Insurance Matters

Insuring against a range of potentially disastrous events – not just natural disasters – is essential for PCOs, according to Jason Holmes, of H2 Insurance Solutions.

“What can you do to protect the financial investment of your client in the case of, for example, a fire at the venue you have booked?” he asked delegates at the PCO Association conference.

With the recent history of so many natural disasters – the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, earthquakes in Christchurch and Japan, floods and cyclones in Queensland, hurricanes in the United States and floods in Thailand – PCOs should be thinking of how to best protect themselves and their clients if the worst happens.

Potential risks include damaged venues, gas leaks, death or serious workplace injury, airport closures because of bad weather, adverse weather at outdoor venues (including marquees) and the non-appearance of key speakers for your client’s conference. Circumstances may also prevent overseas delegates from getting to the conference.

Holmes said other issues include communicable diseases such as bird flu or SARS also need to be considered, and insurance cover for terrorism events is also being asked about more and more.

He said PCOs should make their clients aware of the need for insurance, assess the risk and establish how high it is, then decide whether to accept that risk or to insure against it.

The next decision is how much to insure for, whether that is gross revenue, costs and expenses or net profit.  The minimum should be insurance for full costs and expenses, he said.

PCO businesses need professional indemnity, public liability, business package (property theft, vehicles) and general property (laptops etc) insurance, he said. All PCOs should at least have liability insurance so they are not responsible for something that is the responsibility of the conference owner or promoter.

“Insurance does matter,” he told delegates. “Protect the finances of your conference and make sure your client knows it.”

PCOa concerned hotel occupancies and high CBD rates will drive meetings offshore

DELEGATES attending the annual Professional Conference Organisers Association meeting in Auckland (02-04 December) can expect to hear both sides of the meetings and conventions market data ‘divide’, with conflicting views on the industry’s health.

“We have regular reports from many government and private agencies saying business is booming and Australian hotels are showing good occupancy levels, but this is attributable to growth in the corporate sector, not necessarily the MICE sector,” said conference organiser Peter Sugg.

“I have anecdotal evidence from several Association members that the International business meetings market is a lot softer this year with  the downturn tipped to continue in 2012

Personally, I believe international conference business is well down on the same period in 2010, due to high accommodation demand, higher venue costs and the high Australian dollar.

Although the domestic Association meetings market is still robust, we are now competing with the corporate sector for space in the CBD, and they will pay considerable more to secure availability.

Room rates in Australian capital cities are a concern for the PCO Association, which could lead a switch to regional or offshore venues for meetings and conferences in 2012/13.

“I was quoted rates of A$800 per night in Melbourne and between A$650 and A$750 a night in Sydney in November,” said Sugg.  “These rate levels.  Combined with the high dollar will not sustain the international meetings industry going forward”

We will be forced to find alternatives. The demand is there but is being driven by the corporate and resources sector.”

Simon Pryor, president of the Society for Association Executives says even the usually-reliable association sector has cut back on budgets for meetings and conferences.

Sugg said: “I agree with Simon that the association sector like other meetings businesses are reviewing conference budgets and cutting back on some aspects such as the grand conference dinner in favour of alternative options. This is just a consequence of global economic problems. A conference for 500 people over four nights might now be reduced to three nights, for example. What is more concerning is the possibility of self funded association members cutting back on actual participation in annual meetings.

The association market is still buoyant and reasonably reliable but it also is changing. It is harder to find venues to fit budgets in the central business districts of capital cities. I personally believe there will be more business for the regions and increased business going offshore.”

As well as the above insights into the market, delegates in Auckland also will have access to research data on the impact of the high Australian dollar, carbon tax, escalating venue costs, new IT applications, the impact of the internet and the fall-off in international meetings business to Australia.

Sugg, also MD for Brisbane-based AST Management, said the meetings and conference sector has had to cope with significant changes since the PCO Association last met in Hobart in December 2010.

“The pace of change and the way we have been doing business has changed substantially in the last year,” said Sugg. “We aim to provide members with new knowledge and understanding so that they can adapt to these changes. There are positives to come from the changes and new opportunities, but we still need to know how to best handle those changes and how they affect business going forward.”

Delegates also will be provided with the case studies on recent successful management practice as well as analyses of new opportunities becoming available in the market in Asia for Australian PCO’s.

The Auckland conference will also see the debut of the PCO’s own phone application, which is currently in final development stage.  All delegates including exhibitors will be able to download the app and log data into the system, allowing them to manage their own profiles.

The PCO Association is also reviewing its training and education programs to provide members with relevant programs in what it sees as an over-serviced market.

“There are far too many companies now offering training courses of varying degrees. It can be very confusing and costly if members commit to a course that is not suitable. Perhaps it is time to leave it to the professionals at the colleges and universities to provide a high standard of specialist training. We are looking at one-off training modules and moving to webinars to keep members up to date on issues and developments. The future of PCO education and training will be discussed in Auckland, which should result in  new guidelines on training courses.

“Training to a certain extent has been overtaken by technology,” said Sugg.

“There now are systems and programs that provide conference management literally at the push of a button. The whole process has been simplified, which has resulted in expansion of people calling themselves conference/event managers just because they have access to the tools. Also the development of internet programs and services has provided a whole new range of simple-to-use tools such as websites, social networks, email etc. No one medium is producing bulk results. There is also a cost factor on social networks that is not taken into account and that is the servicing, monitoring, writing content and constant updating. To maintain a social network conferencing site for say 12 months could cost anything up to $25,000 in staff  hours. This is often not economical or practical, especially when the service is perceived to be “free”.”

Keynote speakers scheduled for Auckland include Alan Trotter, chief executive Convention and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ); Anthony Wong, Malaysia-based president of World PCO Alliance, who will update members on the burgeoning Asia market; Inge Garofani, executive manager of the Business Events Council of Australia; Sarah Mitchell, chief executive of Content Marketing Institute, who will speak on managing content in relation to electronic messaging; Jane Fullerton-Smith, managing director of Greenshoots Pacific, speaking on managing sustainable systems and what going green really means and Luke Mason, a communications architect who will be explaining the world of ‘app’ technology and how to make best use of these services in relation to the meetings industry.

From 2012, future PCO annual conferences will be held in Australia for three years. Final dates and venues are still being discussed and will be announced in Auckland.

The Content Marketing Opportunity: Increased Attendance and Lower Costs

A revolution is sweeping the world of marketing and it’s sure to have an impact on the way conferences are organized and promoted. Sarah Mitchell explains why content marketing is the new way to build a loyal following for your events. 

Your number one job as a conference organiser is to get bums on seats, right? While good attendance numbers make everyone happy, great attendance numbers lead to bigger projects, better clients and more compensation.  If you’re taking a traditional approach to marketing your event, chances are you’ll never break into that top tier.

Traditional marketing relies on broadcasting a message in the hopes of finding customers. Often, this message is sprayed like buckshot into a fairly large segment of the population. Referred to as ‘outbound techniques’, the goal is to interrupt the attention of the intended recipient.  These strategies involve websites, newspapers, TV, radio, print publications, billboards, buses, park benches, telemarketing, email marketing – anywhere you think potential conference attendees might be spending time. With all these methods, once your event is over, you’re not left with much to show for your investment.

The change in consumer behaviour

Advances in technology – along with government regulations – have made it difficult to reach your target audience. Let’s face it; no one likes to be interrupted. Call screening, TIVO, satellite radio, online newspapers, privacy rights, and ‘do not call’ lists interrupt even the best marketing campaigns. Consumers have flocked to the internet where they can find everything they need to make informed buying decisions. That’s where content marketing comes in.

What is content marketing?

According to Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is the art of understanding exactly what your customers need to know and delivering it to them in a relevant and compelling way”. Content marketing focuses on giving your prospect the information they need to make the decision to attend your event. Good content pulls people in. If you’re the person consistently delivering the best content, you become a trusted resource. Instead of searching for information, your prospects come to you before they even hit the Google search bar.

It’s harder than it sounds. You can no longer rely on a single brochure or print advertisement to convince a potential candidate to invest in your event. A good flyer or web banner usually initiates a search for more information and they’ll expect to find it from you. An interesting website plus multiple content types like blog posts, case studies, white papers, customer testimonials, infographics and videos help position your event and establish you as an authority.

Here’s the best part – compelling content potentially becomes a long-term asset to your organisation. Unlike money spent on a radio advertisement – which evaporates the second the advert is aired – a well-written case study hangs around forever. A popular video often gets passed around from person to person, network to network and still be viewed long after your conference is finished. That never happens to a newspaper. A website developed for a specific conference can be used year-after-year and easily updated for little or no extra expenditure.

How do they find your information?

A content marketing strategy requires you to think like a publisher – in more ways than one. Just because you’ve developed content doesn’t mean anyone will find it. You also have to set up a distribution system which helps spread your message. Social media channels are a great way to build multiple networks of engaged fans willing to help you out.

Like content developed for a specific project, your social media profiles have long-term benefit. Social networks are incredibly fluid attracting fans and followers from all corners of the globe. These networks provide a target-rich environment for your promotional efforts.

That good news about content marketing

It sounds like a lot of work and it is, but the payback is significant. When you develop and implement a content marketing strategy, what you’re really doing is creating reusable assets. Unlike traditional marketing techniques that produce nothing more than a broadcast message, content is a tangible thing that can be used, re-used and reformatted for many different purposes.

Here’s the best part, according to Hubspot, inbound marketing (content marketing is considered an inbound technique) is a low-cost option. Compared to outbound techniques, leads generated through content marketing cost about 62% less.

The benefits of content marketing are many. By providing information, education and even entertainment, you can quietly establish yourself as an authority and convince people to attend your next event before you’ve even announced a date. Your marketing activities and expenditures are easily targeted at an ideal customer base instead of to the general public. You spend less money and build a valuable portfolio of content which continues to be an asset long after your event is over. Consumer behaviour has changed, it’s time for you to follow suit.


Recommended Resources

Content Marketing Institute – http://www.contentmarketinginstitute,com

Chief Content Officer Magazine –

Hubspot –

Global Copywriting Blog –,

Get Content Get Customers: Turn Prospects into Buyers with Content Marketing, Joe Pulizzi and Newt Barrett

Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) that Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business, Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman