Newsletter Issue 2 : February 2014



This is the second in a series of newsletters we are creating for the Global Conference Network. If you would like to be sent future editions then let us know. We would welcome input from readers on news, job changes and other stories. Please send us your news.


Ros Oxley, Managing Director of Informa UK International Events was presented with an award for “Outstanding Contribution to the Conference Industry” last year.  Ros talked to us about her views on how the industry has evolved since her first role at IIR almost 30 years ago.

Her entry into the conference industry was a result of her answering  an ad in the Times in November 1983 looking to recruit producers to work at the new IIR London offices.  She had previously been working in the City, trading oil and sugar and when she joined IIR  a few months later, the first conference she produced was called “The High Flyer”, an HR conference on how retain top talent in the City. Since then Ros has run a mixture of conferences, training courses, distance learning courses, exhibitions and large scale events for the company and is now responsible for many divisions at Informa including ICBI;  IME; Adam Smith; Tax & Accounting;  Infoline;  IFF and  Maritime DL.

Over the past 30 years Ros has seen the conference industry evolve in a number of ways.  She comments on how sponsorship has been one of the biggest growth areas compared to 30 years ago when delegate revenue comprised 100% of event revenue.  Depending on the type of event, sponsorship now accounts for 25-50% of her event revenues and so the roles which structure the conference team have shifted.  Different types of sales people and a more commercially-focussed conference producer are required to work closely together to meet sponsorship targets.  With regards to the huge changes in marketing techniques, Ros says “I am not sure social media is having a great impact … yet, but it will do, eventually. We had the same situation with telesales and email, which took several years of using as a media before they had any significant effect on results and both media are now a very significant contributor to the marketing mix”. 

How has the role of content changed?  Ros says that the same principle applies as it always has on how to research content.  “What is on the internet, everyone can read – so you can only be ahead of the curve by speaking to people and finding new information that is not publicly available.  And this is not achieved by just speaking to people who already come to your conferences – at least 50% of those conversations need to be with people who have not attended the relevant events in the past”.  Ros continues by saying “Social media has also created new ways to find and research with people.  Whilst many are now saying that content is not so important, I do not agree – we just need to deliver better content and in much more interesting formats than ‘death by powerpoint’ as well as offering optimum networking. It is also the case that to attract your A-List delegate you will often need content and, without the A-List delegate, you cannot grow sponsorship”. 

Most challenging events.  Ros has hosted some very famous political speakers at her conferences.  She recalls one time when Bill Clinton was due to speak at an event in London and understandably there were many pre-requisites from his security guards prior to the event, one of which was the request that he enter the hotel building via the kitchen.  In addition they requested that no hotel staff were in the kitchen at the time.  Confused, as they knew how equipped his team would be in handling press etc, they assured them that the hotel staff would not disturb him on arrival.  They later divulged that the reason for giving Mr Clinton a clear passage into the conference room was to prevent him from chatting to all the people he met in his pathway, hence enabling him to deliver his speech on schedule!  Another London event hosted Russian president, Mikael Gorbachev who was equally renowned for having very specific requirements of the conference organisers.  What they didn’t expect was the request of a hairdryer after his presentation.  Ros duly lent him her own hairdryer, bemused as he had very little hair, only to find out that it was to dry off his armpits before he did his next set of television interviews!

Ros shared a few mottos with us.  “Don’t watch the competition.  It will dull your creativity.  If you worry about competition, you’ll be a follower, not a leader in the market;  you should listen to the market yourself and not someone else’s interpretation of it”.  Ros has seen many changes but she believes the conference market is still strong and a place where people need and want to learn and network but that we need to be more creative in the way we deliver information and networking.  The key is to identify what the market need is and then to be creative in developing an event that meets such need.

She feels that the new digital event will happen, but  they will be a very different product and that companies have yet to work out how to monetise them.  “The future is a combination of live and digital.  Digital is currently being used largely before and after ‘live’ events but creating a package where they work together and produce good returns is the next challenge”.


View the webcast

The 3rd annual Conference Summit took place at etc.venues Dexter House on Friday 6th December. The feedback has been excellent and a review of the event is now available on the website.

There is a free webcast from the event with panels debating “Is the Paying Delegate in Terminal Decline?” and “Is the Convergence of Large Scale Events and Exhibitions Real?” To see these sessions in full please register here.


International exhibitions business dmg events delivered strong underlying growth, up 32%, despite a fall in reported revenues due to the absence of Gastech which last took place in October 2012 and is due to take place in March.

Euromoney’s interim results report a growth in its sponsorship and delegate revenues following acquisitions in FY13. Particular revenues have been a result of the acquisition of CEI (Australia's leading provider of investment forums for the asset management industry) which have exceeded expectations.

Stock Ratings on B2B publishing companies: tough year predicted:

1) Informa’s stock had its “hold” rating restated.  Berenberg Bank’s target price suggests a potential upside of 2.10% from the stock’s previous close.

2) Centaur Media was downgraded to a “neutral” rating. Westhouse Securities’ target price indicates a potential upside of 4.64% from the stock’s previous close.

3) UBM are hoping for a better show this year.  After a poor 2013 with reduced growth/margin expectations, forecasts are now looking more realistic for 2014 -- the events and exhibition sectors are looking stronger.
ITE Group’s record results were announced at the end of 2013, showing that organic and acquisition-led growth is driving strong results. Revenues and headline profits are up 12% with investments in exhibition companies in Asia having proved a success in India, Malaysia and a first step taken into China.  Russia and the CIS remains the Group’s core portfolio, in particular the Moscow International  Oil and Gas Exhibition. £106m of revenues have been booked for 2014 which is in line with the Board’s expectations.  


Dame Helen Alexander will act at Executive Chairman of UBM until a replacement CEO is appointed following David Levin’s early departure.  David was due to leave in July 2014 but will leave four months early to become CEO of McGraw-Hill Education in New York.

World Trade Group (WTG), the global summits business, has announced that David Gilbertson, former CEO of Informa plc, will be joining the Board as Non-Executive Chairman. Also joining the board is "events guru and digital leader", Susanna Kempe.
Mario Berard will be replacing Tony Wheble as CEO at WTG . Mr Berard, has spent the last decade living in America, leading fast growing B2B events and training businesses.

Helen Owers has been appointed as an independent non-executive Director of Informa plc

Helen was previously President, Global Businesses at Thomson Reuters and more recently Chief Development Officer. Prior to Thomson Reuters, Helen worked in management consulting and publishing. She currently holds Non-Executive Director positions at PZ Cussons plc, Wragge & Co and The Eden Project.


IQPC - Online Business Development Manager

IQPC - Sponsorship Sales Manager

Incisive MediaConference Producer (Risk Mgt and Alternative Investments Division)

Criterion ConferencesSenior Conference Producer, Sydney

UBM LiveDirector of Digital Marketing


The Operations Director Roundtable will take place on Monday 24th February from 5.45pm at The Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Knightsbridge hosted by the Hong Kong Tourism Board.  Open to all Operations Directors, free to attend but pre-booking is necessary.  The roundtable aims to facilitate peer conversation and networking and the theme for this one is selecting destinations and managing challenges of operating overseas.  Attendees from many corners of the events business have already signed up including Informa, Incisive Media, Reed Business Information, Fresh Montgomery, Shell, EMAP, FC Bus Intelligence.  Please contact us if you are interested in attending.

Conference Awards 2014 will take place on Friday 13th June at Battersea Evolution.  The deadline for entries is 14th February but extensions are being granted on completion of this form and the price per entry is £195 + vat. See for full information.

The Graduate Conference Academy providing trained, top talent to the industry was launched to promote the conference industry to top level graduates and bring more talent into the industry.  After a rigorous selection programme, 12 graduates from the UK’s top universities (Cambridge, Durham, Bristol etc) were selected from 1000 applications and provided with intensive, free, training on conference production and marketing.  All of them worked on projects which were then presented to industry directors in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ environment.
If you are interested in hiring intelligent, trained and committed graduates please contact  Graduate Conference Academy