Pre 2008, the UK conference and event market was unquestionably booming. However, with the black cloud of recession came huge uncertainty. What was dubbed the 'credit crunch' also brought more negotiation on rates; reduced spend on catering; organisers opting for room-only rather than day delegate packages; and increased use of in-house facilities.
Changing with the times
Adapting to technological innovations in our fast-evolving society can seem challenging to many events organisations, but responding in line with changing consumer behaviour will mean that you meet your users' expectations. Failing to do so can result in disengagement, dissatisfied users and lost custom. For example, the inception of the smartphone and the introduction of the tablet have massively increased the amount of users browsing the Internet via mobile devices. In the UK today 12.59% of total website traffic comes from mobile (Tecmark, 2011). Therefore, a mobile compatible website is becoming increasingly important for many businesses. But, this is just one example of technological developments that the events industry need to be aware of and react to.
Responding to technological evolutions, such as the massive uptake of social networking in recent years, is critical to success in today's economy. Maintaining proactive, up-to-date and responsive accounts means that you are positioned effectively to communicate with your target audience when they are susceptible to listen and react accordingly.
Established in 1998, Events Consultants Scotland works with clients to deliver events throughout the UK. Sara van der Vat, Event Director at Events Consultants Scotland, emphasised that technology was both a challenge and a solution for 2012 and the events industry;
"I strongly believe in keeping up to date with the latest technology for our events. All of our events are viewable and bookable online via our own website and we have recently invested in delegate management software which allows us to build event specific websites, branded to the host company."
Sara's response highlights how using technology to streamline processes, such as purchasing/booking online, massively enhances your prospects. In the long-term these changes will also bring savings for your business by reducing the amount of man labour and hours required to complete routine tasks. Efficient online booking software has the added advantage of updating your database in real-time to ensure that no duplicate entries are made and availability is kept up-to-date. Events companies must look at what processes they can automate via their online platform, to increase overall efficiency, reduce waste and meet customer demands.
Nurturing your talent pool
Whilst unemployment rates continue to rise the events industry is still struggling to fill job vacancies, with an increasing number reporting employment as a main challenge foreseen for 2012.
Event management companies are often reliant on freelancers to fill fluctuating recruitment needs, so this is an alternative target audience with whom they need to engage, in order to attain the best available talent. An effective online presence is the best way to do this.
Your website is pivotal to attracting new, qualified candidates to your company. You can work to develop a community around your site, by maintaining engaging and informative content, publishing a regular blog, building a forum (where relevant), creating a newsletter and sign-up feature, and making your site generally more interactive. Social media has a key role to play in the sustained effort to improve the social and interactive nature of your website. Moreover, integrating social plugins into your website allows users to interact with your site through their existing social networks, thus extending the reach of your communications.
After Digital's Recommendations
Technology can help the events industry to meet its growing aspirations, whilst remaining sustainable and cost-efficient. Implementing effective digital solutions can help to streamline administration, communications and other internal processes, whilst simultaneously acting as a key marketing tool, enhancing overall brand awareness and brand reach. At the heart of this is maintaining an up-to-date, accessible and efficient website.
Your website should:
- Generate brand awareness
- Reach your target audience when they are looking for you
- Engage the user's attention
- Encourage interaction, repeat visits and loyalty
- And most importantly - Meet your SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely) business objectives!
- Clearly establish your online business objectives, goals and set out key performance indicators, to ensure measurability is built into your site and online activities from the offset;
- Analyse keywords specific to your company and industry;
- From the above analysis identify relevant, targeted keyphrases and optimise your site content;
- Evaluate your site's performance against your competitors (considering both your known competitors and those who arise as competing for the same keywords);
- Maintain fresh content, by regularly updating your website with relevant, optimised information;
- Integrate social media and interactive content to engage users (social plugins on your website are key to creating a social user experience);
- Consistently monitor and measure your website's analytics;
- Listen and react to your users.
British Standards Institution (2007) BSI British Standards launches new standard for managing a more sustainable event, BSI Group, Available at: http://www.bsigroup.com/en/About-BSI/News-Room/BSI-News-Content/Disciplines/Sustainability/BS8901-Launch/
Conference Scotland (2011) Scotland Conference Event: Presentation, Conference Scotland, Available at: http://www.conference-scotland.co.uk/?cat=4
Tecmark (2011) UK Mobile Internet Statistics - August 2011, Available at: http://www.tecmark.co.uk/uk-mobile-stats-2011