I met Susanne Illerhaus, founder of Illerhaus Marketing, through mutual connections at a trade show in 2018. In fact, prior to meeting her in person, her concept had been praised among colleagues in business discussions, highlighting her role as being an important MICE player in Germany. It was a pleasant surprise to meet the woman who is both a successful business owner and a MICE professional, and we immediately found a common language. Susanne organises her flagship events, called the MICE Branchentreff, multiple times per year. Each year, she fine-tunes the format and introduces new venues and destinations to her savvy audience of event professionals in Germany.
She has organised these events for the last 14 years, and during that time has built an extensive and trusting network of business partners who enjoy working with her and who are happy with the results her business platform generates. As a business owner herself who also attends and exhibits at other trade shows and events, she knows that an event such as hers must justify the time and money required for her participants. Therefore, her format is constantly developing to meet the evolving needs of her stakeholders and also engage them online through the new communication channels available today.
Festivalisation of events is a concept widely discussed in the past two years among corporate event professionals. According to a 2017 Skift megatrends report, ‘The festivalization of meetings trend started with the multidisciplinary programming at SXSW and TED, bringing together thought leaders from different sectors to share their views on driving change in a new era of global connectivity.’ South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, has been running since 1987, so certainly the concept is not new, but as we in the events industry love using new terminology every few years, the term ‘festivalisation’ is the new ‘it’ term for innovating in the corporate event space.
After being introduced myself only last year to the concept of ‘festivalisation of events’ at the ITB Berlin MICE Forum, with speakers from three events — Bits & Pretzels, Best of Events and CEBIT (which unfortunately was cancelled after the 2018 edition), I’ve had the chance to attend another event recently which makes a business case for ‘festivalisation.’ The event — KeyFrame — took place in Hamburg from 28 February–3 March 2019 and is a perfect example of how an innovative event format for the right audience and in the right city can be seamlessly executed to provide a fruitful ground for creatively, engagement, learning and networking.
Over-tourism is currently an urgent topic being discussed by travel professionals globally. It’s addressed mainly on the leisure travel side, without sufficient coverage on the MICE front. Therefore, we wanted to tackle this issue and examine possible approaches to help event planners solve the problems destinations face due to over-tourism and suggest solutions. There are popular destinations which have a high influx of travellers, and other destinations which need this particular piece of business because they require the economic benefits that a healthy and sustainable tourism flow can bring.
To cover all the above issues, we hosted an Event Planners Talk panel discussion of founders and business owners with Pauline Kwasniak from TurnedSee, Joel Francisco Vicente from LineUp Events Factory and Portugal Incoming DMC and Laura Notarbartolo from Italian Special Occasions DMC and I moderated the session. The event took place during the ITB Berlin and MICE Night on 7 March 2019 at the International Club Berlin.
The recent Event Planners Talk took place on 21 February at Allianz Park in London. It was entitled ‘Pitching for Success: Pitfalls and Opportunities’. We welcomed an esteemed panel of leading business leaders specialising in corporate events: Kevin Jackson, founder of The Experience is the Marketing, Scott Seaman Digby Collins, Group CEO at Hawtrey Dene Group, Craig Pugh, Proposal Response Manager at DRP Group and Angie Mason, Chairman at Absolute Corporate Events. The discussion was moderated by Caleb Parker, Future in 15 Show host. This panel discussion was a follow-up on a previous Q & A with Kevin Jackson, focusing on whether agencies should charge for pitching and why building a relationship is a more effective alternative to the often-uncertain pitching process. The discussion offered multiple perspectives from both agency and compliance sides on the issue of charging for pitches, and ultimately why that wouldn’t become an industry standard.
Pitching: agency’s cost of sales
According to Angie, there should not be a charge for pitching. It doesn’t matter in what business you are in, there will always be a cost associated with gaining a new piece of business, and only if you have a product or service clients want will they subsequently buy it. According to Craig, it’s also ‘no.’ Throughout his career, it hasn’t occurred to him that they’ve charged for pitching because it is rather difficult to argue the case forward. In contrast, they turn down pitches ‘When you start seeing many pitches coming in without particular opportunity you have to be very careful moving forward.’ Whatever business you have, you will have to cost your sales. Kevin added that ‘Most people put this cost to advertising. Those who don’t advertise, their cost of sales is pitching. We just spend what we need, and that can be any amount. Hence, you have to say ‘no’ to pitching because you can’t pitch most of the time.’ Kevin has mentioned to clients in the past that ‘I can’t afford to pitch; give me the work I’ll do it but I’m not going to pitch for it.’ That provides a way of handing this situation as well.
‘There is no such thing as sales’ is the name of Kevin Jackson’s latest book. He shares the encapsulation of his past 20 years working in advertising and marketing with the leading agencies, including Jack Morton Worldwide, George P. Johnson and now his newly launched businesses in strategic consultancy and events, including The Experience is the Marketing, Muslim Lifestyle Show, London Halal Food Festival and Blueprints.org.
On 21 February, Kevin was a keynote speaker at the Event Planners Talk event about ‘pitching for success: pitfall and opportunities’ and shared very important insights about how agencies can win business without needing to enter the often-uncertain pitching process against other agencies, and instead, make themselves the agency of choice from the get-go.