The Importance of your Event Brand

As I sat down to write this I was tempted to kick off with a couple of classic arguments about “giving your branding the business edge” and “helping your business grow”, but I’m pretty sure you’ve heard it all before and know the what and why. Instead I would like to pay credit to those who have done it well, the events that have a good, immediately recognisable brand that communicates clear values and carries a reputation, and expand on that.  How can that be translated to your event?

Whether a conference or expo, consistent branding gives the impression of a well-constructed and organised event (regardless of the possible pandemonium behind the scenes) to your sponsors, delegates and guests. It’s not just a logo and tagline; it needs to convey professionalism, integrity and value to your stakeholders. What signals does your event brand send? Does it have longevity? Will it keep people coming back?

Hosting a conference takes a lot of planning and logistics so branding often gets left until the last minute. Invitations, emailers, sponsorship and registration brochures, press ads, presentations, not to mention pulling the handbook together and getting it printed before the event starts – assuming all your speakers show up!

It might seem like I’m waving a self-promotion flag right now, but as an event organiser you know it is crucial to align yourself with the right people to fulfill critical roles for your event; a creative agency is no exception. A team familiar with the mechanics of how events work, what is involved and what can be done to make it easier for you is priceless. Take the time to consider your suppliers and partners; it could help take your event to the next level. Everything you do, each element from the colours and texture of your signage and collateral to the staff you hire, should be carefully thought out and reflect your event brand.

Great spiel, but can I walk the talk? We are involved in over 10 separate events in Australia this year and I would like to share one particular success with you. We are proud to be the creative agency and branding partner for Carbon Expo Australasia, now going into its fifth year. It is the premier carbon-centred conference in the Asia-Pacific and has drawn the attention of rivals from Singapore and Europe. Five years ago we pitched for the account from a blank canvas and we have enjoyed being part of the incredible growth year to year. Originally on the Gold Coast, it moved to Melbourne in its 3rd year to facilitate its expansion and development.

We manage the entire event brand for the conference director, looking after all the general paraphernalia including sponsorship and registration brochures, advertising, website, emailers and signage needs, for both the event and sponsors where required. We also look after media, managing webcasting and photography. To see the professional result of end-to-end brand management, visit their website carbonexpo.com.au

Most events that I have been to are well planned and I take my hat off to the organisers and their ability to take an idea and deliver an expo of quality exhibitors or a conference bursting with satisfied delegates. All you need to do is take that knowledge and power to achieve and ice the cake with a strong and consistent brand.

Phil Winton is the Creative Director and CEO of Admedia Creative.

Shifting Out of Broadcast Mode

With the widespread acceptance of social networking as a viable means of business communication, professional conference organisers have more power than ever to promote their events. Sarah Mitchell explains why adopting an engagement model is vital for your success.

Social media has become the great equaliser for corporate promotion. No longer are we at the mercy of PR agencies or media gurus simply because of their connections. Even the sole proprietor now has the ability to attract attention and get their news and events out to a wide audience without a big budget.

It’s not hard to embark on a social media campaign to build interest in your next event. With little more than a faint idea of how to navigate the internet, you can set up a Facebook page, start a LinkedIn discussion group or tweet your very first event registration notice. Social networking tools are designed for ease of use and even the most reluctant PCOs can quickly become converts.

The barrier to success comes because most people forget the credo of social media is that it has to be social. Because we’ve been conditioned to broadcast our event details to every corner possible, it’s easy to lapse into a one-way communication where we’re doing all the talking.  Operate in an outbound broadcast mode – the error of many organisations and almost all newcomers to social networking – and you’ll never gain influence with your audience.  The people you’re most trying to reach won’t even bother to tune in.

Moving into a true model of engagement isn’t has difficult as you may think. There’s no reason to go ‘off message’ either. Consider everything you’re doing to be part of a conversation. Craft your posts and profile updates like you are speaking with one person. As with face-to-face communications, make sure you’re asking questions and answering questions asked of you.  Say hello and goodbye, address people by name and always thank anyone who has shared your information. These little touches are easy to do and attach a human flair to your brand.

Make no mistake, creating a socially engaging profile for your company can be time consuming. When you move away from broadcast mode, you put yourself in the role of content curator. Since you’re not talking about yourself all the time, you need to find relevant information to share with your audience. Jay Baer at Convince and Convert {1} conducted research showing the sweet spot for content curation is a 40/60 split; 40 per cent of your social media activity points back to you, 60 per cent is external to your business.

There’s no need to panic because you probably already know where to find the other 60 per cent of the content. Your first stop should be speakers and sponsors for your event. These people usually jump at the chance to contribute original content or are delighted to have you share something they’re already written. The daily newspaper, industry publications and your favourite blog posts all contain content you can share with your audience.

Your corporate message can stay the same; just put it in a friendly wrapper. Next time you think about sharing a media release, preface the title with a “Guess what’s happening?” sentence. When you post an event on Twitter, add a few words to grab the attention of your reader like “Hot topic” or “Check out this line-up of speakers”.  Readers soon get the idea they’re dealing with real people, not just a talking head. Once you have their attention, the conversation really begins.

Sarah Mitchell is Director – Site Content at AMMA miningoilandgasjobs.com. She frequently writes and speaks on the broad topics of social media and content marketing. You can reach her at smitchell@miningoilandgasjobs.com.



THE RISKS AND REWARDS OF PCO BUSINESS MODELS

Analysing the risks and rewards of engaging a professional conference organiser is an essential element of planning an event.

And deciding exactly what role the PCO will play is the key to a happy relationship between the client and the successful tender for the conference organising business.

Companies and organisations who sign up a PCO to manage their event without fully understanding the contract are risking an unhappy ending – with equally unhappy ramifications for the whole PCO industry, according to Francis Child, managing director of Sydney-based PCO Conference Action.

“One of the concerns that the Professional Conference Organisers Association has is that when clients sign up with organisers without understanding what they are signing up to, they are getting badly burned at the end,” says Child.

“The end result is not good for the industry as a whole, as next time that event will take their organising in-house and the industry has lost that piece of business. Unethical practices are messing up the whole market.”

There are three business models which are followed when appointing a PCO. Clients should consider whether the organiser will provide services as a consultant (providing advice but not getting involved), an agent (engaging suppliers such as venue, audio-visual, catering, talent etc) or as a principal (engaging the suppliers in its own name and requiring you to reimburse the costs).

Different legal and financial outcomes arise from each “model”, says Child.

Clients should carefully consider the model offered by the PCO, and check that the written contract deals with at least the following issues:

  • Who enters into (and is liable for) contracts with suppliers;
  • What is the budget for the event and what is the procedure for varying it if circumstances change?
  • What powers to direct the event manager (and powers of veto) do you retain?
  • What cancellation arrangements apply?
  • How are the funds managed, and what are the banking arrangements? Many PCOs will want to control the funds, but that can mean a loss of control for the client. Controlling the purse strings can be an important means of quality control and maintaining bargaining power.
  • What happens to any surplus of revenue over costs?
  • How is GST paid and managed? If you are reimbursing supplier costs paid by the organiser, the organiser would be entitled to a tax credit for the GST paid, so you shouldn’t have to pay it too.
  • What fee is payable to the event manager?

Child cites a case where, at the end of an event, the client believed the PCO had charged them $200,000 more than they were expecting.

“Legally, the PCO charged what they had said, but what the client had effectively done was taken the PCO on as principal and lost control of their event. The problem was the association instead of making $130,000, lost $30,000 on their event and subsequently took the work in-house next time.

“Make sure you see contracts before making the decision on the tender, and be sure you understand the risks and rewards to what you are signing up for,” he says.

“This helps safeguard the industry as a whole.”

Potential clients should also ask the PCO whether it accepts commissions from suppliers, either as “reverse payments” or other “in-kind” benefits such as complimentary services or discounted goods.

If commissions are not disclosed to the client, the PCO has a conflict of interest. Supplier selection should ideally be on merit alone. If the fee quoted is substantially lower than others, commissions may be involved. Clients should insist that commissions or inducements are disclosed in writing and reserve the right to discuss such matters directly with the suppliers.

In some cases, undisclosed commissions can be a breach of the law. Clients can retain the right to contact suppliers and obtain quotes independently.

Contract terms and conditions should be settled and agreed (and contracts signed) before the supplier commences work.

Some issues that should be considered in relation to supplier contracts are:

  • What will the supply cost and what scope is there for variation of cost? Are there circumstances in which the supplier can increase the costs?
  • What is included for the fee? Is the fee all-inclusive or are there extras or costs that will be charged in addition to the agreed fee?
  • Cash-flow – when is the supplier to be paid? You should avoid paying too much in advance. Payment should be linked to the achievement of milestones wherever possible.
  • Description of the goods or services should be as accurate as possible and where buying services describe the outcomes you want, not the work, wherever possible.
  • Cancellation – how is this managed? It is often overlooked. A supplier may be entitled to charge some of its fee if the event is cancelled, but unless the event is cancelled at very short notice, the supplier should not be entitled to the whole fee. Cancellation needs to be considered from the perspective of the delegates and needs to be considered when preparing the terms and conditions of attendance.
  • Programme change – unforeseen circumstances can prevent a speaker or supplier from turning up on the day. Your contract with delegates should reserve the right to make programme changes where necessary.
  • Intellectual property ownership – if the supplier is performing creative work, such as creating a website, ideally you should own the intellectual property, or at least obtain an exclusive licence of the material as a compilation of inputs.
  • Trade Practices Act – you should not be required to purchase products from other suppliers (third line forcing) or to on-sell products to your delegates at agreed prices (resale price maintenance). There are many other possible risks under that legislation.
  • Avoid agreeing to indemnity clauses wherever possible. These clauses expose you to liability that can be much higher than your ordinary liability under the law. Liability under such clauses will, in many cases, not be covered by insurance.
  • Ask for the contact to be signed by directors of the company. If that is impracticable, the CEO or general manager is next best. Be sure the person signing has authority to sign.