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No shame in small budgets

No shame in small budgets

Martin Fullard, editorial director, Conference News, says organisers shouldn’t shy away from creativity, and it doesn’t need to cost a penny.

An agency owner recently told Conference News that “the pandemic seems to have killed off the didactic lecture format for good,” and that their senior clients have been forced to pay greater attention to audience behaviours, and to even use the idea of a meaningful experience as a bargaining chip for someone’s time.

It’s great to hear, but is there a misconception that tighter budgets will stifle this?

For a couple of years now, we’ve been stating that – pre-pandemic – the value of the conference and meetings industry is £18.3bn in direct spend annually. When we talk about ‘meaningful, impactful events’ we always disappear down the warren of big brands with big budgets.

If you are Mr Vodafone, then largely your events don’t have too much in the way of a budget constraint. A well-planned and executed consumer experiential activation, or internal conference, is the perfect breeding ground for an agency looking to flex its innovation muscles. It’s a chance to trial new ways of communicating content and immersing the audience through both physical and digital means, using technology to spread the word of how amazing the organisation... you know how it is.

Yet, this is not representative of all events.

The bigger picture

The bread and butter of this £18.3bn conference and meetings industry is small events, often with very little frills, and that should not be scoffed at.

I use the word ‘scoff’ intentionally because that’s what some people are doing right now. All this talk of the ‘new era of events’ is fine. I have no doubt that high-end events and experiences will set the world alight, but let us be cautious and not lazily assume bread and butter events will require much beyond basic AV and coffee.

Look at this way: how many association football clubs are there in England? The 20 Premier League clubs? The 72 EFL clubs? No, when you include non-league, there are 40,000 football clubs in England. They all have an important role to play, whether it’s just for 15 people involved in a club in the Combined Counties League, or the 3,500 fans of Torquay United.

The money generated by the ‘Big Six’ Premier League clubs is eye-watering to the point of madness, but they represent only 0.015% of English clubs. Lower league clubs don’t have such money, their products are much more basic, but to those involved, they are no less important.

There is no shame in having a small budget for your event, not everything needs to be an all-singing, all-dancing experiential event. But you can try different ways of engaging your audience to ensure the content lands. It doesn’t need to be fancy, but small changes don’t always have to cost any extra.

You’re event organisers, don’t shy away from creativity.