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People power at the Agency Leaders Global Event Summit

The Agency Leaders Global Event Summit in partnership with Cvent once again took place at luxury skiing chalet Les Rives D’Argentière, Chamonix, 24-26 March.

The group and I talked long and hard about the state of the industry, from talent and commission to consolidation and the future of the industry (I would need 100 pages to fill you in on everything), but the one subject that everyone was most passionate about was people.

People is what we are in the events industry, and having the right ones is key. If an agency looks after its team, it can be sure the team will look after the clients. Everyone in the chain, then, will hit their targets.

The industry occasionally requires long hours and burnout is a consistent spectre, add to that the need to look after top talent, and agencies are constantly forced to find innovative ways to keep staff enthused and focused. 

 

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Among those at the fireside discussion was Richard Waddington, chair of the Events Marketing Association (EMA) and non-executive board member of Pure Events. He says: “While cash is king in the short term, the feelings of being respected, valued, and involved are far greater motivators in creating, retaining and growing a ‘happy tribe’, it’s all about the culture you want to foster. 

“The most important element on retaining staff is how you treat them: involve them. Communication and engagement is paramount, the team needs to feel part of the journey and not just a cog in the wheel. Personal development plans should be an ongoing process, not just an annual event.”

What challenges does Waddington foresee? He adds: “The biggest challenge I see for both small and medium agencies, and in-house teams, is that the department heads or owners are generally too involved and ‘in the weeds’. This needs to change, you have to invest to make it change and make time to be able to focus on your most important asset: your people and your culture.”

 

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When we are looking after our eventprofs, do we need to treat those from different generations differently to each other, surely millennials are just people? Or do they require different incentives to deliver quality events for clients?  

Dom Garner, co-founder of Ten Thousand Hours, says that we shouldn’t be distracted from what eventprofs really want: achievement. He says: “The banal conversation around wellbeing and mindfulness within the events industry has somewhat detracted from solving a key issue at hand. Confusing perks and benefits for what truly motivates today’s employees: knowing that their work is making a real difference.”

Conversely, Jacqui Kavanagh, CEO at Trinity Event Solutions, says that she has introduced a raft of benefits to keep her team enthused, but that she ensures timing is key. 

She says: “We are a diverse group of professionals in the events industry, from creative to very logistically- and procurement-led specialists. Therefore, there is very definitely not a one-size-fits-all solution to keeping our staff fresh. At Trinity we look at our team as individuals and therefore have a toolbox of incentives that work best for us. The key thing is to implement short bite-sized targets. Time-based targets are clear and achievable, and it also means they don’t have to wait until Christmas for reward for good work in March.”

 

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At this point we went around the group to understand more about how some of the other agencies incentivise their teams.

Liz Zutshi, MD at The Turner Agency (TTA) says: “A pension plan, time in lieu, recovery days, a day a week working from home all are standard as part of working within our organisation. We offer a comprehensive travel insurance policy to include cover for direct family members. Our profit-related pay (PRP) bonus scheme reflects both individual and company performance.” 

Mark Gill, FD at YES, explained that his agency took the whole team abroad: “In 2018 we put together an amazing event in Barcelona to bring the whole team together and enjoy and experience an event which we would only usually see from the eyes of a winning delegate. We put our staff in the position of consumer and combined the experience with our annual Christmas party and also had some great business sessions.”

The collective feeling from the group is that it is up to the individual agencies to ensure they look after their teams, and to incentivise them accordingly. External influences from association bodies, for example, would be unmanageable. Rest assured, though, the agencies that joined CN in Chamonix couldn’t be prouder of their teams. And they now know a great ski resort to take them to as well...