Izania Downie CEO of Eventia, spells out the case for the industry supporting the Visit Britain campaign, Keep Britain Talking…

The Keep Britain Talking campaign comes at a critical time for the UK events industry. Like most industries it has been hit hard by the recession. Its plight has been made worse by the perception that corporate events are discretionary expenditure, coupled with a fear amongst businesses not to be seen to be spending money in this way in these austere times. In addition there has been a trend for organisations to consider and trial the option of holding virtual meetings.

The UK events industry contributes £3.8 billion in tax annually to the Government and around 80 million people attend 1.5 million conferences and meetings annually in the UK.

Now is the time for the industry to get its message across and communicate the benefits and financial returns that can be yielded by companies utilising events as a powerful form of communication.

Building trust

Leading business commentator Mary Jo Jacobi recently chaired a round table discussion attended by senior representatives from several blue chip companies. The topic for discussion was the role that live events have to play in rebuilding brand/reputation following the widespread negative publicity of the past two years – particularly in the financial sector. Jacobi commented: “Despite budget cuts, companies should be taking every opportunity to inform and engage with their public but mass market communications such as advertising may not offer the personal experience required to rebuild confidence.

“Event-driven PR can help by building third party credibility and stimulating word of mouth endorsement. Bespoke intimate events that give individuals the opportunity to attend and engage and that focus on building relationships are very much in vogue. An integrated communication strategy is key and it is clear that events do have a role to play in providing opportunities for key stakeholders to ‘see the whites of the company’s eyes’ following a crisis.”

Sealing the deal

A recent Forbes Insights study found that while lower costs and greater reliability have made teleconferences, videoconferences and web conferences more pervasive options for meetings, executives still expressed an overwhelming preference for face-to-face meetings. More than eight out of ten (84 per cent) said they prefer in-person contact to virtual, and respondents agreed that they are necessary for building deeper, more profitable bonds with clients and business partners. While web, video and teleconferencing have their role; they cannot substitute for human interaction when it comes to accomplishing certain business objectives.

Similarly, in a global survey of 2,300 Harvard Business Review subscribers, 79 per cent said that in person meetings are the most effective way to meet new clients to sell business. Furthermore, 89 per cent agreed that face-to-face meetings are essential for “sealing the deal”. With all this information supporting the need for communication at a personal level, the industry must be looking forward to the future with confidence and renewed optimism.

Be heard

It is vital we get the message across now as organisations start to plan their budgets for 2010 and beyond. 2009 saw the cancellation and postponement of numerous events and it is important that they are put back in the calendar. The evidence is there to support the need for face-to-face communication so it is important for organisations to recognise this and to invest accordingly. The industry is a significant employer in this country and has an important part to play in the economy as a whole. We have a story to tell and we want to get it out there loud and clear.

 

*To read the Eventia White Paper in full, visit www.eventia.org.uk

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