Why corporate event planners need to brush up on their marketing skills

Richard Waddington

Richard Waddington, Chair of the Event Marketing Association

Nobody knows the world of corporate event planning better that Richard Waddington. As a co-founder and ex-CEO of First Protocol, a world leader in event management, and Chair of the Event Marketing Association, Richard has seen big changes in the sector. Whereas event professionals were merely seen as planners in the past, now their task has become more strategic: “You have to understand the objectives to be able to deliver, which means you have to think and behave like a marketer. “

One of the big changes is the sheer volume many teams have to deliver nowadays. The proliferation of events as a marketing and communication tool for corporates over the past years has put a lot of time and budget constraints on teams, Richard explains.

In addition, there is a challenge to justify the expense of internal and external events. “This means it’s more important than ever for event planners to understand the overall objective of their organisation and how events can be aligned to those objectives”, says Richard.

However, showing return on investment isn’t always straight forward as it’s not necessarily fiscal. “Event planners need to ask themselves whether they have shifted the emotional dial, whether they have deepened relationships or learned new things about their clients or whatever their audience is at the time”, Richard argues.

Translating that into measurable results can often be challenging, but according to Richard it’s all about setting out the objectives at the very beginning. Sometimes it can be as simple as: “We want our MD to meet these 5 people, swap business cards and follow up with a meeting”. Measuring and communicating results is now an integral part of corporate event planners. “It may sound crazy, but some people still fail to put that sort of objective in place”, says Richard.

Another key issue for planners is to keep the conversation going after the event. “The event is just a highlight within a relationship journey”, explains Richard. This is where marketing skills are essential. Planners now need an integrated communication strategy, which often includes newsletters, blogs and websites as well as face-to-face meetings.

Last but not least, planners need to be more aware of emerging events technology. Richard has seen a clear shift in the adoption of technology: “Two years ago people were asking, what is an event app and do I really need one? Now they’re asking which event app should I be using?” Some of the new trends Richard is seeing is in the collaborative marketing category: “There is some exciting technology emerging focusing on sharing and getting access to greater knowledge.”