How events can help agencies win new business

We discussed the ever-changing world of events in August’s episode of The New World of New Biz. Our Founder and host Katie Street was joined by:

Lynn Lester, Managing Director of Events at The Drum

Victoria Swift, Managing Director, VS Creative

Andy Headington, CEO at agency Adido 

During the session we covered:

What events do people want to attend and when?

Right at the beginning of the session, we ran a poll to uncover how people are feeling about live events and what days/times they are more likely to attend events now we are mostly working from home, the high-level results were:

·       73% of people want to go to live events again

·       The most popular events people want to attend are breakfast events and conferences

·       People want to attend events to gain knowledge, closely followed by networking

·       Wednesday and Thursday seemed the most popular days to go to events

·       Mornings, afternoons and straight after work are people’s preferred times to attend events compared to lunchtime and evenings

There is a desire to go back to normal. Katie said if you are going to trek into London, people may feel that they might as well do it for half a day rather than an hour so are happy to go to larger events like conferences as people want to learn when investing their time.

Ingredients for running a good event

Whether you are running online, hybrid or live events, Katie said you’ve got to have good data to be able to invite people. She also suggested you must think about your touchpoints, think of reasons to get in touch at multiple stages. Katie said even when she has all the speakers lined up, she doesn’t always announce them all as it gives future reasons to get in touch as some people need a few touchpoints before they register. Sending reminders is also important to ensure those that have signed up actually attend.

Andy Headington, CEO at agency Adido, said that it’s important to find good speakers, and you can do this by attending events and listening to people to see what is relevant to your audience. Andy also suggested that being consistent is key, sometimes it takes a while for new business opportunities to come from events you’ve organised because the timings might not be right, so be patient and nurture those relationships over time as it’s not a quick win.

Running live events during a pandemic

Victoria Swift, Managing Director of events company VS Creative, said that there is fatigue with online events and the key with live events is “building clients confidence which at the moment is rock bottom”. She expressed that as an events company they are used to doing risk assessments and covid is just another extension of that now. It’s important to think about arrival times, space, indoor-outdoor, making people feel safe and secure when attending live events.

Hybrid events

Lynn Lester, Managing Director of Events at The Drum has already organised two-hybrid events, for award shows, hosted at The Drum Labs in Shoreditch, London. She explained that tickets were snapped up straight away as people were keen to attend. She said, “it was humbling to see people together again”. Lynn highlighted that putting on Hybrid events are more expensive, but she said it works well for them because they do events all around the world so it means more people can get involved.

Think about the needs of your audience

Until the pandemic, Adido, hosted an annual live digital marketing event called Attention! Over the years Andy said they listened to their audience and adapted the schedule accordingly, changing timings, putting gaps in between speakers so people could network, check their emails etc. They also put on a keynote speaker at the end of the day and supplied drinks to celebrate the end of the event to encourage people to stay until the end and celebrate/network.

Involve your audience

“Some of the best speakers I’ve seen, make sure they include the audience,” said Katie. This is something Katie practices in the events she speaks at, and she said it’s important to “make sure you ask questions, get them involved, raise hands, do polls, it’ll mean they’ll be engaged and are actually listening”. Lynn said at The Drum they watch webinars together online so that they felt more involved and could discuss the goings-on together.

Technology platforms for live events

The panel discussed the technologies they have used when putting on online and hybrid events which include:

·       Vimeo

·       Crowdcast

·       CrowdComms

·       LinkedIn Live

·       YouTube

·       The Secret Event Service

·       Hopin

·       ZOOM

Networking tips

Victoria said, “I’m a fairly confident person but going to Madfest the other day, it’s all about networking and I’m standing there thinking I’ve forgotten how to do this, because I’ve been sitting in my own office like this, but by the end of the day I felt a real buzz”. With most people working from home for the past 18 months, there was a question from the audience asking for any good networking tips as the world opens up again.

The networking tips from the panel were:

·       Be confident

·       Be honest as to why you are there

·       Be brave

·       Practice

·       Use the apps that are available so you can connect with people ahead of the event

Katie also suggested, “help each other, introduce others and if you do that it’ll come back to you naturally”.

Make sure your speakers are diverse

When hosting events, having good content and speakers is key to success and determines whether people attend or not. Andy suggested it doesn’t matter where speakers are from but what they say, “the speakers make the event, not the names and where they are from”. Lynn said you need to look at who has done the circuit, who’s talking about something new, as you don’t want the same people that your audience have already listened to.

Katie said diversity is key when it comes to ideas and thoughts and Andy then informed the audience of the Dice Charter which provides guidelines to event organisers, encouraging their events to be diverse, access the guidelines here:

Events = experiences

Victoria said pre-pandemic the sky was the limit with events with the technology available, but covid has influenced this so she’s coming back to the dialogue and looking at the content and what people are getting out of it. “Less about amazing acts and fireworks, more about the person, the culture of companies,” said Victoria.

Victoria said she’s going to be listening a lot to clients, about how they want their guests to feel after leaving their events. Lynn agreed, saying you must think about your ‘why’ when putting on events and think about why people would want to attend.

Lynn said she recently hosted a charity event (non The Drum), an in-person event to thank trustees, it was by invitation only and there was no entertainment, but people came for a common purpose because people believed in it.

Winning new business off the back of events

Katie said, “by putting on The New World of New Biz webinar series and the other marketing we’ve done, the webinar has been by far the most successful strategy, many of our new clients have come off the back of our webinars”.

For Street agency’s clients, Katie said roundtable events work well, with a key speaker and we’ve helped connect our clients with some big brands from John Lewis to Barnardo’s and Revolut. “You not only learn from their problems but connect them with other people which from the poll results is what people want,” said Katie.

“Events are a good conversation starter of those people you want to talk to,” said Andy. He said he toyed with the idea of stopping their events but came to the conclusion that there is a long lead time with events, the payback can take time so it’s important to keep going and being consistent.

Victoria said her new business comes from word of mouth from the events she puts on. Lynn said for the clients they are working with, by putting on roundtables, panel events, speaking at festivals you come across as a thought leader which helps with new business.

The panel agreed that you have got to capitalise on any opportunity you get, don’t leave it too long after the event to act, and you’ve got to continue to nurture those relationships.

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By Michaela Dudfield
4th August 2021
5 minute read