Our first online #eventprofstalk hackathon took place in April 2020 and was a huge success – a fantastic and inspiring collaboration of our worldwide event professionals community, at a time when the industry was first feeling the effects of the global pandemic.
Since April, we have seen multiple industries devastated by the commercial and social impacts of COVID-19, and none more so than that of meetings, incentives, conferences and events. In classic gung-ho response, the summer saw the worldwide #WeMakeEvents movement gather stride in appealing to governments to provide financial support to our industry, and it is positive forces for change such as this that will see us survive beyond COVID-19.
With no support in sight, we will need to continue providing ourselves with the tools for resilience, agility, flexibility and success; and with this in mind the second online #eventprofstalk hackathon took place from 22-24 October. The challenge this time was to ‘Develop a 12-month sales and marketing plan for an event agency’, adjusting the current business offering of an event agency and their partners for the post COVID-19 world. This meant: rethink, reevaluate, redesign, readapt, reinvent and recreate all the existing sales and marketing processes. The group needed to work collaboratively with fellow #eventprofs to develop a concrete action plan for the next 12 months, with actionable outcomes.
At 8pm BST on 22 October, a group of 16 #eventprofs came together using a plethora of digital tools across different time zones to unleash our collective ‘hive mind’. Using Slack and Google Docs as the initial means of collaboration and communication, we tackled the set objectives for the next 12 months. The business objectives for the sales and marketing plan were divided into three categories: high, medium and low risk. This will help the organisation to set a clear vision for the next 12 months, develop online solutions and incorporate post-covid business goals.
The high-risk category included objectives set for the next 6 months, medium-risk objectives will be set from 7 months into the plan, and low-risk will cover the last few months into the campaign. Risk categories are based on rules and regulations determined by COVID19. Categories are flexible and dependent on rules and legislation in the local areas for COVID19. If low-risk is predicted to be earlier than anticipated, then adjustments were made to the timeline for each category.
The plan needed to cover the following chapters, and we kicked off with a whirlwind of creative brainstorming that put meat on the bones of each of these areas:
- Objectives and business goals
- Business development
- Communication & social media marketing
- Creative solutions
- Community management
- Strategic partnerships
- CSR & Sustainability
- Sales Deck
- KPIs & Evaluation
Seeing the wealth of high quality, realistic ideas unfold at pace before our eyes was testament to the hotbed of knowledge, experience, creativity and dogged determinedness that characterises MICE professionals. In that moment we were once again reminded of the potent adrenaline and pride that comes from creating and delivering live events, and the power of a group of people that have made a living on solutions-based hard graft.
The development of ideas and suggestions made showed not only decades of collective experience, but a huge progression of knowledge and adaptation in the last six months alone. We are all now well-versed in the existing pros and cons of a life lived online when there is no alternative, and phrases such as ‘webinar fatigue’ and ‘the new normal’ are common parts of our vocabulary. We were able to use this newly-acquired knowledge to foresee the challenges that lie ahead for the MICE industry, and actively include actionable solutions to combat these within our plan. We are all living in an environment where the regulations and subsequent impacts change more rapidly than any we have ever known; therefore building fast flexibility, resilience and adaptability into the strategy were vital for its success.
Inside two hours, the proposed content for the entire strategy had been emptied from our minds, stripped down to the most relevant points, and divided up amongst us for write-up and finesse. By the following afternoon, we had a completed plan and come lunchtime on 24 October, this had been aesthetically transformed into a vital tool to carry an event agency through the challenging unknowns and restrictions of the next 12 months.
Our aim was to inspire, motivate, and equip MICE professionals that have been on unstable ground, providing a solid and pragmatic framework with tangible outcomes that can be implemented straight away. The hackathon was an opportunity to refine and reflect on the endless learnings we have encountered of the past six months, as well as to keep the spark of our professional community alive and thriving whilst so much of our usual work sits dormant.
Highlights from April’s hackathon included collaboration, intercultural exchange, new connections, writing a business plan, learning from more experienced #eventprofs, teamwork, working with an international team and producing something together; and these were once again brought to the forefront of our minds and fingertips in a 48 hour period that reignited value, focus and determination.
Meet and connect with team members
The business plan was written by Rosie Hawkins (IG: @redhawk.events), Irina Graf (IG: @themiceblog, Twitter: @themiceblog), Heidi Legein (IG: @themiceguru, Twitter: @themiceguru), Annu Panchal (IG: @anzyp1, Twitter: @anzyp1), Meg Strahle (IG: @megstrahle, Twitter: @megstrahle), Lisa Sweeting (IG: @greensenseevents, Twitter: @lisasweeting01), Faye Cardwell (IG: @Faye_Cardwell, Twitter: @fayewinecom), Wendy Hodgson (IG: @wendyaltermark) and Natasha Russell (IG: @rnatasharussellevents, Twitter: @natasharevents).
We want to thank the entire online community for supporting this initiative. We hope that throughout this process, all the participants and observers have been able to have personal wins, be it learning a new tool, developing a new idea or meeting new colleagues. For us this process has been a rewarding journey working with everyone, and we hope to keep in touch and welcome you to our future events.
Testimonial Faye Cardwell
This was my first experience of a hackathon and I’m sure it won’t be my last. The hackathon started on Thursday night at 9pm with a chat on Slack. After a few starting points, chapters were laid out, a google doc was created and the team was busy typing in their thoughts for every point. With sustainable-event experts, MICE gurus and corporate client queens in the team there was a great range of ideas to collate. This went on until eye-fatigue set in and started up the morning after. A zoom call on Friday evening gave us the chance to put faces to names, discuss our plan and make some real connections. The writing continued on Saturday with each member looking after a section, fleshing out or condensing points where needed before transferring everything to a graphics file. Beautifying and editing continued until we had a document everyone was proud to put their name to.
Bringing people with completely difference experiences and perspectives together for some collective brainstorming on how the events industry can move forward in these challenging times was a brilliant idea. I’ve been organising wine events for 17 years so for me it was a great way to take a side-step, get a better understanding of the wider events industry, make some connections and get some inspiration on how I should be advancing my business. As small business owners or freelancers, our competitive advantage lies in our flexibility and creativity. Being part of a team of industry professionals doing an exercise like this is a great way to share ideas, experiences and resources. If covid-19 taught us one thing it’s that we’re in this together.
Access the full business plan
And now, the wait is finally over (in case you’ve seen the short teasers on our Instagram account) – below is the full business plan, a ’12-month sales and marketing plan for an event agency.’ We hope that as much as it helped us to develop our business strategy, it will also help you to take your business forward and navigate through the uncertainty that we are facing right now.#eventprofstalk hackathon_Sales and Marketing plan