what you are aiming for! And not hitting the target equals not creating value, and that is simply a lose-lose situation.
This is why we need to bring meetings and events higher up in the hierarchy.
Meeting and events brought to C-level
I believe there are many benefits to bringing meetings and events up to C-level. The most important is making executives aware of the impact that meetings and events have on a company – and I am not only thinking about the money spent on an event (they are probably aware of that impact to the budget).
No, what I am thinking about is making the C-level executives aware of how you can use the investment in a meeting or event to create a bigger return on investment for the company by optimizing the events you hold. Using strategic tools like experience design for your event portfolio to increase learning and motivation at your events will future-proof them and ensure return on objectives for the participants.
Because events can do something special that other marketing efforts cannot, and we need them in our marketing mix. But we also need to create value with them and to prove this value to the c-level.
Introducing: Event strategy and event portfolio management
To help management understand the benefit and value of events, we need to create a true event strategy – not a plan or road map for the next event, but an overall vision for the long-term event goals that considers all influences and shows the way forward to a desired future.
This event strategy should align with our corporate strategy and support the principles and policies that we have on a corporate level.
Once we have created this event strategy, we need to keep track of our event portfolio and how each event aligns with the strategy. This job should be done by an Event Portfolio Manager who has the overall knowledge about all events in the organization: results, evaluations, learnings, timing, value etc. This person then becomes the liaison between the event planners and the c-suite.
Next up: Event culture
Another benefit of creating an awareness at C-level about the value that events drive is that it will help create a culture of respect around the work in meetings and events – both in and outside of the company or organization.
Developing an event culture in an organization starts with “US” not “THEM”. As mentioned earlier, events should not only be a task for the marketing department, but instead something we do together for our company – even if it is the event planners who physically do the job.
This means that it should be a part of the corporate culture to work with events and event strategy, because the events are part of the brand, and all employees should understand and support that.
Many event professionals are met with questions like “Oh, so you are a party planner” when they explain that they work in events – and often that is even the case when explaining the job to a colleague! Event planning is seen as fun and not necessarily work, but corporate and organizational events are huge and with big budgets – they aren’t just nice little projects that the marketing coordinator can have fun with when she is not busy making ads.
Meetings and events are important and deserve better, so let us join forces and help show the value we provide. Because let us face it: Who would want to live without events!?