This article first appeared in Conference News.
Martin Fullard hosts a roundtable for corporate event organisers on the topic of AV suppliers.
I had the pleasure during International Confex to sit down with Blitz, a GES Company, and 10 corporate event organisers from all manner of sectors. Joined by James Hitchin of the Event Management Association (EMA), the question put to the floor was a simple one: “What do you, as organisers, want from an AV and technology partner?”
Trust and budgets
Almost immediately, Kimberly Barnes, event manager at Clarion Gaming, made the point that the most important considerations for a corporate choosing an AV partner was one of trust and flexibility. She said: "We need to be sure that a supplier will be there when we need it and supply us with what was promised."
This sentiment was backed up by Lauren O'Brien, manager - events and hospitality at KPMG. O'Brien and Barnes agreed that constant tightening of budgets is putting a squeeze on the supply chain and that clients do expect more for their money these days.
O'Brien added that the key to a successful relationship and event between client and supplier is that the latter must be brought in early. She said: “It’s really important to bring your suppliers into your event planning stages as soon as possible. This helps give everyone a clear picture of what the event is all about, and it also offers suppliers the chance to consult with us and maybe even make suggestions we may not have thought about.”
The next question I asked the panel was that of how delegates respond to event technology, and if there were any examples of things that don’t work. Once again, it was Barnes who made the point that the networking function on event apps proves unpopular. She said: “Getting delegates to download event apps is hard enough, and most people who use them generally do so for things like the schedule. We have tried, but there is such low engagement with the networking aspect of it.”
James Hitchin at this point said that gamification element, like the collection of the points or something like that, is a great way to keep people engaged with the event. I think the competitive element appeals to a wide audience and it’s interesting to see the feedback on it.”
“We need to be sure that a supplier will be there when we need it and supply us with what was promised.”
Of course, one of the lesser talked about benefits a quality AV partner offers event organisers is one of sustainability. I posed the question to the room that things like screen signage and reusable ID cards take paper waste out of the equation. John Steele, who was recently appointed as technical director at Blitz, agreed, saying: "Waste in the events industry has never been more under the spotlight, and it's totally correct for an AV supplier to help events reduce their carbon footprint. Things like screen signage as opposed to plastic or paper signage have obvious benefits.
This goes back to the point of budgets, with reusable hardware like signage and badging then your money is going further. It's a lesser-appreciated factor but an increasingly important one."
Graham Pope, group commercial director at Blitz, a GES company, explained his main takeaway was that the scope of a technical production provider has evolved way beyond just the day of the event - and engaging with clients early in the planning process is key.
He said: "We are and need to be 'event consultants' these days - it's essential to understand the client objectives in detail. We are now a partner to our clients, helping them deliver memorable events that increase their ROI with the use of advanced technology and data. I believe this approach has aided the challenge our clients face in keeping up-to-date with fast-moving advancements in technology."
Pope added: "Our success has been driven by the talent in our business who, along with our clients, have forged strong partnerships that continue to deliver greater efficiencies in event budgeting and planning, accompanied by technology that provides valuable analytics."
Blitz, a GES company, offers a unique full-service provision, owning £20m of equipment, the ability to build scenic elements in-house, in addition to advanced registration platforms, engagement technology, and bespoke innovations, all from an in-house resource.