Recently I had to brief a management consultant friend of mine who had kindly offered to lead a change management session for event organisers. As an expert on change but outside of the industry I gave her a bit of general advice on what makes change within the events industry so hard. When I read it back today, I thought, isn’t this interesting……..
So here’s how I explained our industry to an outsider who was looking to support organisers and organisations who run events to change. I hope it throws up some interesting points!
Change. And why the events industry doesn’t
Here’s a list of the challenges organisers face as they try to imbed change:
- The area of events is not regarded as much of a skill by a lot of people. Everyone thinks that they can run an event and this makes it very difficult for our organisers to have power and influence.
- Conferences and exhibitions haven’t changed much in, really the last 30 or 40 years. So it is hard to look at recent change and build on that. More evidence if that was needed that change isn’t natural to many of the organisations that run events.
- Many event businesses are set up in some ways like a production line. As soon as the organiser finishes with one, they are on to another. Without any head space it is hard to think about change.
- For many of the organisations who do other things (like associations) their events are the most important money earning part of what their organisation does. This means they tend to be even more risk averse. Even when they see numbers falling they will default to past ways to solve the problem – for example, paying more for higher profile speakers rather than looking at asking the attendees to help structure the programme.
- We know that people learn better when they are having fun and are relaxed but there is a lack of evidence in our particular field. This means that we aren’t really able to present research to our stakeholders to prove many of the things we instinctively know to be true. This is building but for moment a lot of this has to be a leap of faith. How do you prove that change will work?
- Most event organisers by nature are people who like being out of the limelight so making these bold moves that often go against the culture of the industry is a real challenge.
- Most organisers will be used to acting for the client. Even though they are the expert very often they will be told how to run the event (see point 1) this makes it very hard to influence change.
- Often the case is that delegates, sponsors and exhibitors who attend events are not crying out for innovation so it is exceptional hard for organisers to take the lead in changing their events: there is often a lack of external factors driving the change.
- Events aren’t seen as being particularly strategic and for most events they never get near reaching their potential. So when organsiers talk about making big impact they are often dismissed. “you just pack the delegate bags and don’t worry about ROI or member recruitment would be something said to an organiser”
- “If I gave people what they thought they wanted – they would have had a faster horse!” Henry Ford. This is a quote I often use. Many organisers think: is it the job of the event organiser to drive this change or simply give people what they think they want? “Changing is a risk. But not changing is a bigger one”