Events In A New Economy - Dr Yemi Amusan

In Africa we are social creatures by every definition of the word. We love our events and we really love to party! As partying goes very ...

In Africa we are social creatures by every definition of the word. We love our events and we really love to party! As partying goes very few can compete with the Nigerian social appetite… Virtually everything we do finds expression through one event or the other. From the dignified pace of corporate functions to the enthusiastic exploits of social gatherings to the frenetic vibe of our ever growing entertainment industry; our events have become a magnificent albeit ostentatious celebration of colour, fashion, food, music, creativity and sheer enterprise. Indeed we really believe size does matter!
Over the last two decades the endeavour to push the envelope coupled with our inherent trend driven subculture has given rise to the growth of the Event Services Industry and the role of the Event Planner or Event Manager as some prefer to be referenced (There is a difference in case you were wondering… but that’s another story) In 2015 plunging oil prices on the global market (which, incredibly, appear quite sedentary compared to the frightening speed of the Naira's plummeting value) had the inevitable knock on effect on our economic universe. The conundrum of our dependence on oil has been well treated by much smarter minds than mine and the perils of a monoeconomy need no longer be explained in theoretic discourse. As 2016 somewhat sluggishly begins to gather momentum; Nigerians far and wide, high and low are forced to consider a new economic reality. In the face of a punch-drunk economy, we must trim our excesses and discover more efficient and cost effective ways of doing things or risk the total collapse of our society as we know it. To put it in Darwinian terms, we must evolve or die. This is more so true for the Event Services Industry. For all its bluster, the Events industry economy is precariously dependent on the disposable dividends from other economic sectors. Presently the industry does not contribute robustly to the national economy through innovation and taking lead on initiatives that promote what this country has to offer the world by way of events. This is not to say there are no bright sparks… it is that the sparks are both initiated and sponsored from other industries with the Event Industry brain trust mainly functioning as facilitators without any real say in the key decisions that determine outcomes.
As the saying goes; “He who pays the piper…” Perhaps we should begin to look to calling a few tunes of our own… But I babble... If most of what we do is based on the disposable funds and funds that can easily be written off from other industries, what happens when these funds inevitably begin to dwindle or can no longer be written off with such ease? Hypothetical permutations aside, it would appear this will be the case from here on. The good news is that there will always be events of some form or fashion. We must however begin to think of how to design events that meet the specific needs of our clients at a cost that works within the parameters of our newly defined reality. Without belabouring the point, events in Nigeria are expensive to pull off, especially when the cost of implementing them is considered relative to the client's returns on investment and the guaranty of qualitative service delivery. These are issues that must become central to our Event design process if we are to develop a new sustainable business model going forward. As you plan your next event consider the following:

Event Management is primarily a service. The task of the planning or managing an event should be treated as a service not a transaction. One of the most common complaints from clients is they feel Event Planners do not follow through to see events to their true conclusion. Once a planner has been paid, all diplomatic ties are seemingly severed until the next event. In cases where feedback, follow up, post event analysis and reporting etc are critical to a client’s return on investment and expectation (as is the case with most corporate events) this is a major demotivater. The Event Planners who can include more value added services to their package beyond event day will always have a competitive advantage.

No one wants to be part of an experiment. Clients cannot afford to pay for the same thing more than once. As with most things, people want the assurance that you know what you’re doing before they give you their money. Imagination and creativity are great but most people would rather put their money with experience. No one knows everything. It is ok to ask for help if a particular job requires expertise outside your skill set. It is however unforgivable to promise something you cannot deliver. Wherever possible add an experienced mind to your design process and bid. Provide training opportunities for staff as often as you can and never miss an chance to work with proven expertise…even if its for free… you’ll be the better for it. No one is beyond mistakes but event mistakes may cost far more than most will be willing to pay.

Think content above packaging. Presentation is an important part of communication and events are largely about communication. That said, events must be much more than props and gimmicks; there must be content… The event is ultimately about the content. The world used to be very big on packaging. We all remember buying a gadget that took arduous hours to extricate from its elaborate box. Packaging in events refers to the look and feel of an event…IV’s, Decor, Dress code, Staff uniforms, Take away gift bags etc… These are all important for creating a great impression but most of us, if told to choose, would always pick content over packaging. An event with great packaging but little or no content is like a beautiful envelope with no message inside. As client expenditure comes under greater scrutiny, much of the packaging that has become the norm for events as we know them may well be considered surplus to requirement. We must begin to think of how to package events in a way that the packaging itself becomes part of the content and elegantly yet seamlessly introduces our clients to an immersive experience that is well worth their valuable spend.

Is this really necessary? If this is the question we are all asking ourselves as we review our various budgets, you can bet that prospective clients are asking the same question before they sign off on any event related endeavour. Many of the events we have come to take for granted will inevitably come under critical review as businesses make necessary budget cuts. This presents a unique opportunity for the Event Services Industry to present events and products that add real value to client brands yet still help them stay within their budget parameters.

Trim the fat. Sometimes clients inadvertently pay for the excess baggage we carry in terms of staffing, logistics and RTDL (Reasons That Defy Logic… applicable to various sections of our national budget… if you believe what you read) Expect this to change. Keep your overheads to the essentials and ensure your staff can multitask and have the necessary skill and training to prevent them from being dead weight. Outsourcing where possible is a useful strategy to employ in ensuring you have the necessary skill set at your disposal for specific tasks without keeping expensive expertise on payroll. Always remember an event should not cost you or the client more than the value it is providing.

Be Creative. Most of us are constantly kicking ourselves for all the brilliantly ingenious yet ridiculously simple innovations that are turning average Joes into multi millionaires. The truth is we all stumble across amazing solutions and opportunities every day if only we would see them. The value you bring is in the questions you help answer and the solutions your event helps to provide. If neither you or your event are doing either, one or both of you is not necessary. In spite of the doom and gloom that threatens to becloud every other conversation, there is probably no greater opportunity than the re definition of our economy to change the narrative of the Event Services Industry. If creativity is indeed the corner stone of our trade, then it is time we all got creative. Events won’t go away, we just need to become better Event Planners and Managers.


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