HeadBox Connect Event Report: Recession-proofing your Events Roadmap

HeadBox Connect Event Report: Recession-proofing your Events Roadmap

Reading the news, you’d be justified in thinking that economic uncertainty is the new norm and the events industry, in particular, seems to be precariously placed. 

As pandemics, wars and shifting trade relations rock companies small and large, it's more important than ever to be prepared for the potential impact of wider macroeconomic trends on your events roadmap. 

Whether you’re planning an event, juggling the company’s finances or running a venue,  working to create memorable experiences is now inextricably linked with the need to meet internal cost-saving goals.

On Tuesday 14th March, we headed to Convene at 22 Bishopsgate London, an award-winning and forward-thinking venue in The City, to address the challenges posed by putting on events in a volatile economic climate. Our panel included some of the industry’s most insightful voices:

Chaired by Martin Fullard, Associate Director – News & Content at Davies Tanner 

Amy Bridget-Pooser, COO & President, Convene

Claire Wormsley, Founder & Director, The Media House & Global Conference Network

Imogen Furness, Global Travel Manager, WTW 

Gemma Bassett, Non-Executive Director, HeadBox

Where is the industry now?

The events industry has been through a lot. Casting our minds back to the dark days of 2020 is enough to send most of us into a fever dream of shuttered venues, cancelled Christmas parties and Tiger King. The good news is that things have come back, and at pace. 

A recent report on the international events industry has seen growth since 2021, with corporate events expected to reach a valuation of $454.6 billion by 2028, with an annual growth rate of 12.4%. Clearly, the appetite for events is not going anywhere. There is, however, a marked shift in how events are viewed.

Our panel agrees that purposeful events are the new normal. There is a consensus that each meeting, conference and workshop needs to provide clear value to attendees.

“Budget holders and finance teams are focused on understanding the cost of an event and the value it delivers.” - Claire Wormsely, Founder & Director, The Media House & Global Conference Network

Events can be difficult things to tangibly measure (how do you put a metric against forging inter-team relationships, for example?). However, success can be defined from the outset

Having a clear goal tied to any event allows every stakeholder to set expectations, consider who needs to be in attendance, and a retrospective assessment of success.

“The financial teams are focused mainly on making sure the right people attend the right meetings, and getting the right results. ” - Imogen Furness, Global Travel Manager, WTW

The panellists stressed the importance of goal setting, be it qualitative or quantitative. Once you have a strong justification for your events, you can start securing those key savings and discounts.

Rising costs - How to maximise savings and leverage discounts

The industry may be  returning to pre-pandemic levels, but there is no doubt that costs have risen enormously. Huge hikes in travel fees, food prices and energy rates are testing budgets across the board. This is putting pressure on those involved with events to find savings wherever they can. 

The question is: how do we balance stretched budgets with creating meaningful, purpose-driven events?

Your first port of call is to identify meetings that simply don’t justify the high expenditure. Small meetings have now gone virtual across many companies, and the savings made are often reallocated to larger, more meaningful events. 

Securing discounts with venues and suppliers is the holy grail of event professionals. The best way to achieve this is through fruitful, collaborative relationships with trusted partners. Venues and partners will be more likely to offer bespoke rates to customers they trust and work with regularly. 

Contracting is rarely considered the most exciting aspect of planning an event – but it can be the most fiscally rewarding. Our panel noted that almost every aspect of a contract can be negotiated. From payment terms and hours of hire to compulsory suppliers, if there is a saving to be made, it’s worth contesting the small print.

“Negotiation is always, always an option ” – Imogen Furness, Global Travel Manager, WTW

How are venues coping with rising costs?

Of course, bookers are not the only stakeholders dealing with inflating costs. Venues also bear the brunt of macroeconomic tides; running a large space incurs a lot of expenses.  

Ultimately the best venues survive through their client relationships. Ensuring every event you put on delivers exactly what your customer base is expecting should be your foremost strategy in keeping the diary full and the invoices coming.

“If you have the resources, try to cater to everything in-house. You’ll have more control and visibility over every aspect of what you’re offering, and you’ll make significant savings.  ” – Amy Bridget-Pooser, (COO & President, Convene)

Adding virtual capabilities to  events is an increasingly popular route for venues to go down. It’s a great way to mitigate risks of cancellations (and the ensuing financial loss) – diversifying how people can attend makes attendance itself much more viable who may struggle to make it in person. It also opens up events to an international crowd, without incurring financial and ecological costs. 

Whilst technology can lead to long-term financial gains, adding hybrid and virtual capabilities will require an upfront investment. If it’s going to be done to a standard acceptable to bookers, it needs to be done well.

Top tips for cost-saving

Every event should have a clear, attainable goal. This allows you to identify and get rid of unnecessary meetings and events, ultimately saving you money. Go through your event roadmap and ensure every event, big or small, has a goal tethered to it. 

Negotiate everything, every aspect of the contract should be up for discussion. Look at payment, minimum numbers and suppliers.

“I will literally sit down and go through the contract line-by-line, looking for negotiation points.” – Claire Wormsley, Founder & Director, The Media House & Global Conference Network

Use a regional supply chain, it’ll cut down on travel costs and has the added benefit of reducing your carbon footprint.

• Embrace hybrid. Thankfully, physical events are never going to go away, but reducing in-person attendance through virtual capabilities should always be an option. 

If you know you’ll be planning multiple events, look at booking a series with a venue. Venues will often reduce costs per event if they know they’re securing multiple dates.

This event was made possible thanks to Convene.

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