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January 17, 2007

Are 70% of events unnecessary?

Are you sure your business trips to conferences, exhibitions and other events are necessary? Are you sure all the events you hold are worthwhile? If not then it’s time to take stock. Did you have to travel halfway around the world to meet with industry colleagues you could have met at home? Have you got a stand here just to be seen?

Not only can travelling to unnecessary events eat into your profits, but you’ll also be spending needless time out of the office, and, of course, your carbon footprint will be far bigger than it should – an increasingly key issue among customers and stakeholders.

What’s more, at some point you’ll have to justify your events spend, perhaps to the increasingly prevalent procurement professional. And unless you can prove you’re getting a return, your budget could be slashed, endangering those events you’re involved in that are effective and stopping you from holding and attending new ones that could also be of real benefit.

“A number of people travel overseas for conferences unnecessarily every year,” says Andrew Pearce, managing director of voice and web conferencing company Powwownow. “Conference and event organisers should go to more effort to make arrangements local to their delegates. Corporate social responsibility is an increasing factor in decision making. Many delegates merely attend an event for the purpose of keeping up appearances – they want to be seen there and yet don’t gain any real business benefit from attending.”

Green forces
Ian Irving, sales and marketing director at live marketing agency Sledge, agrees that many people attend or hold events unnecessarily, but believes green issues among others are making companies think again.

“Post Sept 11 we saw a huge decrease in corporate travel in the events and marketing industry sector,” he says. “Prior to this, international events travel was becoming increasingly popular and in many cases it was expected for delegates to travel for meetings, conferences and launches. It is my belief that issues such as lengthy travel times due to security, corporate social responsibility and carbon neutrality issues are the driving force behind this drop in international jet setting.”


Sledge sales and marketing director Ian Irving

With respect to holding events, Irving is keen to point out the importance of making sure a live marketing campaign has a clear set of objectives at the outset, which can help establish its relevance.

“Pre-event evaluation is key in the planning process,” he says. “Event organisers and clients need to spend more time evaluating the events programme and ensure that all issues such as spend, travel time and location are suitable to the end objective and the end experience of their target delegate.”

With delegates becoming increasingly environmentally aware, unnecessary travel and overt ostentation could lead to disaffection and an unsuccessful event.

“Even if a delegate is excited by the fact that they are due to attend a conference in San Francisco for two days, their enthusiasm will waiver after a four-hour check-in, a seven-hour flight, connecting journey, hotel check-in and jet lag!” says Irving. “No one will get the best from their delegates at the event and it will be unlikely to create any advocates of your plight!”


Demand exceeds supply
Despite all the factors identified by Irving that are causing companies in touch with their market to seriously consider the necessity of holding and attending certain events, he also points to a force pushing events overseas.

“The problem lies with the lack of venues in the UK,” he says. “Reflecting the increased use of live events in a marketing strategy, it is increasingly difficult to find venues to accommodate the increased use of live events in Britain.”

Even so, Powwownow’s Pearce firmly places the responsibility of educating businesses about the issue of unnecessary events firmly with the professionals.

“The events industry should respond to the financial burdens of small to medium-sized companies, the time and effectiveness constraints on all business professionals and the environmental awareness which is driving a responsibility to protect and care for our world,” he says. “Locally based events should be run wherever possible and a range of alternative services should be provided to delegates – encouraging them to be responsible yet still providing them with the best networking and business benefits of the event. Audio, video and web conferencing services are cheap or even free to offer to delegates and are increasingly considered a viable option for business communication as an alternative to business travel – saving time, money and the environment.”

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