Oh dear …. Paul’s in reflective mode. Must be blog time!

Having just come off a large client event, a stray from my typical smaller incentive style events, a huge conference with a myriad of suppliers, it ignited some memories of my MICE youth and the early days of my career. In particular, I’ve been reflecting on the importance of supplier and general industry relationships, especially with the impact of the pandemic.

A post-event social media thank you from yours truly led to a comment from an unknown MICE eventprof to say “great to see appreciation to your suppliers”. A nice innocent comment you might think … but it’s stirred some emotions in camp eveology.

I left ‘big’ agency life some seven or so years ago to pursue a dream of combining a few corporate events (for a select few clients) with a healthy splattering of industry-related, supplier marketing projects and consultancy working with supply end brands.

Could I bridge a gap between two very different sectors of the MICE industry? Could I be a corporate planner/buyer as well as a supplier focused resource? Many asked me why was I trying to wear two hats? It was simply a case of being a marketing man who happened to fall into events and didn’t want to be constrained to one sector.

It started well with my hybrid agency, and I was fired up to be involved in supporting a few hotels in their approach and a couple of terrific industry brands … namely micebook and inVoyage. Dream projects because both were (and are) creating industry communities where buyers and suppliers could come together in an inspired and productive manner without a massive divide between the two sectors. A healthy and mutually respectful joining of two camps that both play an important part in the industry mix. My dream environment.

Some years back, a former boss in an events agency said I was “too supplier focused” and I had to prioritise and give clients, and new pitches, 100%. Essentially, it was a hidden directive to restrict supplier appointments and don’t dare consider a fam trip! Not long before, as I was boarding a flight to a client event, a good industry friend, with another events agency, suggested I was “too hands-on with client events” and as a director, I should not be doing operations and event delivery. Yeah right .. why did I want to work in the events industry?

Needless to say, I was too long in the tooth and considered both views complete and utter tosh. If I give myself credit for just one thing in my career, I understand the importance of customer relationships and the need to invest in supplier and partner relationships is almost as equal.

My clients over thirty years have reaped the benefits of personal supplier relationships created through time and investment – both financially in those competitive scenarios and often through added values in the event delivery. We live in the digital age, but real ‘people power’ is still strongly at play.

But it is a question of balance.

Too often, with our every move being captured on supplier social media, one does notice the same familiar faces at every major MICE event, fam trip … and opening of an envelope. Good on them for investing and if the suppliers are happy with the same faces … again and again. Why not and who are we to judge?

I’ve blogged before about the despair of last-minute cancellations and letdowns by agency or corporate event planners. Seeing all those remaining badges on the registration desk. The cost of hospitality, with the effort made by brands to procure new faces for their events, is huge.

I have bad days. I get those calls which come at the worst moments in the day when you are fighting a deadline, and you’ve got a representation company with 10 hotels in town and won’t take no for an answer. A hotel which offers a highly personalised experience, and they send me a newsletter that starts ‘Dear Angela’. Endless invites to meeting spaces despite marketing myself as an incentive specialist (think I might change that now! :)). But I hope I remain polite, respectful and forgiving.

Some great agencies have been leaders in supplier recognition with awards and thank you evenings etc. But as we exit COVID, and with a still-fragile industry in some quarters and time-poor buyers, it is easy to forget the supply-end of the marketplace and the pressure they are still under.

So if there are any pearls of wisdom to any industry-hungry new starters or de-railed eventprofs, these are my tips:

  • Excuse the trending cliché but always ‘Be Kind’
  • Value suppliers and partners as much as possible – they are the backbone of our success
  • Invest time and fight the boss who wants to chain you to the office (or home desk!) – but make it a healthy balance
  • Virtual online is a great way to engage with brands and some suppliers are still making great use of Zoom which is productive for both sides – both time and cost.
  • New experiences as a result of education through new suppliers, product experiences will enrich your client relationships and offerings

My contented small business model allows me to be totally client-focused, cherry-pick from my trusted and brilliant freelance talent pool to suit the events plus allows me to be super close to the supply end which I treasure as much as my clients.

So with events taking all my time right now, I might not be that hybrid agency I set out to be (yet) … but rolling up my sleeves is keeping me young and busy (in my twilight years!) and one can only be super grateful in these strange times.

 One love.