If you’ve been paying attention, you already know the current and ‘upcoming’ trends worth looking at for the year(s) to come – growth in the digital areas of AR/VR, ins and outs of agencies, continuation of the rise in social media’s impact on event experience and design.
So, with that in mind, I thought I’d approach the new year from a bit more of a ‘build it and they will come’ point of view. First, to state the obvious, the events industry in Asia is having a tough time right now. Big expectations aren’t matched by the strict budgets and tight timelines dictated.
Big agencies are struggling to stay competitive on anything but price. Price-focused decision-making is burning out staff and driving the growth of the freelance market and/or the birth of numerous smaller agencies. Creative resources are in an unhealthily high demand. Supplier burn-out, or shut-out to some agencies, is a real thing. Client understanding (both directions) is at an all-time low.
But instead of focusing on that, how about we look at some trends we would like to see happen?
Time allocated for creativity, production and operations will be more balanced
As with all things, this needs a multi-pronged approach. First, clients will give us more time for pitching. The ideas presented relative to the budgets will be so much better and the design to production process will be smoother because the concept is more on point to the brand and brief.
The issue here is not that agencies can't come up with crazy, big ideas in just a few days, but the knowing we can produce them within the production timeline, budget constraints and physical space is what takes real time and you don’t want to rush that. More time means more executable creative ideas and more efficient ways to spend your money.
Secondly, creatives and producers will work together from the beginning. It’s valid that the creative process takes a bit of time to get to the final polished renders, but the hours spent on a pitch or production process cannot be solely focused on creative with only minutes given to the costing and production rationales.
This is about working together from the beginning so that solutions or designs can develop in tandem with respect and fruitful collaboration, thus making the end result more achievable in cost and deliverability without sacrificing quality.
Thirdly, suppliers and procurement departments will build more trust between each other. Whether it’s agency to client or supplier to agency, we are both hindered and helped by the procurement process.
There’s merit to multiple quotes for transparency and cost efficiencies. But there’s also an incredible loss of precious time and energy to explain every line item or to get multiple quotes with every design revision (which can be numerous). Procurement teams should be involved in every event; the more they know, the easier our jobs, but when time is flying by, the focus should be on delivering the event.
Likewise, when revising the designs and plans – and, again, time is flying by – to continue with multiple quotes is tedious and it doesn’t take advantage of the expertise the supplier could provide if they are appointed earlier. Budget and time challenges will always be with us; we should be embracing trusted partners earlier in the process.
From a financial point of view, if we can’t trust them to help us make the budget work along the revision process after they’ve been appointed, then we shouldn’t be working with them. Long-term relationships will always be more economical in dollars and minutes because we work more efficiently and use all the tools in the toolbox.
Professional development will be more of a personal pursuit than one we think our employers should provide
Because so many event professionals come from their university graduation or other careers into events via agencies, they rely on their employers to provide all their training or opportunities for development. This isn’t wrong, but it is limiting on an individual level.
In recent years, the challenges mentioned above cause many employers to focus on the highly competitive landscape and make sure all efforts are spent on selling and delivering projects and revenue – and an unfortunate byproduct of that is a trimmed or non-existent training budget.
It doesn’t help that the market doesn’t have many options when it comes to workshops or quick afternoon classes on budgeting, supplier management, show calling and many other event-specific skillsets.
Let us now take responsibility for our own growth. It’s time to seek out further education by way of programs from learning institutions with post-graduate diplomas, accredited industry associations that offer certifications like CSEP or CMP, direct learning from a mentor and/or just by seeking out roles on projects that broaden your skillset – and challenge your courage – whilst working with team members that support your growth and are open to sharing their experience.
Industry collaboration and growth will become a team effort
With so many ways to participate in the event industry – freelance or in-house, big/small agency, client-side, supplier, talent, venue and educator – we have both the responsibility and the opportunity to face our industry today. We are full of dreamers, doers, makers and providers. So, imagine what would happen if we started thinking of our industry like one big show to produce?
Imagine if we got involved in our industry associations or met outside of event production times to discuss how we can work better together, had open and fair conversations with each other (including our clients) about what could have been done better, rallied to demand clearer briefs, more time and bulk-event bookings to soften the vicious pitch cycle, visited technical workshops and factories to really understand construction and technical challenges, heard from suppliers about the latest tech or materials that could inspire new creative… and so on.
Some of these ideas may seem like a fantasy, but they only remain that way if we do nothing. So let’s make 2019 the start of some new trends and change our industry for the better.
Dawn Dennis is founder of Continuity Consulting Limited.