C&IT Agency Forum – recap

Last week (3 – 5 August 2016) I attended the C & IT Agency Forum for agency buyers. The forum offered buyers an opportunity to meet international suppliers – destinations, DMCs and hotel groups, and offered a diverse educational programme covering a range of topics, including pitching, how to protect intellectual property (IP), how small agencies can stay competitive in the market place and others.

The three day event began in the afternoon, with delegates arriving and checking-in in their hotels, before heading to The O2 Arena by Emirates Cable Car. I took this journey several times before but never with a group so it was great experience and the best way of transporting delegates between the two venues, ExCeL and The O2.

At The O2 we went to see the Muhammad Ali exhibition and had drinks reception there. Afterwards everyone went to Brooklyn Bawl but I went home so missed this third part of the evening.

The following day, the Forum officially began with education sessions in the morning. First session was by Damian Corbet, Founder of The Social C-Suite about personal branding. I personally didn’t find this session informative because it wasn’t event related, but covered the importance of blogs and social media in general and how to present yourself online. I wished the speaker to focus on how to build personal brand specifically in the events industry, not only online but also offline.

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The second session was about pitching and what makes a winner. The session was moderated by Alison Williams, Head of Events at Loreal UK and panellists included Emma Chandisingh, Head of Events and Engagement at Roche, Sally Holt, Senior Project Manager at ITV Events and Ashleigh Jackman, Vice President, Relationships & Events at Barclays Corporate & International. They gave agencies very good tips on how to improve their pitches. For example, agencies should know clients’ industry, e.g. – the regulations and terminology when pitching to them, in addition, make research about the client itself and the person you are pitching to. Pitch no-no is when clients ignore industry guidelines (For example, you can’t use sporting venue for pharmaceutical events), or have wrong pronunciation of terminology and even company name!

They suggested that many agencies spend too much time on presenting themselves and their past work, but they should know that if they are invited to pitch the client have done the research bit already and there’s no need for long introduction.

The panellists said that they don’t state budget in the brief because, after giving it in the past, almost nothing is left from the given budget in their pitch. Another reason was that they actually don’t have a budget (yet) and will need to get it based on the offer.

They mentioned that relationship is very important and in-house teams see agencies as an extension of their own team. Talking about what’s the best way to present, the panellists suggested that agencies can bring the “pitch to life” by taking them on a journey and making the pitch visual.

The main challenge clients are facing is the lack of research by agencies, so bad they even get clients logo wrong on the presentation!

For the third session of the day I had a choice between three options: event security and crisis management, talent management: recruiting and retaining the best, and protecting IP while protecting your relationship. Despite the very hard choice between the three I decided to attend the session about IP because the topic is very new to me and I didn’t regret it. The panellists included Dale Parmenter, CEO at DRP Group, Lucy Francis, General Manager at CI Events and Rebecca O’Kelly-Gillard, Senior Associate at Bird & Bird LLP. The discussion kicked off with defining what is IP and what it includes, these are patent, trade mark, copyright and trade secrets. For event planners, the most important is the copyright, so we should have a record of the pitch, date and logo on the documents. If the agency doesn’t know the clients before pitching, they should check how committed the clients are to give face time or answer any questions.

Not less important is to be considerate of clients’ IP, too. Most clients have brand guideline so agencies should follow them and if they take logo or photos from the web these must be referenced. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to completely protect your IP, but you can make it harder for others to copy it by having watermarks and the presentation in PDF.

Sometimes, if supplier venues are involved and see that the idea was taken from a partner agency and awarded to another, they can step in and advice the client to give the commission to the agency who originally suggested the venue. This is an example that good communication and relationships bring to greater transparency in the industry.

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Third and last day started with event technology showcase with Tim Bull, Managing Director at etouches and Nick Riggall, Head of Digitial Strategy at GPJ Experience Marketing, moderated by Karen Bowerman, BBC presenter. Great points that were mentioned are that connecting with attendees on platforms they already use gives planners permission to reach out and interact pre-, during and after the event and that it’s not about collecting data anymore, but what do you do with this data. Also event success can be measured when it’s backed by data. Lastly, wifi is still a challenge at venues, so therefore technology should also be able to work offline.

The last session for the day was about Size Matters…Or Does It? With Frances Green, Managing Director at Green & Pleasant Events and Luke Flett, Global Head Marketing at Ashfield Meetings and Events. Great points were made when it’s best to work with small agencies and when with big. Small agencies can offer more flexibility and can take on smaller projects. They can offer a more competitive price because they have smaller overheads. Big agencies, on the other hand, can offer large purchasing power and volume, what gives them a competitive advantage over the smaller agencies. It was suggested that when hiring a smaller agency it’s because clients want more personal service and creativity, but that can be also because they are more niche. To conclude, someone from the audience suggested that winning business for small agency is about relationships and knowing their strengths and weaknesses.

Afterwards we enjoyed great lunch at the CentrED. The CentrEd is the latest addition to ExCeL and only opened this year. It offers 29 training rooms for up to 400 delegates.

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