From the moment I took up my post running an events department for a UK based association it baffled me why I was receiving calls from people calling themselves “professional conference organisers.”  I was running all my events quite professionally thanks.

These approaches appeared to me to imply two things. Firstly f they were “professional” by classing themselves as such, then perhaps I wasn’t? And secondly, if someone really is professional, surely they don’t need to say it? But of course some people do if like the fabled miracle cures from the Wild West are anything to go by. They where sold by a “Doctor” as you would never have bought them from anyone without that title. Do people in conference organiser industry add the word “professional” (the oldest trick in the book) to persuade people that we are respectable? Does out industry have such a bad name.

It’s an industry thing this “professional conference organisers” business

Now I am not for one second calling into question the ability of PCOs to meet customer expectations but more the general perception by our clients and what they think of an industry which flouts its professionalism like a garish moniker on a horse drawn cart. So who exactly is professional? Over the last few years I’ve had various conversations with the Irish PCO and the UK PCO representative bodies and both have said they considered the use of the word ‘professional’ very seriously. So I was disappointed to see that ABPCO retained the word in its title when it re-branded. For me it was a great opportunity missed. You see we are all “professional conference organisers” but we don’t need to say it.

Organisers organise events

Back to those calls from the professionals. Throughout various conversations during my time running the events department at the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and the British Bankers’ Association and overseeing the commercial department at the Council of Mortgage Lenders I tried to find out why, if I employed organisers, would I be interested in using a PCO? The majority of the services they offered appeared to replicate the roles of the teams I had built to organise our events.

Building three successful events businesses within three large associations and having supported several associations through consultancy, I have come to the conclusion that most associations should organise their own events. During a conversation with Deborah Dawton, Chief Executive at the Design Business Association, she expressed a similar view. When looking to increase the number and quality of her association’s events she instinctively felt that a team “had to be assembled in our association.”

Building a team from within is not the direction that a large number of associations choose and this is a shame.

If you do use the skills of a conference organiser make sure they add maximum value

I believe that PCOs (after the name change of course) should move away from a logistical support role and become more strategic. I also suggest a new name for our industry: Strategic Event Services. Not that’s snappy!

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Published On: May 16th, 2013 / Categories: Associations, Conferences & Congresses, Innovation / Tags: , , /