Events for a lifetime
CN deputy editor Martin Fullard meets WRG’s head of live, Tim Collett
Earlier in 2018 I was fortunate enough to travel to Chamonix, France for the Global Events Summit, and it was here that I met Tim Collett, who is head of live at WRG, a division of The Creative Engagement Group. Collett is an events man through and through, and I wanted to learn more about where his passion for bringing events to life through creativity and technology comes from.
How did you get into the events industry?
I’ve worked in the events industry since I was a teenager. I began at Silverstone, which was close to where I lived. A number of us around the area got it into it via motorsport, from selling burgers and in hospitality, and from putting up tents to stewarding.
I got a taste for it at that grassroots level and followed that up by doing an events management degree. After that I moved into corporate events, stuffing conference packs before becoming a project coordinator, which in turn led me into a career in producing.
What led you to WRG?
WRG is a brand I’ve known for a very long time and what brought me here was the very exciting changes that are going on with The Creative Engagement Group (TCEG). It’s a really exciting agency, there’s lots of growth, and there’s a huge amount of activity going on.
What really attracted me was the fact that we have a huge offering in terms of the services we can provide in addition to live events - such as, films, digital and immersive experiences, employee engagement, learning, healthcare communications, hybrid events and training. We can be genuinely rational about how we solve our clients’ business challenges.
What’s special about the people you bring in?
The first thing I look for is fit. This is a great agency with lovely people; they’re hardworking and they’re dedicated.
The next thing I look for in someone is the ability to challenge us and to help move us forward as an agency and create more exciting, diverse work. I also look for people who have the qualities to ensure we can solve our clients’ often complex needs.
Would you describe WRG, and TCEG, as a trailblazer? Does it shape trends or respond to them?
TCEG is absolutely a trend-setting agency in the way it is set up; we’re quite unusually shaped. The breadth of what we offer alongside our strategic and creative capabilities - from live events, exhibitions, environments, training, immersive (VR & AR) and learning across the brands within TCEG is not something we see elsewhere. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw other agencies in the future adopt a similar model.
Some people view the conference concept as rather staid, how do you explain to clients that there are more creative ways to deliver content?
To be honest we’ve all been guilty of forcing content and messaging into live events that shouldn’t have been there. I understand how people may have a preconception that conferences are boring and unengaging, and frankly some of the ones I’ve seen in the past have been.
We’re in a brilliant position right now as an industry to be able to create some really compelling and engaging content; and by that it’s about harnessing the power of live events and the power of live engagement. We have these wonderful tools at our disposal to create a wider campaign so that deep, individualistic content can be delivered through alternative media that isn’t reliant on everyone being sat in a room being talked at.
The ‘power of live’ is a two-way conversation and we as an industry have to harness it.
Broadly speaking, what is your assessment of the industry at the moment?
I think the industry is in a strong position. From a B2B and B2C perspective, companies are needing to collaborate across traditional competitive lines more and more. I believe agencies have a unique power to bring brands together to create meaningful conversations and dialogue.
The consumer market is well documented as being an area of growth and I can’t see any reason why that would reduce the power of the live experience in terms of brand affinity.
The really exciting area is internal engagement and internal events as brands and companies are in a much more competitive landscape when it comes to talent acquisition, retention, motivation, and productivity. The opportunity for us to help our clients with that internal engagement challenge is huge, and it’s always been a big part of what we do as an industry, and I think it’s going to grow and grow.
As technology like VR and AR become more affordable, do you see them making a meaningful impact on events in the near future?
Yes. As a stand-alone piece, the immersive technology industry is growing, and clients are seeing the value of offering immersive engagements, mainly from a training and education perspective.
The global VR and AR markets are expected to reach $75bn and $134bn respectively by 2021, so projects such as our award-winning virtual reality training programme for Global Radio become more central to client activity.
I think we need to be cautious about how these technologies come into the live environment; we have to use them to enhance live events and use them to drive a more campaign-focused level of communication. We must marry the best of what live events and technology can offer.
As Brexit looms, are you confident the events industry has a loud enough voice in the ear of government?
No. I think that the association bodies representing this industry are not joined up and they do not have a combined voice.
We need a much clearer voice at the table when we are discussing the many challenges facing us an industry, whether it’s from a macro or a micro perspective, or of a political nature. We have a duty and a need to highlight the professionalism that is inside our industry, we are very professionally minded and a huge part of the creative industry.
As a country that leads the world in creative services we need a louder, more cohesive voice at the table to ratify our position in the mix.
What are you proudest to have achieved in the events industry?
I’m really proud of the people I’ve mentored over the years having full, exciting and engaging careers in the industry.
It’s reassuring to me that they have gone out into the events world and are spreading good practice.
I’m also proud to have had the opportunity to work on some superb projects, both in the public event world and in the internal communication and engagement world.
It has also given me pride to have had such diverse experiences, such as organising London’s New Year’s Eve fireworks and running the dedication event for a new World War I cemetery.