Down the Mousehole : Episode 001

7 Oct, 2018

“What mistakes do clients, suppliers and agencies make?”

“Spain or Portugal?”

Guest biography

Gill Harvey, MBA, DMS, FCMI.

Gill Harvey, MBA, DMS, FCMI.

Business & Transformation Consultant

Gill has over 30 years industry experience leading large teams within award winning Marcomms agencies at a senior operational level. She has completed an MBA in Business; is a Master NLP Practitioner; Lectures on Event Management and Strategic Marketing at the University of Lincoln and now troubleshoots for organisations that are looking to grow or simply remove their pain points.

Gill’s passion and focus is on the mechanics of the organisation. She has extensive experience in human resource and operational planning. Specialising in business process re-engineering she has helped many organisations at different stages of their lifecycles from start-ups, through mergers and acquisitions to turnarounds, to dramatically improve their service, reduce operational costs, and increase profitability.

Contact
www.bluephoenixenterprises.com
+44 1507 442759

Cassander van Eerd

Cassander van Eerd

Events Consultant

Cassander owns and produces freelance event management & provides consultancy services to both corporate and agency clients. Since his business, Clogwork Orange Productions only work with freelance specialists they claim to able to deliver a “low overhead – high output” service to their end client. Clogwork Orange produce exhibitions, conferences, incentives, product launches, award dinners etc in full or part thereof!

Previously Cassander has worked at AddingValue, Euro Finance and Hilton Hotels.

Contact
www.clogworkorange.com
 [email protected]
+44 20 7226 6349

Episode transcript

Randle Stonier

00:00

Hello and welcome to the first proper episode of Three Blind Mice. I’m your Mice Minder-in-Chief and your host, Randle. Strange name, but it’s definitely me and I’m very grateful that you’ve taken the time to join me on this podcast journey.

Radio Events
00:16

Welcome to Radio dot Events, and the Three Blind Mice podcast. Thanks for tuning in. We bring you what’s hip and happening behind the scenes of meetings, incentives, conferences, and events. Three Blind Mice the little pod with a cast of thousands from Radio.Events.

Randle
00:32

Now, I have to tell you because I’m very moist about it. Did he really use the m word… anyways…. Forgive me, but I’ve got a whole raft of special guests and topics lined up for you and over the coming episodes. So whether you’re starting out in the events industry or an old hand, I hope we’ve got something for everyone. I can’t guarantee that every episode is exactly right for you. It depends what niche of the events industry you work and how long you’ve been around, but I always think it’s good to hear and see the big picture, so hopefully there’s always something somewhere worthwhile for everyone to take out of each episode. So let’s get down to business and I’m going to reduce my first guest here on Three Blind Mice. Gill Harvey is an events and management professional. She’s 30 years of industry experience leading large teams within the award winning Marcomms agencies at a senior operational level.

Randle
01:21

She has completed an MBA in business. She’s a master NLP practitioner. She lectures on event management and strategic marketing at the University of Lincoln, and she is now advising companies on best practice and effective growth strategies. She’s worked with a whole raft of different brands and agencies and I feel Gill is uniquely positioned to share experiences with us. My second guest is Cassander van Eerd and as his name, and I stress ‘His’ name suggests is currently a non Brit and is likely to forever remain a non Brit. Cass, has a BA in business administration and hospitality management from Mastricht. His career embraces conference and banqueting with Hilton hotels. Before a long stint as Head of Event Management at Euro Finance. From there, he went on to establish his own event production consultancy, Clogwork Orange Productions. He’s a highly energetic, slightly off the wall, and Cass thrives on designing and executing event experiences with the difference. As he says, ‘there is so much grey in the world, let’s bring some colour to our lives, both professionally and personally’. So those are my guests today for this episode, but above all, a big thank you to you for joining me.

Randle
02:40

Guys, it’s great to have you on the show. Thank you both very much for joining us.

Gill Harvey

02:45

You’re very welcome.

Cassander Van Eerd
02:46

Great to be here.

Randle
02:47

Can you say it with a bit more enthusiasm?

Gill
02:57

Did you invite the cast of the Three Little Pigs?

Cassander
03:00

No, mute mice.

Randle
03:03

In this episode, we covered the thorny topic of Brexit and its impact on the events industry. We talk freelancers, mistakes we all make in our professional lives and we hit the really, really important subject of Health and Safety in events. But let me first give everyone some background before we hit that first question.

The UK is regarded internationally as a global centre for event management. You need look no further than royal occasions for that coupled with our contemporary edge and design, creativity and technical production, world class venues, logistics, project management, exhibitions and conferences, music, sporting and cultural events, and it’s a very, very big business. We contribute over £42 billion pounds a year to the economy. We employ over 550,000 people. We’re the 15th largest employer in the UK and UK agencies alone turnover something like £3.5bn. So having got my guests sitting comfortably and I plied them with chilled glasses of ASDA’s own label Prosecco on a kind of Kill or Cure mission, and after several bottles I launched in. “Will Brexit be the party pooper for the UK events industry?”

Gill
04:11

I think, you know, people are just very nervous at the moment and when people are nervous, they are reluctant to spend money Number one. Once that settles down, I mean…if you look back at how things repeat in history, we’ve had this before. Everyone’s tightening their belt and no one wants to move. And then it’s like, okay, the sky hasn’t crashed down. And actually things are okay, but I do think it’s down to the events industry to start thinking ahead and stop being so reactive. So you know, what are the challenges that companies are going to face? And they are going to need to communicate with their staff even more. And it may be that traditional events aren’t the way that they will choose to do so. So we need to be creative in how we help them conduct their business throughout this whole process. Are we being that? I don’t know, I haven’t seen evidence of it

Cassander
05:02

On a personal level, I feel reasonably reassured that apparently EU passport holders can buy a visa or whatever it’s going to be called for £65. And in return for that you get Indefinite Leave to Remain or whatever it’s called. Obviously that has not been agreed with the EU yet, so it’s still up in the air. But personally I don’t really worry about it too much. And that might be ignorant. That might be arrogant. I’m just convinced that the UK cannot do without the input of EU professionals, no matter in what industry they’re in. And so from that perspective, I’m not so worried. What I am worried about is conversations I’m having with larger companies and multi nationals that are just basically asking the question, ‘why would I book my event services through a UK agency because currently that’s looking like it’s going to be up to 20% more expensive over and above an already more expensive exchange rate if we compare the Euro to the Sterling? So from that perspective, our colleagues on the continent in terms of event agencies, are feeling reasonably comfortable that a lot of businesses is going to come their way than maybe normally would have automatically gone to the UK. The odd interview that’s out there with larger agencies is all about how they see opportunities and it’s all amazing PR stuff. But nobody seems to be really talking about, , what is this really going to mean for us? And I haven’t seen anything from a body that goes up to government and says, ‘listen, we are contributing, what was it, £44bn a year to the economy. We’re the 15th largest employer in the UK. Do we not need to do something about this and do we not need to safeguard, you know, some of our industry so that we actually can hopefully continue, probably not necessarily as normal but as close to normal as possible?’ And I’m never shy of a bit of controversy. I have asked this question a number of times at a number of forums and people just basically brush it off by saying, ‘well, we don’t know what’s going to happen. So it’s business as usual until then.’ And I’m getting to a point with six months to go thinking, but I’m the one with the EU passport that can get out, you know, not that I’m planning to don’t get me wrong, but you know, it’s like, do we not need to worry? Or is this literally the stiff British upper lip that goes like, you know, keep calm and carry on. We’ll make it through. And that’s a real concern for me.

Randle
07:55

I don’t want to bore everybody totally with Brexit, but it’s essential that we keep talking about it. We don’t just pass it off, I think as something that we’re bored, been there and got the t shirt, even if we don’t know the answers. I think continuous communication and pushing representation up to our trade bodies and overarching trade bodies is hugely important. We’ve got to try and influence and steer would be regulators in the right direction.

Gill
08:26

I wonder though, whether we don’t help ourselves as an industry. And um, I’m probably speaking generally and obviously I don’t know every organization, but as an industry we’re quite ‘protectivist’ if that’s a word, we don’t collaborate. So we do come together to moan about how this is going to affect us and what’s wrong. But unlike other industries, we tend not to try and share good ideas together because we’re all protecting our intellectual property and we don’t want to share what we could do with other agencies. And it’s actually quite unique. Even the automotives now are working together and collaborating to make the best of technology because they can see that in the future if they don’t, they won’t survive. So automotive companies are working together to try and find a solution and I just don’t see that in the events industry. Everything is very cloak and dagger and while we will come together to share our top line concerns we’re not working together to try and solve this openly.

Randle
09:33

I thought that was enough about Brexit. So changing tack. I asked Cass and Gill about the disappearing names in the events industry landscape today versus maybe where it was 5- 10 years ago. There’s quite a lot of either new brand names or organizations that used to be right at the forefront, but you just don’t hear about so much anymore or just disappeared completely. I asked them about how they saw it.

Cassander
09:56

Well, for me, I think it’s generational in the sense that I think, the big names that’s maybe started in the eighties, early nineties are coming to an age whereby either it’s time for new adventures or it’s time for retirement. I think that’s part of it and I think that’s probably where by people that are younger and coming to the fore now will also question, do I need a large agency set up, do I need 120 plus 150 plus people in a building? Or can we do it in a different way? We know for fact that’s clients since the recession are buying differently. They are very aware of the fact that it’s not scary anymore to buy consultants in a rather than buying through an agency. So they buy differently. I think that’s also a reason why at typical award events, more and more names pop up. You see people looking at your table and go like, ‘who are these people I’ve never heard of them?’And they turn out to be people that are creative and a, let’s call it commercial, a person from a larger agency that have gone on around as on around taken one or two clients. They work well with and build business from that perspective. And I think from that perspective, it only makes sense that the usual landscape is changing. And I see quite a lot of new players on the market that don’t come from an events background necessarily. They come from maybe a theatrical background or a show development, show production background and roll into events.

Gill
11:43

I’m only quiet on this because… basically I don’t agree that there’s no regulation to enter this market and I don’t think that’s healthy for our industry. I don’t believe in protecting it so the other people can’t enter the industry, but I agree with Cass there’s a lot of people that just think, ‘oh, I can organise events, therefore I can do this’. And there’s also a very big difference between organizing some multimillion pound events to running an event company and being forward minded enough to know how to grow that company and grow the people within it and to be professional within it. I’ve just had experience certainly over the last 18 months where I, I know there are more companies in trouble out there than is obviously public knowledge because you wouldn’t make it public knowledge, but I just find it really sad that that’s the case. Then everybody wants to do everything. Agencies want to be everything to every man and they try and respond to every brief. And of course they can’t because they started in a niche and now it’s this dog eat dog industry. So for me, I have a problem with the whole structure of the industry. I think it could be self-destructive unless we take a more professional view.

Randle
13:09

This acted as a segue way to my next point where I raised my concerns about health and safety in events. In the last year alone, we’ve seen several incidents here in the UK that have sadly resulted in fatalities and indeed imprisonment for the organizers concerned. I’m thinking specifically of where people have used bouncy castles or trampolines at events, so not what you’d typically expect. With a reasonably low cost of entry, people turn up with all the gear and sadly no idea, and even more sadly in these particular cases, tragedy struck. I asked Gill and Cass whether there is a danger that there isn’t enough understanding about health and safety and responsibilities in the world of events.

Gill
14:01

You’re absolutely right Randle, and it frightens me. They’re are proper agencies that aren’t even carrying out health and safety risk assessments and you know, people are there just by the grace of God, basically. It hasn’t happened yet and I’m not talking of specifics. I’m being general, but generally out of companies that I have come into contact with, I would say at least half don’t follow the processes that will protect the people in their care, that is the delegates, clients, the general public. These suppliers are not doing it intentionally. We know their intentions are good, but they don’t have the experience and the knowledge. I do worry about it as an industry. We are not professional enough.

Cass
14:53

In a word, no!

Gill
14:54

Cass is right. I suspect that until ‘it’ has happened to them. No. So there are obviously some of the big corporates that we know have big procurement and big legal departments that I’m sure we’ve all experienced that are very hot on this, but I’m surprised at some of the big corporate clients that literally don’t ask the questions and worse still….and we go back to this whole experience thing, but worse still they even put their own people in jeopardy to an extent. I mean, how many times have we run a ski trip where we’ve had them dancing on the tables at four in the morning and then three hours later they’ve been skiing down a slope and that’s at the client’s request, despite all of the cautions you can give. I don’t know what to say.

Cass
15:45

No, I think it’s absolutely shocking. I can’t remember exactly when the corporate manslaughter law came into play whereby, you know, events agencies could be responsible on personal title. I think 2008 or 2009. I’m still being told, as recently as May this year that I am the only one out of the UK market, and European markets apparently don’t even ask for anything, that is going into so much detail and getting….and they think so much detail is asking for proof of liability insurance and emergency procedures and a risk assessment, etc. I was asked by email if I thought that the country in question was a third world country and did I not trust them. And when I then presented all the evidence to the client in question to say, here is the health and safety assessment report, and the client said, ‘why did you do that?’ And I said, because this is what we always do. They replied, ‘well, I’ve never seen anything like it.’ I’m like, you may have not opened the emails over the years, but we have always provided this for you and you should check that this is in place. I do hope your other events you do the same thing because… in case something goes wrong, you need to make sure that all the boxes are ticked and we’ve done everything we can to make sure that precautions are in place in case of the worse that could potentially happen. She had no idea. And I’m convinced that the moment there is no risk department in the client side involved or procurement step away after the initial contracts have been signed. I’m convinced that every organization is in the same boat, they just don’t look at things like this.

Randle
17:39

I went on to make the point that for me, the acid test, whether you’re an event organizer, a brand owner, agency, intermediary, or supplier, is where are the risk assessments for your event? Have you written them, have you read them, do you understand them, and if you don’t have them or you don’t understand them in order to check that everything makes sense, then I suggest you are not working either with the right partners and more importantly you’re putting yourself and even more importantly, you’ll guests at risk. I think that every stakeholder in the event space has to get their act together on health and safety. Every client, owner, project owner, every agency, intermediary, every supplier. Where are those risk assessments? Because it’s inexcusable in this day and age that we haven’t got our act together properly on this subject. Know your responsibility and know those of your supply partners. The key message coming from the legal cases and from the Health and Safety Executive when it comes to health and safety in the world of events is, “ignorance is no defence”. Ignorance is a guaranteed way to finish up in court and to possibly finish up in prison. You have to ask yourself whether running an event, damaging your organisation’s brand and destroying your own professional and personal reputation, let alone injuring or killing somebody on your watch, is that a price worth paying for getting health and safety wrong?

Gill
19:18

You’re absolutely right Randle. It’s not even difficult what people have to do. There are simple, simple, straightforward procedures that if you just do it on every project, you can cover yourselves and people just aren’t doing it. Either they don’t know, they don’t have time. I literally don’t know the answer to that, but it’s the most simple thing to protect yourself. Just think through the consequences of everything on an event. There are templates out there on the web. You will find them easy to follow. Please, please just do it. It’s just inexcusable.

Cass
19:54

What I was going to say, and it’s goes back to your bouncy castle example and I think it’s not just on that level. I think it’s on a higher level as well. When people enter the industry, they tend to think there’s a lot of money to be made because they hear those big corporate budgets and they think ‘I’ll have a bit of that’ and they don’t think about, you know, everything that comes into play when you actually put something like that together. Let’s not forget if you work a normal job and suddenly you hear revenues of £100,000 and above, it sounds incredibly enticing. I’ve been in situations in the last year or so. We’re buying, I’ve come across organizations that put a good event on, but there is nothing and I mean nothing on the periphery in terms of the health and safety side, the client care, the delegate care, not even a backup plan in terms of bad weather, nothing. If everything goes well, it’s fantastic, but if it doesn’t then what happens? Back to Gill’s point as well, to round things up nicely, because there is no proper regulation from that perspective, Every Tom, Dick and Harry can jump on board and call themselves an event organiser and off they go. But things will go wrong at some point and then unfortunately it’s probably a little bit too late for those involved, sadly. But it is absolutely a scandal that it still happens.

Randle
21:29

In wrapping up this segment on health and safety, I want to share with you one personal experience that for me highlights health and safety isn’t just about big consumer events. It’s as much about your everyday venue, your typical meeting or conference. I remember as a young account director doing a venue check on a hotel in Paris, a well-known hotel. Over the course of 10 days, we had three rotations of about 500 people at a time. On this day, and I still don’t know why I actually did this, but on this particular occasion I walked down the emergency staircase and when I got to what was apparently the main lobby floor, the staircase changed from a well lit, tiled floor to concrete and carried on down from there. As this particular hotel was a couple of floors above street level, when I got to the bottom of the concrete stairs I was faced by the usual emergency exit doors were the push lever bars. Every exit door was chained and padlocked. Somewhat shocked, I retraced my steps and went to the next emergency staircase, and when I got to the bottom, it was just the same – chained and padlocked. So in the event of an emergency evacuation, those last two floors would have been filled with bodies with no escape, with more bodies piling down behind them, it just doesn’t bear thinking about. It never ceases to amaze me – there but for the grace of God go I. So, this is a big plea to the industry that we need to take health and safety a lot more seriously than we currently are doing. And that as stakeholders, each and every one of us are responsible for the care and well-being of people in our charge, regardless as to whether we’re client procurement, an agency, intermediary or venue supplier. There is a lot that we still need to do and we need to do it now. Before it’s too late.

Randle
23:26

I decided it was time to lighten things up a little bit. So I introduced a quick round of ‘Either/Or’ and Gill went first.

Randle
23:47

Gill, Marrakech or Monte Carlo?

Gill
23:50

Marrakech without a doubt. I prefer the down and dirty experience. I’m not in to the manicured set, so Marrakesh.

Randle
23:59

South Africa or Maldives, Cass?

Cassander
24:02

South Africa without a doubt on the simple fact that I think Maldives is something that you do on a holiday and it’s romantic and it’s lovely. It’s also incredibly expensive. South Africa gives you so many options in terms of experiences, from the down and dirty all the way up to the super luxurious – at an incredibly exchange rate currently, and let’s not forget the time zone difference. So South Africa all the way every time.

Randle
24:32

Gill, Spain or Portugal?

Gill
24:36

Difficult. Both very lovely countries. I’m guessing Portugal. I just think it’s so diverse. Beautiful Lisbon. Very cosmopolitan. You’ve got the coast along Cascais, I never say that properly. So apologies to the Portuguese out there. Beautiful mountains in Sintra. Really good value for money. The port, the Doro region. I just think it is so incredibly, incredibly diverse. It’s easy to get around. Fantastic infrastructure. I don’t think it matters how many times you go there. There’s always something different you can do. And again, such good value for money. So for me, Portugal.

Randle
25:18

Cass, yours is Venue/Destination vs Creativity.

Cassander
25:23

Well, it’s going to have to be creativity for the simple fact that gives you the opportunity to make any venue or any destination into something that is unique and what you need it to be. I don’t believe that a venue will ever sell on its own. Because it can be copied and can be done somewhere else. A destination? Yes, there will be destinations that people aspire to, to go to. But the creativity will give it the slant that it needs to really talk to that particular audience. So creativity, without a doubt,

Randle
26:02

I then changed the subject to freelancers. Both Cass and Gill have 30 plus years of experience and have hired freelancers, been freelancers and I wanted to get their perspective. Guys, what would you say were the best practices for hiring freelancers?

Cassander
26:22

I think the big difference sits in the specialist’s services that the freelancer can offer versus a generalist approach by agency permanent staff. If you sit on payroll, you’re going to be pushed out first because that’s what an agency needs to do, yet that doesn’t mean the person in question is necessarily best equipped to fulfil that role. But best practice with regards to a freelance is a number of things. I see a bit of a trend at the moment. There’s quite a lot of people that have had one job for a few years and see what freelancers get paid and think, ‘I’ll have a bit of that. Thank you very much’. And off they go. Those freelancers don’t have a big network and it also means that don’t have a really broad range of skills. I think that’s one of the big things to look out for with a freelancer to make sure that they have serious experience under their belt. So that they are actually able to work on their own, with a client in more challenging situations. Another thing to look out for when working with freelancers is to ask the question, why are they freelancing? And I’m specifically focusing on the fact that if it suits a certain lifestyle in terms of childcare or whatever else, that’s great, but it’s not necessarily always suitable for each use or need that you have for a freelancer. What else? I think languages these days does help. More and more events are taking place abroad and if you don’t have language capability in house to insource is really, really helpful. I had an event very recently in Germany whereby a local caterer really did not speak very much more than hello and good evening. It was fantastic to have a number of freelancers that were absolutely able to converse in German, specifically when it comes down to critical things such as timings and in this particular case, show production timings to make sure that they understood exactly on the night what was happening and that’s something that, if you are hiring freelancers and you are traveling to another country where English is not the first language, it’s definitely something to look out for as well.

Gill
29:17

I’m not sure enough planning goes into freelancers. So from an agency perspective, what I see a lot of is agencies waiting until there’s a need and then scrambling out there to see who’s available. I don’t really understand why there would be a difference in how you plan to recruit a freelancer or how you plan to recruit a permanent member of the team. Ultimately, as Cass quite rightly said, you need to make sure you’re matching the right skills, competencies and experience with the projects that you have. And it may be that you need languages. Are they relevant for the types of projects that you work on and the clients you work with, do they fit with your company? Would you trust them in front of your clients? And I think you know, unless agencies invest the time throughout the year to sit and meet with people and interview them as if it was going to be a permanent member of their team and build up a bank that they can call on as the specialty occurs, we’re getting some sub-standard service in the industry because people are just taking what’s out there and it isn’t necessarily adding value to the projects or to the clients. So from my perspective, agencies need to treat recruitment of freelancers with as much seriousness as they do for their permanent team.

Cassander
30:39

Also, just in terms of day to day client contact. If they’re being brought in on time, and very much in line with what Gill said with regards to the way that freelancers are sourced, when you know their source, when you have a relationship with people, you will get a better return on investment because people will make time in their diaries, if they can to help you, whereas if it’s a last minute panic shuffling to get somebody in, you often find you’re going to get somebody to do the job, but then that somebody is not necessarily the one that’s equipped to do that particular project for you in the best possible way.

Gill
31:39

I think it’s also worth mentioning that agencies are as guilty as a corporate clients in trying to hammer down freelance fees and this is exactly what clients do to agencies. I get it, I understand why it’s called negotiation, but ultimately there are occasions where you need to pay for the experience and the quality and if you’re looking for something that’s a little bit different, a little bit special that requires technical expertise and knowledge, then surely you’re better paying slightly more for that person and getting that, than just anybody that’s coming off the streets. It’s a case of valuing people in the industry. And if we can’t value the people that we’ve got, then what are we saying about our own companies and our own industry?

Randle
32:08

I thought it was time to change the subject. So we moved onto the topic of ‘mistakes’. What mistakes do clients, suppliers and agencies make? So we kicked off with ‘what three mistakes do agencies make?’

Cassander
32:22

Saying yes to every brief.

Gill
32:25

Not having a culture of professional development. Literally in a lot of agencies eyes, then if you’re going to see a new venue, then you’ve developed yourself. Rubbish. It’s not enough.

Randle
32:40

Cass, do you have one more mistake that agencies make?

Cass
32:42

Don’t make the mistake of being flattered by the big budget and the big monies (and the big profits?) because by and large, that’s unique, those situations. Those situations do not happen very often

Randle
32:53

Okay? Three mistakes Clients make?

Gill
32:56

Briefing too many agencies. I’m not really sure what they hope to achieve by having five, six, seven or eight agencies pitching for the same piece of business – a) the client doesn’t have time to wade through everything, and b) do they not understand that the cost of delivering those pitches is going to increase the cost of sales across the board? It is ridiculous. Have two or three (agencies) on a roster and have the roster refreshed every now and again or just keep it to a couple of time. It just gets ludicrous when you ring a venue and they tell you you’re the 10th person to ask the same question. It’s madness.

Cassander

33:40

Buying on price is something that client need to stop doing.

Gill
33:44

Yes. They treat events like it’s a commodity purchase, but then expect a Harrods experience. So, how does that work? I always use the analogy, and I apologise to automotive clients that I’m using this, but it’s the only way I can say it. They’ll come to us with a Kia budget and expect a Mercedes C Class. How in their minds is that going to work? And do they really want the output that they’re going to get if they’re squeezing, squeezing, squeezing the whole time? And then this does come back to, are agencies not doing the health and safety and all of the relevant checks because they’re not being paid enough to do it? So it’s this vicious circle that we have to recognise value, and what value is and where it lies and value is paid for. Value has a price.

Randle
34:37

Three mistakes Suppliers make?

Gill
34:42

Well, I’ve got three off the top of my head and I could go on and on and on. Not researching their audience to start with. I can’t recall the number of times I could have bought Buckingham Palace with a number of times a supplier has come in to sell to me and they don’t even know what business I do. They assume I do Pharma type work or they assume whatever else. I switch off if someone hasn’t even researched the type of business I’m in, I’m not interested. Also think about why we select venues. I had someone that wanted to come in and I did a webinar call with that was selling a beautiful hotel, a five-star, beautiful hotel in the Highlands in the middle of nowhere. And after I had gone through forty minutes of the refurb and how many bedrooms and how many meeting rooms….I literally was almost asleep. I was like, yes, but why would I come to you? ‘I just told you’. I was like, no, but what is there in the area? ‘What?’ Why would I come to your area? She had given no thought whatsoever as to how I would get there. What would be interesting for the guests to do? There was just no thought around what’s I might need out of the call. Again, it was all about them pushing information outwards, rather that what information we actually need, but then they go to the other extent, and this is my third and I promise I’ll stop getting so excited about this….Websites – I’m sorry, but if you are a conference venue and you sell conference services, please, please, please tell me on your website how many conference rooms you’ve got, what the capacities are. Give me floor plans. Tell me how many bedrooms you’ve got. I can’t tell you again how many times I have clicked off venues because I’m like, I have had enough. I cannot waste any more time. If you sell yourself with something, please give us the information to help us to sell you.

Cassander
36:36

It’s almost every week that I come across that particular issue still, and I wonder why is it that hotels find that so difficult, maybe it’s because they are a mid-sized hotel. Let’s say they’ve got 60 rooms and they don’t want to instantly turn people off for whatever reason, but at the end of the day you’re going to find out that somebody has 60 rooms. So I mean you may as well be upfront about it because for us as organisers, there is nothing more frustrating than having to wade through all the waffle and the beautiful sculptures in the garden and the beautiful renovation that has happened 17 times since 1972 and, and then come to the end of the paragraph and still you are none the wiser as to how many rooms we’re looking at. There’s a very famous hotel, not too far from your doorstep Randle these days which specializes in larger conference spaces and events across the Welsh border. It turns out they have five hotels. It took me yesterday, no word of a lie, 22 minutes and I timed it because I have to do my time sheets, to just find out how many bedrooms there are in total on the property only to find that there’s nowhere near enough that matches the conference capability and I’m like, okay, this is really, really useful (not!). How is this possible? ‘Hotels’, it says these days on their website. Another big favourite of mine is, ‘suppliers that don’t see the bigger picture’. This goes for exhibition suppliers, but certainly also for production suppliers. We all know that they deal with a standard rate card and then they have preferential rate cards and industry rates, etc. When an agency comes to you to quote for a piece of business, likely in a pitch situation, please understand that that agency is not just working on that particular piece of business just one time. They will have other clients, they will have other requirements. Just make sure that the offer you put together with the agency is more solid and potentially more commercially viable, but also makes sure that the client, the end buyer can see that, ‘whoa, if I go to this particular supplier directly, I pay rate card, whereas if I go through this agency, these are partners in crime for lack of a better word and I can get a better deal and it really works in a, to the benefit of the supplier. And I often find that they don’t necessarily see the bigger picture. They tend to think about their own survival more than anything else (on a one off project). That’s one of my key tips for suppliers when dealing with agencies.

Gill
39:17

I think that goes back to the whole collaboration or lack of within the industry. I think, you know, agencies moan that we’re treated like clients will give out briefs willy nilly and not really care. And there’s no loyalty. And I do think that a lot of agencies are the same. There are some really good agencies that have set up agreements with suppliers and on the production level they’ll have various different levels so they might have an agreement with a cheap and ready and easy production company if it’s just stands and basic AV, they might have a different agreement in place with another production company for a different type of brief. But unless we actually start collaborating and having these conversations as to how we can work better together, smarter, the whole industry is just fighting against each other and then we become price driven and then the service quality starts to fall. So I genuinely think it’s about collaboration again.

Randle
40:14

Last quick question then guys – stand out moments of the last year or so?

Gill
40:23

Well, mine’s not an upbeat one. So I’ll go first and then Cass can leave us on a high. Mine is actually finally that we’re exposing some of bad behaviour around people in events and it came out with the scandal at the President’s Club events in London and subsequently there’s been press coverage on how hostesses working at Ascot are treated during that time through boozy drunken guests. And these are people who are at work, earning a living and they deserve to be treated with respect. I think it’s been hidden in the events industry for quite some time and I mean I’ve experienced it. I’ve seen it happen. I’ve seen clients ask for event companies to organize things that they shouldn’t be asked to organise and it’s kind of swept under the carpet. It’s just like, well, we don’t want to upset the client because I’m not talking that, that it’s delegates a lot of the time, it’s clients as well. And I just think it needs to be exposed. People should not be put in a position where they feel uncomfortable because someone else is in a position of power. As per usual it has been sort of swept under the carpet very quickly by the industry. But I think at least it has been out there and I think we all need to keep an eye on it, and we need to recognise when staff might be feeling uncomfortable and we need to be there to support them and not allow it to happen.

Randle
41:48

Hear hear Gill. Clearly alcohol is a component of many events. And sadly, with excess seems to breed a behaviour that is wanton and completely unacceptable. I don’t want to pull from another issue elsewhere in another industry. But it is our “#metoo” element I think. You are quite right that we need to call it out wherever we see it. So Cass, cheer us up!

Cassander
42:22

Cheer us up. No pressure. An odd one maybe for me, but I thought the World Cup in Russia came out much, much, much, much better than anybody expected. I haven’t been myself, but everybody that I have spoken to that has been said, it was an incredible experience on the ground. I thought it was nice versus the expectation. I think that we all potentially had – that’s on a larger scale. One of the highlights I’m currently looking forward to is that I’ve been able to secure a charity placement to give something back. After years and years of hard work for corporate clients and everybody else, I often think, you we need to not forget where we’ve come from and what’s important in terms of day to day. At the end of October I’ll be traveling to South Africa for about three weeks to work with a charity which specialises in HIV and AIDs and I’m hoping it’s a ‘highlight’, but I’m pretty sure it will be this year – in terms of balancing work and life.

Randle
43:37

Guys, a big thank you. Thank you for helping me get this first proper podcast out of the door, dealing with all of the technical and human challenges that you’ve had quietly behind the scenes, specifically me. And I sincerely hope that I’ve not put you off and you’ll come back and join me again another time in the very near future. Thank you both again. Thank you.

And to you, dear listener, if you’re still there – a big thank you to you. At the end of the day, it’s all about the You. And so here we are, Three Blind Mice from Radio.Events out of the door. Do check out our website at Radio.Events. I look forward to hearing from you very soon and don’t forget that on the Radio.Events website, there is a Voicepipe which allows you to push your own voice messages to me, whether it’s things I can play on air or things that are completely unmentionable and unrepeatable. Your opinions, your feedback, your comments, your criticisms. I look forward to them all. 

For now. Thank you both very much. Thank you all very much. Bye. Bye.

Three Blind Mice is edited and mixed by Sam Williams at www.RightRoyalAudio.com – Right Royal Audio – be heard, loud and clear.

Radio Events
44:52

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Three Blind Mice here on Radio.Events. If you’ve enjoyed the show, please share it with your friends. Do head over to iTunes, give us a rating and leave a review and don’t forget you can send us a voice message directly through our Voicepipe at Radio.Events. Until next time, play safe.

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