Newsletter Issue 12 : February 2015

THE GENERALIST INTERVIEW | RECRUITMENT TIPS | SALARY SURVEY | NEWS | JOB BOARD | GCN NEWS

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THE GENERALIST - INTERVIEW WITH STEVE SCOTT

Steve is the owner and MD of Conferenz - New Zealand’s largest events company. Conferenz is just about to pass out of its teenage years and creates a prodigious number of events for the small team of 40 that work with him. Steve is proud to have been part of the events industry for over 25 years.

You’ve worked in both the large UK events market and the smaller New Zealand market, how do they differ?
I’ve really enjoyed attending both the Conference Summit and the Event Marketing Summit over the past few years and I am struck by how very similar both the events and the operators in smaller and larger markets are. Despite market size differences and many differing market challenges, the essence of what makes a successful event is the same. The challenge of keeping up with the evolution of marketing (and the tech platforms & investment needed) is the same. The challenge of establishing a true role as content contributor and buy-sell facilitator is the same. So there is more to say in answering the question “how are they alike?”. However, all small-market operators will know that one of the most significant factors is your place in the market - your role, your reputation and your willingness to “do the right thing”. Operating in a small market means you have to be there (on the ground) for the long term. Small markets mean you can’t burn people and bridges. It often means that influential stakeholders like associations and the government are your main competitors. You have to be prepared to work with and around them, give way sometimes and rely on your ability to be better than them to succeed.

Small markets are wide markets. Not deep. This means that you have to keep a wide brief in order to survive.

What is your view of the outlook for events in your region?
New Zealand was a FIFO in the global financial crisis - lucky enough to be one of the First In/First Outs. Not only that, but we were remarkably resilient as a nation during 2009-2011. Consequently, we have had a few years now of increasing prosperity and business growth. But those early days were tough. Our own revenues dived 40% over a six month period. Like many operators, this forced us to become extremely creative and focused. We managed well and have been climbing steadily since. It is notable too that we launched some of our biggest events during that period. And sponsorship revs have continued to grow year-on-year since 2009. I’ve noticed over the past 12 months a national mood shift from resilient optimism to more aggressive planning for success. When you start to talk numbers in NZ terms, they immediately sound small compared to larger markets and it is difficult to gain a national picture, however the Auckland region business events plan has targeted a boost from $236m to $430m for its conventions sector.

The outlook is definitely positive.

Tell us a little about the business event models you work with.
Conferenz is built upon 5 pillars:

  • Summits
  • Expo / confex
  • Awards
  • Managed events
  • Management training

None of our models or formats will come as any surprise to anyone. They are the same the world over. We focus on being content led to attract the high value attendees that our sponsors expect. We bring creative ideas into agenda, peer-to-peer networking, and in bringing the buy-sell side together.

Our biggest challenge is the same as everyone else’s - how to meet the year-on-year significant increase in expectations our customers have of their experience with us and, in fact, our own growing expectations of ourselves and our events. This sets up the inevitable challenge of containing the consequent cost creep and playing catch up with the revenues to improve the balance.

My biggest lesson over the past few years has simply to dream your events big enough. Secure your team’s belief in the vision. And keep pushing hard to grow the event into the vision.

What are the advantages and opportunities of focusing on just one geo location or market?
New Zealand is a little unique in that it’s an island and not connected to other markets. There is a difference there to a small market operator which is part of a mainland continent. Psychologically, there is more barrier to international participation than in mainland Europe for example.

This means that there are two choices available if you want to achieve scale operating here:

  1. Be a generalist
  2. Be a specialist and be forced to geo clone to achieve both sustainability and scale.

NZ is small. You can’t be an event organiser for a specialist sector or vertical. You’d need other highly integrated activities -- or a day job! The market isn’t big enough to sustain more than a few events in any one sector. This is why we are a company that operates over the full range of markets/sectors/functions. This takes significant on-ground commitment.

There are advantages too. The market cannot sustain very many competitors at all. In fact there are a number of markets that are fully serviced by only one or two events. There have been instances where we have been locked in a mortal battle with a competitor to see who could dominate a market and key market players (including key CEOs) have come to us and said “stop mucking around and sort out your sh*t or we won’t support any of you”. And in one sector, just one influential CEO decided that our event (that had for 10 years been seen as the only regulatory event to go to), was no longer going to be supported by the key leadership teams of the industry players. That was that. Boom. No more event. We had to remember our place in the market. We stepped back. Let the ground cool and two years later we were running their event. Being an aggressive, short-play operator in that instance would have been disastrous.

The other trend I noticed in Europe recently was that there is an acquisition fight to the top of the pile. Acquisitions are the most significant growth strategy. That really doesn’t exist in small markets.

Are there any particular challenges for a small market operator in terms of staffing, talent etc?
Well, it’s not often we get someone coming knocking on our door with direct past experience! There are very few like-for-like companies. So we have always had to find, train, nurture all of our talent from scratch. But that’s great. Each time you hire someone, you’ve grown in your own experience and expectations of yourself and so you set the bar that little bit higher - and the newcomer sails over it. They haven’t been coloured by lesser standards from elsewhere. It also means you get to find the most amazing people from the weirdest backgrounds. Certainly one stand-out producer I remember was an ex submariner!

Small markets mean small companies. We are 40 and that is actually a medium sized company in NZ. Companies of this size always have the challenge of providing continuous challenge and development/advancement for people. My attitude is that we have established a fantastic place to work. We are open and purposeful. We listen to ideas. We try really hard to keep great people engaged. But for the majority of people we will simply be a building block in their career. Our job is to make sure they are better than when they arrived. And then every so often you find that gem who is so engaged in what we do that they want to make it their long term career. I’ve been really fortunate in this and have a significant proportion of my team (especially the leadership team) who have been with me for many years.

If there was one lesson you think the world has to learn from you, what would it be?
Hire a kiwi! I mean it. There is a really good reason kiwis have such great reputations as workers. That is because they have come from smaller companies, in a smaller economy. This means that they are Generalists by nature.

Larger companies in larger economies must (because of sheer size) fill their halls with large numbers of specialists. Experts in ever-decreasing areas of specialisation.

The Generalist has had wide exposure to many of the most important facets of business. The Generalist has a strong grasp of the fundamentals, and can apply that broad thinking to the decisions at hand (even if they are specialist in nature).

The Generalist can apply their intelligence, intuition and knowledge to many areas to help you reach your goals. If you don’t hire a kiwi, then at least hire a Generalist.

Steve Scott - @iamstevescott  LinkedIn


GETTING THE BEST FROM YOUR CHOSEN RECRUITMENT AGENCY

GCN Talent is unusual – and possibly unique – in that it is run by professionals who have worked first-hand in the B2B events sector. Kevin Hosier, Director, started life as a Conference Producer at IIR before establishing his own recruitment agency, Media Types, in 2001. He was then in charge of Recruitment and Talent Management at UBM Conferences for three years, before joining forces with the Global Conference Network in 2014. As such he brings experience from both sides of the fence: as an internal recruiter sourcing candidates directly and managing agency relationships – and as the Director of a recruitment business.

At UBM Conferences, Kevin was often asked to present to the global teams on the subject of recruitment best practice – and about getting the best out of the recruitment agencies they worked with. Here are a few of his Golden Rules for dealing with recruitment agencies.

Communication
Communicate the requirements of the job as clearly as possible, preferably by telephone. Never assume that the agent you are dealing with understands anything about your business. GCN Talent is unusual in that we have an intimate understanding of the B2B events sector but this isn’t always the case.  Demand rigour from your agent in the candidate selection process and help us by giving us as much information about the job as possible.

Marketing
Marketing your role starts with a clearly defined job description – and clients should never underestimate the power of this as a tool to promote both the role you are looking to fill AND your business. Of course you think your business/division/portfolio/role is great, but you can’t assume that your potential employee will unless you tell them WHY it is. Crafting a good job description takes time, but a good agent who truly understands what it is you do and what the role is all about will be able to help you with this. If you do want help – just ask! Imagine how many job descriptions we’ve seen over the last decade or so….

Your Business in Our Hands
Don’t forget that as far as the candidate is concerned, the recruiter you’ve chosen to work with represents your business.  It can be time consuming talking to an agent to explain just how great your business and the role is. But if you can enthuse us, the more likely we are to be able to enthuse potential candidates. It’s great running a recruitment campaign for a job that you really rather fancy doing yourself – and candidates pick up on this enthusiasm.

Candidate Qualification
I used to suggest to the internal teams at UBM that a good agent might appear to be giving you a wholly objective opinion on a candidate, but that you should never take anything for granted.  If you have questions about the profile(s) that have been put in front of you – take the time to ask those questions. A good agent – one who has been through a proper screening process with the candidate and who, importantly, completely understands your requirements - will have the answers. And if you don’t like those answers, don’t see the candidate. And if the agent doesn’t have the answers…well…

Feedback
Giving feedback is a pain. It takes time. It means you have to deconstruct what you really think about a candidate and how an interview went and find a way to put that into words. Sometimes you can’t find the words – or the words you do find don’t seem to explain exactly what you mean. However, feedback is the bedrock of a successful agency-managed recruitment campaign. Pick up the phone and talk to the agent if you can.  You’re more likely to get to the heart of the issue between you – and the agent can use that information to weed out similarly unsuitable candidates moving forwards.

Sharing the Workload
How many agencies should you brief on your vacancy? At UBM I felt it better to work with a select handful of agencies that I felt really understood our business than to send the vacancy to a great many because I was desperate for candidates. A vacancy that appears in many places, advertised by many different agencies will devalue that vacancy in the eyes of candidates….the ‘oh yes, I’ve seen that one advertised all over the place’ syndrome.

GCN Talent recruits for the B2B conference and events sector across all levels and functions. To discuss how we might be able to assist with your recruitment needs, please call Kevin Hosier on +44 (0)20 8123 5805, email kevin@gcntalent.com or visit www.gcntalent.com to upload your vacancy details.


SALARY SURVEY

The Global Conference Network Salary Survey 2014

Our salary survey, detailing salaries, commission and profit share throughout the conference industry has now been published. Providing insight in length of employment, benefits and much more, the GCN Salary Survey will be sent to all those who completed the survey or attended the Conference Summit 2014.

Additional copies of the GCN Salary Survey can be purchased for £99 + VAT simply complete the form here.


INDUSTRY NEWS

FOCUS ON COST TIGHTENS AS DELEGATE NUMBERS RISE, SAYS CAPITA
Meeting delegate numbers are rising, although lead times continue to shrink, according to a benchmark report from Capita Travel and Events. The report, Meetings at the Heart of Travel, identified key trends and data in the meetings sector, including strategic meetings management growing in strength in the UK and 82 per cent of meetings now taking place within one day. Meetings at the Heart of Travel is the result of analysis of all of Capita Travel and Events’ meetings bookings from the last four years. Key findings of the report include: Read more

DMG EVENTS CONTINUES GLOBAL EXPANSION WITH NEW INDIAN OFFICE
dmg events Middle East and Asia, the Dubai based event organisers responsible for events, including ADIPEC and BIG 5, have announced the opening of new offices in India. Basing its headquarters in Mumbai and opening offices in Bangalore, dmg events aims to widen its product offerings by focusing on new growth opportunities and niche industry verticals besides bringing its portfolio of existing world-class events and exhibitions to India. Read more

WOLFF: TINA BROWN NOW IN THE CONFERENCE BUSINESS
Tina Brown, the most famous magazine editor of her era, who lost $100 million when she ran Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and countless more trying to reinvent herself in other media ventures over the past 15 years, is now in the conference business. The New York Times is her new intrepid investor and she has taken up offices at the Times' headquarters where she is busily hiring staff.
While Tina Brown as a harbinger of success might reasonably give cooler heads some pause, everybody in media, it seems, wants to be in the conference business, or what I recently heard described as "experiential extensions." Read more

'LANDMARK' RESEARCH REVEALS BUSINESS EVENTS CONTRIBUTED A$28B TO ECONOMY
A recent study revealed that Australia has hosted over 412,000 business events in the 2013-14 financial year, welcoming more than 37 million delegates and generating A$28b in direct expenditure.

The study was released by the Business Events Council of Australia (BECA), and was conducted by Ernst & Young. The report suggested that the business events generated 179,357 jobs and A$23.1b in total economic contribution. The study was deemed BECA’s ‘landmark’ research project, as the first major study of the sector in almost a decade. The report found that international delegates spent A$440 per day on average, excluding flights, with 391,000 meetings and conventions, 2,157 exhibitions and 18,673 incentives held in 2013-14.
BECA chairman Matt Hingerty says the research showed the direct and indirect impact on the Australian economy.
“Business events are an economic powerhouse — they foster trade, export, investment, diplomacy, education and knowledge transfer. They also generate employment, tax revenue and stimulate the visitor economy with their benefits spreading across both city and regional economies. Read more


JOB BOARD

For more information about GCN Talent see: www.gcntalent.com

Senior Sales Manager – Global Media Company – £40-45K plus commission – Amsterdam

Senior Conference Producer – Media Company – Up to £36K plus profit share – Surrey

Commercial Director – Global Telecoms Events - £50-£55K basic £85K OTE –London

Event Project Director – India Events – Up to £35K plus commission – London

Marketing Director – Conference & Training Company - £50-£60K plus profit share – London

Exhibition Sales Executive – Russian Speaking – Up to £35K plus commission – London

If you’re a recruiter looking for help with a particular vacancy or recruitment campaign, please call us on +44 (0)20 8123 5805 or email kevin@gcntalent.com and we’ll be delighted to discuss your requirements and how we can help.


GCN NEWS

The annual Conference Awards are now open for entries!

2015 will be the sixth year of the Conference Awards, which are the most prestigious and sought after awards in the conference and event industry. Just entering the awards creates many benefits; it can validate your business integrity, attract industry recognition, celebrate the achievements of your team and generate powerful publicity for your business.

Our top five reasons to enter this year: industry recognition; business credibility; celebrate team achievements; benchmark your business; attract top talent

With numerous awards to choose from we are positive you will find one that matches your particular strengths. You may even wish to enter more than one and increase your chances of being recognised as one of the conference and event industry’s elite.

The official deadline for entries has now passed however we are still accepting entries in some categories. If you wish to enter please complete the extension deadline form online and we’ll be in touch.

We do hope that you choose to take part and look forward to receiving your entry soon.

Good luck!