Agency Eye: story telling
Martin Fullard chats to Story Events MD and CN30 under Thirty winner Steph Eayrs
Have you ever walked along a busy central London street and looked up above the shops? What goes on in those 1st, 2nd and 3rd floor Victorian piles? I recently had the opportunity to find out when, after walking through an inconspicuous grey door on Charing Cross Road, I met Steph Eayrs, MD at Story Events.
In October 2017, Eayrs was chosen as an inaugural member of the CN30 under Thirty, which means she – and 29 others – were singled out as having made a worthy contribution to the events industry.
So where did her journey begin? “I did a placement year at a small events agency in Northamptonshire,” she says. “I worked there for three years in public sector events.
“Soon after I moved over to Fuse, part of the OMD Media agency, where I worked on the Vodafone account, working on their fashion, festivals and Formula 1 activities. It was great fun, but it wasn’t as hands-on operationally as I would have perhaps liked.”
It was this appetite to get her hands dirty that led Eayrs to calling a friend of a friend, who was in the process of setting up Story. She says: “It was suggested that I come in as their first event manager [April 2014] and since that time I’ve moved up the ranks and here I am managing director.” Eayrs has been promoted four times since 2014.
The Story name has become more commonplace in recent years as the agency gains traction. Indeed, in January they ran their popular London Summer Event Show, which they point out saw a 25% increase in the number of corporate buyers attending. A good show, and unsurprising given the agency sees annual turnover of £3m.
I’m curious about what type of events Story runs. Eayrs explains: “We only work on corporate events here, no private events.
“From a corporate perspective there isn’t really a single event type that we specialise in: it ranges from conferences, dinners, product launches, exhibitions, and teambuilding.
“In terms of our clients, we don’t focus on one specific industry, so this means there is no limit to our creativity and what we get to work on. We have clients in retail, construction, insurance, and media industries, to name but a few, but the one thing they do seem to have in common, however, is that we work with some really lovely people. Similarly, we ensure all of our team reciprocates that.”
With great reputation comes great responsibility, and I ask Eayrs to namedrop some clients: She confidently lists out: “We work with Waitrose, Savills, Brit Insurance, LinkedIN, JustGiving, and London Business School”
Big names, but what percentage of Story’s events are conferences? Eayrs says: “About 20-30% of our business is conferences. It makes up a really solid pillar for us. We can’t always be as creative as we would like with conferences, but we’re very confident and love running them; running them in a way that is a bit different.”
One of the biggest obstacles faced by agencies is making those at board level understand the power of events. How do Eayrs and the Story team get their pitches across? She says: “One of the things we pride ourselves on is bringing a creative twist to the events. Clients are becoming more aware of that. The rise of social media has created another competitive challenge as to potential clients; they need to be holding the event to attend, above all of the competition.
“If we’re lucky enough to speak to a board of directors early on in the process, we’re able to get an understanding of what they want to achieve and how we can add as much value as possible. It’s important to prove to them how having us involved can help the whole process become smoother and more efficient. We take all the stress and handle the A-Z of putting on the event so they have time to think about the bigger picture; we’re happy to take on as much or as little as the client wants for them to achieve a successful event.
“When pitching for an event It’s important to highlight when we have achieved similar objectives at other events, and that we have the conviction to do what we say we’re going to do. Sometimes people are put off when they see there’s a fee associated with an event management agency, but if you strip it down you can see where the efficiencies come in terms of time and also spend through our ability to negotiate with trusted suppliers and venues, its then that clients can see the bigger picture.”
The country is going through a changing period. It’s also no secret that the events industry itself has to adapt and get with the times. Few see these changing trends quite like those on the front line of the events industry. As Eayrs is in that position, what has she observed? “Christmas parties are in decline,” she says. “The latest trend relates to wellbeing, health, and work-life balance. Clients are more aware of their own needs and we need to be able positively to impact on their teams.
“People don’t seem to be as keen to only thank their team by celebrating with a big boozy dinner at the end of the year, they now need to ensure that their people are well looked after, and we’re seeing that throughout the year.”
It wouldn’t be an interview if the ‘Brexit’ word didn’t crop up. On Brexit, Eayrs echoes the general industry sentiment. She says: “While no one knows how things will work out, people are always looking for reassurances, and to be communicated with. For that, conferences will be key with organisations wanting their teams to be more aware of what is happening internally; it creates less panic and less movement.”
It’s a great Story. Certainly, more goes on in those upper floor rooms than you’d expect.