Being brave with your brand: the shift in internal and external communication and the role of events. Interview with Dagmar Mackett, Global Development Director, DRPG

Current global issues such as diversity and inclusion, COVID-19 and presidential elections have triggered brands to take a stand. These crises have brought a democratisation of communication in how brands can involve their audience so that they also have a say. 

Global issues have placed the spotlight on brand value and brand purpose to break down barriers of uncomfortableness and communicate differently with their customers. This new focus applies both to external and internal communication. In this session at the Event Planners Talk e-conference in Bern on 30 August with Dagmar Mackett, Global Development Director DRPG, we discussed some recent examples of the trends shaping our society and how these trends translate to internal and external brand communication and events. We examined cases of ‘brave’ brands who are being vocal about communicating their values, purpose and showcasing authenticity.

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Event Planners Talk conference in Bern, Switzerland, is going ahead as planned, from 27–30 August 2020

When the events industry came to a halt in March because of the rapid spread of COVID-19, we had to stop our event promotion for the time being. Our weekly #eventprofstalk Twitter chat rapidly became a regular hub for knowledge exchange and business advice, helping event professionals navigate through this crisis. In recent weeks, we have focused on how we can add value remotely to our online community while following governmental guidance to stay at home. 

Following announcements regarding an easing of restrictions on public life and movement, with initial liftings on social distancing taking place around the world, we have been constantly assessing the situation. However, in the meantime, we also aim to communicate our action plan for the Event Planners Talk conference due to take place this year in Bern from 27–30 August. In the following paragraphs, we want to share with you a full update on our recent online activities and those leading to the conference in Bern.

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Business models of online events: Interview with Bogdan Maran, Founder at Visual Hive and AMMP

Over the past seven weeks, the event industry has experienced a rapid digital transformation. From working from home to shifting communication and meetings online and hosting virtual events.

Up until the COVID-19 outbreak, only a few event agencies were ready for online events. However, very quickly, everyone had to adapt because it was the only possible option. When businesses reopen, things will never return to where they were before, and online events will significantly increase.

We are not prepared for online. We know how to monetise live events, but the same rules don’t apply to the virtual environment. Online requires rethinking current business models and creating new revenue streams.

To learn more about business models of online events, we interviewed Bogdan Maran, Founder at Visual Hive, about what event planners can do now to adjust their business models to online. Bodgan is an experienced international photographer and videographer who, after working with Splento, has now founded Visual Hive. His passion has always been how to maximise the value of visual content. In addition to creating visual content, the company focuses on collecting and analysing data around it. It looks at artificial intelligence, the blockchain and how to measure live spending. They are building a sponsorship engine that matches brand and event audiences, such as at mass-participation sports, and how to maximise revenue and interaction in terms of creating a bespoke online experience. The second company where Bogdan is a co-founder, AMMP, is a production company that examines strategy, production, delivery and analytics. They also (due to event cancellations related to COVID-19) pivoted to online event production and broadcasting, but were already well prepared for this and very quickly hit the ground running, helping their existing customers to pivot to online events.     

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Let’s develop a business plan for an event agency affected by COVID-19

The world for all of us has changed overnight. The defining moment for us as event professionals was on 28 February when the ITB Berlin was cancelled, followed by IMEX Frankfurt cancellation on 11 March. Two big European trade shows that were significant for us, but also for numerous international event agencies and suppliers involved directly or indirectly.  

In the current situation each day feels like a month, and the news is not becoming more promising for the event industry as we know it. It might take months before the business gets to (the new) normal, and it is clear that certain things will need to change in our business strategy to adapt to the new reality.

We’ve been reading the unfortunate news of event businesses needing to furlough employees or closing down, it breaks our hearts. As much as it might be hard now, success comes often when we’re faced with adverse situations. The only thing we can do now is to come together as an industry and think about solutions that make our businesses more secure in the future.

The way we work and communicate will also evolve and take place increasingly online when the businesses reopen. That knowledge means it will require adjusting and evolving the current business models of an event agency.

We don’t have the solution now, but collectively we can find it. We are excited to host our first online #eventprofstalk hackathon about ‘creating and developing a 12-month business plan for an event agency affected by COVID-19.’

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Trust reduces complexity: tips for successful collaboration between event agencies, convention bureaus and venues

Event design is a highly current topic in the events industry. We asked our community on Twitter how they define event design, and the various definitions highlighted how complex the definition and the process is and how it can mean various things to different stakeholders. 

One definition that gave a good introduction to our live session in Rorschach, Switzerland was offered by Robert Bagust, Worldwide Congress Manager at Bristol Myers Squibb, who shared that ‘It’s starting with “purpose”. You cannot think about (event) design until you know what it is you are trying to do. Perhaps you are attempting to solve a business challenge; an event is just one option to consider…nail this clearly, then comes design. For the event design phase, it’s about putting into place all the required elements to help you achieve the objectives you’ve set out… the design is then “everything”…’

After covering the topic of event design extensively online on our weekly #eventprofstalk Twitter chat, we hosted a small regional event on the 8th of November 2019 at Würth Haus Rorschach in Rorschach, Switzerland. This session took place as part of the #GrenzenlosesEventdesign educational trip organised by the Destinations Circle networking group and the Convention Bureaus Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau, Convention Partner Vorarlberg and German Convention Bureau. 

The focus of the discussion this time was how local stakeholders can support event planners to design more impactful events. Our panel included Anja Sachse, co-manager at the St. Gallen-Bodensee Tourism, Anja Gunz, responsible for Sales & Marketing at Convention Partner Vorarlberg and Ursula Kaufmann, responsible for sales at Kongresskultur Bregenz. This session was moderated by Irina Graf, founder of The MICE Blog Event Planners Talk. 

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How micro-moments are taking event personalisation to the next level: #eventprofstalk Twitter chat recap

An event experience comprises many micro-moments that consumers undertake on their customer journey as they interact with an event. Do event planners look at each customer interaction strategically, making it an ‘experience’? 

According to Google’s report from 2015 ‘Think with Google’, micro-moments ‘are critical touchpoints within today’s consumer journey, and when added together, they ultimately determine how that journey ends’. In 2019, ‘micro’ is having its moment again because event and travel professionals have begun to highlight the benefits of having bite-size experiences, using terms such as micro-experience, micro-travel, micro-learning and micro-influencers in their corporate communication.  

It is understood that micro-trends are all about more personalised experiences that help individuals save time, be more efficient and productive and obtain results. Therefore, we wanted to understand better what micro-moments have to do with changing attendee needs and expectations.

To find more about this growing trend in connection with the event industry, we hosted an #eventprofstalk Twitter chat on 7 October 2019 about micro-moments and below share with you the highlights from our community members.

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How can collaboration lead to innovation: #eventprofstalk Twitter chat with Becky Dempsey, Account Manager at The Collaboration Company

Collaboration is particularly interesting for the events industry because event planners work so often with venues, suppliers, destination management companies (DMCs) and clients, yet it sometimes can seem that the various stakeholders do not truly collaborate, but actually cooperate or coordinate an event. Therefore, collaboration is the most misused and misunderstood word in business. 

Collaboration vs cooperation and coordination 

Have you come across phrases such as ‘We’re really good at collaboration, we have Skype, shared servers and online tools, so we can always collaborate?’. According to Becky Dempsey, Account Manager at The Collaboration Company and who will also speak at our annual conference next year, these examples are referring to ‘Sharing information and connection, not collaboration.’ 

Have you come across the phrase ‘All my team collaborate on an event because we have the client in mind and are making sure the event is right?’ Here Becky explained that ‘This is working to a shared goal, so maybe more cooperation than collaboration.’ A further example is when collaboration is confused with coordination, ‘We collaborate with all of our suppliers to ensure the best event.’ Here, Becky suggested that this is yet not fully related to collaboration, but rather suppliers are working in parallel on their own section of the event; therefore, it is more about coordination rather than collaboration.

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‘Business etiquette on social media: authenticity vs professionalism’: #eventprofstalk Twitter chat recap

Authenticity is a widely used word in the business world. Companies strive to be perceived as authentic and human, but being authentic also means being ready to show vulnerability. In recent years, authenticity has become such an overused word that it diminishes its meaning in the business context; after all, do companies really need to be authentic? How can they be authentic? What does it actually mean for a company to be authentic? Do the companies need to be authentic or do the people working there make the company authentic? 

To set this topic strait and clarify these questions, we hosted an #eventprofstalk Twitter chat on 16 September discussing authenticity vs professionalism on social media and asked our community how they define authenticity and when authenticity crosses the line and stops being professional.

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Strategies for finding the right balance between generating PR and profit for events: #eventprofstalk Twitter chat recap

Events cost a considerable amount of time and money to produce. Therefore, it’s necessary to define clear objectives and how to achieve them. Very often, events have two main objectives: generating either PR or profit. If the event can achieve both, it’s a phenomenal success and means that the event has the right strategy in place, committed partners and sponsors, a strong community, engaging content and an effective speaker programme. These factors will help create a long-term PR strategy that can generate profit in a sustainable manner. 

It is not easy to find the right balance straight away, and before generating profit, a strong PR strategy should be in place. To clarify this area and receive more input on the overall approach regarding whether events are designed to generate PR or profit and how to balance both, we put out the question to our community during the weekly #eventprofstalk Twitter chat on 9 September 2019, insights of which we want to share with you in this article below. 

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The fundamentals of event design that will guide #eventprofs to deliver more impactful events: #eventprofstalk Twitter chat recap

Event design is a hot topic this year. It’s good to see that more and more event planners and clients are recognising the importance of event design and approaching their events from this perspective. An event entails more than the logistical part of booking the infrastructure. It’s important to define ‘why’ an event is needed in the first place as well as its purpose. To get to the depth of the subject, we hosted an #eventprofstalk Twitter chat on 2 September 2019, and in the following post, I want to share with you what our wonderful community has to say on the topic of event design. 

Let’s start from the basics: What is event design? 

According to Irina Graf, founder of The MICE Blog and Event Planners Talk, ‘Event design is looking at each individual aspect of an event to visualise how attendees will interact with the event and their journey. It’s carefully choosing the elements that will complement each other to design a seamless experience for attendees.’ 

Becky Dempsey, Programme Account Manager at The Collaboration Company, shared that she ‘always seen event design as the venue, content, format, layout and atmosphere that all goes into communicating your message in the best possible way.’ 

For Pauline Kwasniak, digital marketer, writer, speaker and event planner at TurnedSee and Mbooked, event design is ‘a visual strategy of an outlook, schedule and the whole concept of an event. It includes everything from marketing, plan, policy, speakers, objectives, wishes to suppliers. For me, event design is a strategy to deliver that event with all aspects.’ 

Valerie Wagner, founder of the Hotel O Motion blog and podcast, shared that for her, it’s ‘the interaction of all actors with a focus on the goal/result of the event. How can I design an event? How can I convey the message? When participants are asked after the event what that event was about, what should they say? Around these aspects, the event will be “designed”, using all means of communication at one’s disposal.’ 

LeAnna Toups-Bennett, project manager at Louisiana Department of Education, shared that ‘Event design is all factors of an event that, when combined, portray the event’s brand, purpose and mission.’ 

Robert Bagust, Worldwide Congress Manager at Bristol-Myers Squibb, emphasised the importance of having a purpose, ‘It’s starting with “purpose”. You cannot think about (event) design until you know what it is you are trying to do. Perhaps you are trying to solve a business challenge; an event is just one option to consider…nail this clearly, then comes design. For the event design phase, it’s about putting into place all the required elements to help you achieve the objectives you’ve set out… the design is then “everything”…’

Robert Dunsmore, Freelance/independent Creative Director, added that one of the important attributes of event design is culture ‘The culture, idea platform, voice and personality of your event—everything else is just infrastructure.’

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