Andrew Evans, divisional MD of Centaur Media and chair of the AEO’s FaceTime Working Group, explains why the association has insight firmly prioritised for 2016.
The events industry is made up of many different vibrant, dynamic and ambitious businesses, and in the UK they’re large and small but what unites them all (or at least it should), is a need for great market, sector, or customer insight to drive strategy and enable their success.
Progressive businesses rely on insight but all too often what should be considered a vital tool for event organisers is at risk of being undervalued with trading taking the priority of attention.
How an event organiser can set long-term strategy without having a deep understanding of what the market needs and wants confounds me. All too frequently we fall back on intuition, which is often confused with entrepreneurialism, but how can we know where future customers will come from, articulate their needs and know how they’ll react to our event propositions without insight?
Working with this insight is a skill and while larger organisers have structured themselves around this discipline, others rely on traditional marketing teams or event directors to interpret the future.
In the AEO, the events industry has the benefit of a robust and steadfast trade body representing its collective interests and one of its watchwords in 2016 is insight. This year alone the AEO is working on five major research projects on behalf of members.
Two of the projects, SASiE and the international research, both focus on the events market, its size, audience and global reach. This is particularly valuable for leaders who are responsible for driving growth and development of their businesses, whether in the UK or further afield. Our objective is to provide AEO members with a comprehensive understanding of the value of the UK events industry to the economy and demonstrate where growth opportunities exist.
By contrast, the AEO FaceTime initiative has commissioned two projects to deliver insight designed to enable member teams to sustain and grow individual events. The first project, the Power of Live Events, is complete and results are now available for AEO members to access via the FaceTime team. The findings prove the value of investing in live events compared to other forms of media such as print and broadcast.
These digestible and easily translated insights will support event sales and marketing teams in putting together a persuasive argument as to why their prospects and customers should invest in live events over other forms of promotion and marketing.
The second FaceTime project focuses on advocacy to understand the profile of what a high value visitor to an exhibition is and how, as a show advocate or conversation catalyst, they behave in terms of talking about the event afterwards - whether it’s days or weeks later. This large piece of research is currently underway and results are expected towards the end of the year. AEO members will be able to use the output to inform their strategy on how to identify and then engage with conversation catalysts from their markets.
For example, a potential outcome could include developing new, exciting show features, more engaging ways for the organiser and exhibitors to market to visitors and ultimately a more compelling value proposition to get the right audience to attend their events – in turn delivering greater value to exhibitors.
The final research piece is the annual AEO salary survey, which provides insight to help senior management, and HR professionals attract, retain and develop talent throughout their organisations.
Back in February, AEO chair Simon Kimble, highlighted some of the projects the AEO has created to maintain a strong industry community.
In attending our programme of events, members leave having harvested experiences from their peers and industry outsiders, which stimulate their thinking and challenge their preconceptions on how to operate in an ever-challenging environment. The largest of these events, the AEO Conference, is being held at The Grand, Brighton, on 8-9 September.
Today’s marketing landscape is littered with choices; unsurprisingly many of them are digitally led. But the events industry is alive and kicking. To maintain our share of the marketing spend it’s imperative that we understand how to shape our events for the industries that we serve - not for the short term but for the long term. If we’re to succeed, insight will be the key and the AEO is here to help.