The Big Interview: Liz Zutshi
Martin Fullard chats to Liz Zutshi, recently promoted to MD at TTA, on life as an agent
Last November, TTA (The Turner Agency) elected to move, leaving Wokingham town centre behind for a funky new glass-walled complex in Bracknell. As if that change wasn’t enough, the healthcare event specialists elected to promote the long-serving Liz Zutshi to managing director.
TTA has an impressive reputation as a trusted healthcare events provider, so being promoted to MD is no token gesture. How, then, did she get here?
How did you get into the events industry?
I studied Sport Development and Coaching Sciences at Bournemouth University, and I had grand plans of becoming a football agent. While at university I worked in AFC Bournemouth’s ticketing department, so without realising it at the time I was experiencing the events industry first hand.
I joined TTA 15 years ago in an operational capacity as a spare pair
of hands as their first placement student, and knew almost instantly
that in the corporate events world I
was here to stay.
At 20 years old, as part of my University Placement year, I identified very quickly the opportunities that the events industry gave me and played to my strengths. The prospect of travelling the world, working across a variety of cultures and languages and building relationships with a huge range of people with a solution-focused team ethic were the most exciting factors to me then and strongly believe that this still gets me out of bed in the morning.
You’ve just been promoted to MD at TTA, what does this mean to you and how will you approach it?
Working at TTA is more than just a job to me; it has been part of my growing up and I’m thrilled to be able to lead and sustain our entrepreneurial heritage and combine it with our client-focused mentality. I’m privileged to have such a supportive and talented senior leadership team to work with as well as a brilliant wider team that all believe in my ‘anything is possible’ attitude.
I strongly believe that we are ready for growth across all aspects of our business, from the professional and personal development of our people to expansion of our service offering to continue to deliver outstanding events and experiences for our clients.
TTA specialises in medical and healthcare events, which is a specialised field: do you worry that other agencies underestimate what’s involved?
Yes, in a word. It is heavily regulated, and compliance is so important to healthcare events and external communications. We work in the best interests of our clients, always, and understanding the impact of a breach of regulations could result in a fine in the millions.
Healthcare companies will expect an agency to understand the environment they are working in and it will be quickly obvious if the agency hasn’t had experience in this arena.
When dealing with our client’s customers it is not just ‘another event’. Everything from the invites to joining instructions requires approval to ensure there are no breaches of the guidelines. On top of this we must report on the individual spend on those customers, if this is not done accurately it puts our client’s reputation in jeopardy.
In your view, how has the events industry changed, and where do you see it going?
Event technology is arguably one of the biggest changes we’ve seen. In a very short space of time technology has become an integral part of running an event. Where before we used spreadsheets and manually invited delegates, a lot of this has now become automated.
As corporates are seeing the value of events there has been greater scrutiny of spend. In my time I have seen greater emphasis on how that spend is reported and managed. Most of our clients are in varying stages of a strategic meetings management programme (SMMP) and if you are an agency that understands this and can even help implement the programme this can give you a strategic advantage over your competitors.
There is a lot of talk about AI becoming the next step in events. I can see how algorithms can help with destination and venue choice when you factor in where attendees are flying from, security, and preferred suppliers. This can help save a huge amount of time and money in the initial venue find process.
There is already a certain amount of AI for responding to basic queries and FAQs on some of the larger corporate websites, this could gradually be brought in to the events sector, particularly for the larger events such as congresses and festivals, streamlining the whole delegate registration process.
Ultimately with all these advances in technology there still needs to be talented people behind the operation and having a dedicated events team that understand your objectives, have your event and the attendee experience at the forefront of what they do. A machine will never have that attention to detail and the need to deliver with a smile is never going to change.
Procurement: help or hindrance?
As procurement are often the people that tell what you can or can’t do, make you report on cost-savings, ask you to demonstrate your value and create more non-chargeable work, they can often be seen as the bad guys. Our belief is that procurement is there to give their customers the best agency who understands their business, will pose the minimum risk to the company and will ultimately deliver on the stakeholder’s objectives. It is not about the cheapest agency but the best value agency.
If, as an agency, we can demonstrate that value, procurement can actually be a door opener rather than a gate keeper. Our relationship and understanding of procurement’s needs have recently created opportunities for us with a number of new clients. We were able to demonstrate that we understood that an event is not an isolated moment in time but part of a bigger picture, particularly in regard to SMMP. This gave procurement the reassurance that we were a safe pair of hands and that we would understand their corporate M&E strategy.
Which event have you enjoyed working on the most and why?
I project directed our client’s involvement in the Queen’s Coronation festival set in the gardens of Buckingham Palace. This involved all elements of their sponsorship at the event from building an exhibition stand, handling the logistics of ticketing for several audiences including a VIP invited group, an internal incentive group, a partner event and a consumer competition with varying levels of prizes and packages for both day and evening sessions.
The high-level security provided a few challenges from goody bag delivery for security screening into the Palace to providing on site staff details weeks in advance of the event dates.
Being on site in the gardens of Buckingham Palace during the build days was amazing, working with some of our countries brilliant brands and seeing all the infrastructure put in place for the event to come to life. My highlight of the event was our scheduled visit by Her Majesty to our client’s stand on the Royal Preview day.