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Rob Allen, Chief Executive, TRO of CAT Publications 18/10/2007 [1]

Ignorant or mischievous financial reporting?

M&IT’s annual Financial Benchmarks Survey of UK Event Organisers always makes for interesting reading, but when the stark analysis of company accounts receives a subsequent dollop of spin, it can result in a news story that is completely misleading.
Take the newly-released edition, for example, and the case of TRO. The story that appears on reports that we made an £80k loss in 2004, comparing this with a £793k profit in 2005. Leaving aside the point that this is rather old history for a document published in 2007, the facts behind the story are that over a 20 month period spanning both 2003 and 2004, TRO was in the process of consolidating and disposing of two joint venture and one subsidiary business, to produce, by January 2005, a single trading entity. The combined financial result of this re-organisation, reported as Exceptional Items and Income from Group Undertakings in both the 2003 and 2004 financial years, was a loss of £244,182.
The operating profit before tax and after interest of TRO’s core business in 2003 and 2004 was £472,178 and £675,501 respectively. In 2005 and 2006 the comparable figures were £793,524 and £823,750, as reported in our filed accounts.
Technically the report has not said anything incorrect, but nor does it not give the true position. I’m not sure whether this is down to ignorance or mischief, but to report on the 2004 Loss on Profit before Tax without further explanation of the circumstances of the exceptional items in the accounts is, at the very least, irresponsible.
For the record, we are confidently expecting to exceed £1m PBT in 2007.

Rob Allen, Chief Executive, TRO

Martin Lewis of CAT Publications 21/10/2007

Rob's clarifications are welcome. There was neither mischief nor spin in the story published on and, as Rob rightly points out, there was no factual inaccuracy. The business of reporting financial results is, of necessity, a matter of history mostly driven by the fact that agency businesses often file accounts as late as they can. All agencies are welcome to provide accounts to M&IT and in advance of filing including TRO, if Rob is so keen for us to report more contemporaneously.

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Tim Waygood of CAT Publications 17/10/2007 [2]

Eventia’s One Future is not the way forward for us

Eventia has launched the “Eventia One Future” initiative. According to their website;

‘Clients of Eventia members will receive lower carbon event management and have the ability to make a voluntary 1% contribution of their total spend on any event. The proceeds will be used to support UK woodland creation and energy education in primary schools. 1% has been selected as it most closely corresponds to the current market cost of carbon credits in relation to events activity’

Whilst this initiative is to be welcomed for the concern it communicates, it is not the route we will take for several reasons. Reasons are as follows:

• A flat 1 per cent misses the fact that events vary tremendously in terms of their carbon impact. For instance how can you equate an event involving flights compared to an event taking the shortly to be carbon neutral Eurostar to Paris. Turnover and carbon impact are not related.

•Energy education is already quite well done - it is the governments and adults that need the education! Recent BBC reports outline very aware 4-12 year olds suffering stress due to climate concerns

•Planting trees in the UK is not nearly as effective as offsetting carbon by planting and preserving in the tropics. The UK has already committed to substantial carbon reductions, offsetting in third world countries is therefore to be preferred.

•Creating lower carbon events must involve estimating the carbon impact of different options, then using a code of practice that involves supplier management to do the same, and offering an offset option that covers the carbon generated. Our carbon consultants advice is to measure – reduce – measure – offset.

I applaud the good intentions but don’t understand the logic of this policy.

If you want to see what MotivAction is doing go to:

John Keenan of CAT Publications Ltd 25/10/2007

Tim Waygood’s comments on the Eventia One Future initiative are carefully thought-out, but they present a narrow view (rather selectively teased from a recent BBC report) of a very complex picture. As one of the team who developed the programme I’d like to respond to some of his key objections:

Certainly events vary in terms of their carbon impact, so one per cent doesn’t pretend to be a precise offset figure for all events. But research has shown that it is the closest general value for event emissions The Eventia One Future programme is supported by measurement tools that enable users to calculate exactly their events’ carbon impacts if they want to. But that figure of one per cent provides an easily identifiable starting point for those wanting a voluntary approved offset option.

If energy education had proved to be as successful as Tim Waygood suggests, UK emissions would be declining significantly by now. In fact, domestic emissions continue to be one of the largest emissions sources in the UK, so addressing the issue in our homes is a priority. School education has started to produce results in domestic energy saving - through children’s influence on their parents’ behaviour. Equipping the next generation to be carbon-responsible consumers in one of the highest per capita emitting nations in the world has got to be a sound, if not crucial, investment.

Waygood’s statement that the UK has already committed to substantial carbon reductions is not supported by clear evidence that these targets are likely to be met. UK carbon reduction projects have the advantage of being easily verifiable within an environment that supports long term viability.
And yes - offsetting in third world countries has its merit, but there are moral and ethical issues about effectively paying people in developing countries to emit less whilst our own emissions remain high. There’s a strong argument for putting our own house in order first.

We entirely agree with his assertion that creating lower carbon events has to be the overriding priority. And this does mean estimating the carbon impact of different options, then using a code of practice that involves managing suppliers to do the same, and offering an offset option that covers the carbon generated. This is what the One Future programme is all about.

Lower carbon event management is being achieved by Eventia members measuring and reducing their own carbon impact, researching and reducing emissions from events themselves, through the delivery of greater information to clients and carbon responsible planning. Members are being supported to adopt best practice themselves as a precursor to rolling this out through the supply chain. Offset is a voluntary part of the programme and all members are clearly advised of the primary need for reduction over offset, which should occupy a secondary or tertiary role in a carbon management programme.

Eventia's carbon consultants, The Carbon Consultancy have consistently advised the need to measure, reduce and offset in that order. The Eventia programme is supported by practical tools and advice to realise the aim of reduced emissions from events.

It’s clear from Tim Waygood’s comments that he is as committed to delivering lower carbon events as we are. This issue is one which is being addressed by the industry as a whole, and Eventia is promoting dialogue and the sharing of best practice to facilitate progress. We invite Tim to contribute his obvious knowledge and enthusiasm to join with us in building a carbon-responsible industry - rather than throwing stones from the sidelines. We’re should all be on the same side here.

Aileen Reuter
Marketing Director, Maritz and Head of the Eventia CSR Working Party

Peter Turnbull of Corperactive Event Business 18/01/2008

Wake up and smell the emissions!
What is the motivation behind these initiatives? Who says that clients of Eventia will receive lower carbon event management? How can that possibly be proven? Lower than what exactly? It is an insult to the majority of many small, hard working eco friendly event companies (most of whom supply the bigger companies with their event content) to imply that by buying an event from them means higher carbon event management. Rubbish. The sceptic in me tells me that companies are jumping on the green bandwagon to steal a march and make a buck. Well done to Tim Waygood for not falling for this. At Corperactive, we have had a CSR policy in place since 2002, but we don't make a song and dance about it to impress potential clients. We just get on with it. Perhaps it would be better if companies simply reduced their carbon emissions instead of building the offset contribution into their costs (and profits).

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Katherine Simmons, deputy editor of CAT Publications 09/10/2007 [1]

How do you create 'learning' meetings?

The first instalment of M&IT’s Anatomy of a Meeting series has revealed that the average person’s concentration span is between 20-30 minutes. The “one way” method of a speaker presenting for 45 minutes to an hour employed by traditional conferences has also been dismissed by experts as it renders adult learners as passive. According to one educational theorist, talking at grown adults and not allowing them the opportunity to discuss and share opinions is enough to spark rebellion, which can result in people putting up a ‘brick wall’ to what’s being said. How are you shaping your conferences and content to maximise delegate learning and get the best return on investment for your organisation/client?

Peter Turnbull of Corperactive Event Business 29/03/2008

OK - Now imagine 5 - 8 similar presentations in an average day's agenda!
BMRB research (as far back as 1992) proved that only about 25% of the content delivered in a plenary (theatre style) presentation is ever remembered by the audience. That means that 75% of the money, time and effort is competely wasted. Adding guest speakers, lasers and/or flashy sets makes practically no difference.
The only effective way to increase message retention is to reduce the amount of passive listening (plenary presentations) and get the delegates actively involved in the proceedings (i.e doing).
Delegate participation dramatically increases how much of the message is taken away (in heads, not paper hand-outs).
The added bonus of particpation is that any remaing key plenary presenatations (i.e. CEO pep talk) are now more effective than before, because they stand out.
Peter Turnbull
Corperactive Event Business

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Susan Hill of Associated Conferences & Events Ltd 09/10/2007 [2]

Asking for a fee could cost agencies dear

In essence, I agree with Martin Lines’s suggestion that corporate clients should pay agencies for their time. (Buyer Bites Back, M&IT, September). In an ideal world agencies should have the right to charge a fee - the successful agency should perhaps offer to waive the fee if selected for the job. However, I believe that asking for a fee would deter potential clients from including those of us who charge. I do not think this is because the clients are not taking the request for quotation seriously, but that there will always be other agencies that will undercut and offer a free service, thus cutting out those who ask for fees.
The only way around it is to include an element of the time spent on the pitch in the event management fee in the hope of recouping the cost of the time spent if the pitch is won.

Susan E Hill
Associated Conferences & Events

Clive Parrish of Conference Coordinator Spain 12/11/2007

We must have had more debates about this subject than any other here at Conference Coordinator Spain. We started out as a small business and decided that to compete initially we would waive proposal fees. 90% of the successful companies in this location were charging several hundred euros minimum to suggest a proposal.

So we did it our way, no fee, and it has worked successfully for a number of years. As we have grown and being more 'noticeable' to the world markets, particularly with the growth of the internet we must recieve a dozen enquiries per week that wish us to put together a full proposal. Hotels, venues, restaurants, teambuilding, audio visual, the lot.. These are quite often for very large congresses and conventions s obviously we are very interested organising the event on their behalf. But to do it for free? Hmmm.

Okay, yes, some work and effort we do not mind, we genuinely try to make an event individual as oppose to sending the same 2 or 3 proposals to every single enquiry as we know is common practice (out here anyway).

Up until now I have been, well, one might say very 'stubborn' or others may say 'pig headed' but I have politely refused to put together a proposal for these type of enquiries for several reasons..

1. I wish companies to come to us because we have a good repuation and portfolio of clients.

There seems to be new 'event planners' popping up every week now it seems dont you think? Yet half of the enquiries we recieve come from a hotmail or yahoo email address. Looking closely at the enquiries they are obviously just copied and pasted to as many 'proper' event planners as possible. Getting 'us' to do all the actual work, phone calls, emails, fact finding, costings etc etc. Then they choose the best option and probably charge their clients 10% or something on top of the quote, plus half the time it seems, contact our venues, hotels etc to try and get the option held in their own names also! This is a monthly occurence here, we are very fortunate to have forward thinking and moralistic partners that we use that inform us of these practices and where appropriate keep things in our own names. Come to us because we are good, not because we are on your spam list.

2. The time and effort is not just our own.

Maybe it is a thing of morals again, I simply don't feel good about asking a particular venue to put together a proposal for me time and time again that has a small chance of getting the final event. Partnerships are very important and how we are percieved s very important. If I ask a hotel for a quote five times and don't even get a site visit out of it there are a lot of people having thier time wasted. Simply not on.

3. Actually I have got busy so won't continue with the list but you get the pitfalls.

So do we charge a fee for each of these enquiries/proposals? We get a dozen a week of these, that's a fortune of potential income!! Ha.. no. nothing changes. If we charge a fee then we put off genuine clients and also we still have the same problem of wasting all our partners times who we arent going to be giving a percentage of this fee to. Would we expect a hotel to charge us a fee to quote us for accommodation? That would be the same thing as I see it.

I am going to continue to be 'pig headed' and give 100% to each individual group that comes to us because they believe we will do the job right.

Peter Turnbull of Corperactive Event Business 26/02/2008

Charging a development fee is becoming more common. Sometimes it's the only way of telling if your potential client is serious or is just using you for your ideas.

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Lesley Maltman of MCI Belfast 09/10/2007 [0]

No grouse with the Scouse

I read your Mystery Shopper verdict (M&IT, September) with interest. Of the venues detailed in the survey our most recent experience was a positive one – with Liverpool ACC.
Contact details were taken, a brochure was sent out and then a week later we received a follow-up call.
This was a generic enquiry rather than for a specific event and I would have to say that our gripes with centres in the past have been response time regarding costing.

Lesley Maltman
MCI Belfast

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Bob Lawson of Presentations Ltd 09/10/2007 [2]

Don't use agencies as ideas factories

Further to Martin Lines comments (Buyer Bites Back, M&IT, September) I would like to make the point that we are a service industry and I want us to serve the client and achieve their declared and often undeclared objectives. I want repeat business, I want to become a valued member of the client's team, and to that end we have to put ‘something in the shop window’; that costs money. We all have to do it . However it isn't for free. We, like any other business, have to recover our costs through what we sell. No pitch is for free - somebody pays in the end. However, I do get very tired of feeling we are on the pitch list to make up the buyer's quota, and subsequently hearing that our ideas (or occasionally seeing them) turn up on the clients brief to the successful pitcher. I get the feeling that often when you pitch, particularly to less experienced buyers, you are being used as a no cost ideas factory.
Having said that, is there another way? I am not sure you have to display your wares, especially for complex events, in detail.
In this industry we are ‘meetings architects’ in the first instance. Would you go to four conventional architects and ask them to design a building down to the almost the final drawing, and ask to cost it, all for free?
Bob Lawson
Effective Presentations

John Gallery of Great Potential Limited 12/10/2007

New concepts are transforming, often providing inspiration, vitality, a new direction, and the advantage of differentiation. So of course they should not be free to clients (M&IT, October, Letter of the Month).

The answer lies with the procurement sector, collectively and individually. Using other people's ideas (without remuneration or permission) is intellectual theft, and usually the hallmark of people with brains that specialise in detail (convergent minds), but lack powers of imagination (divergent minds).

This is not a criticism, because each strength is valuable, but that is no excuse for stealing as a response to a specific weakness.

M&IT would be doing the industry a favour if it introduced a 'name and shame' column where such executive immaturity and corporate disdain were demonstrated. Why should it be a source of pride to pretend to your company that you are an original thinker when you're not?

Chris Martins

Chris Martins can be contacted at 01423 360230.

Peter Turnbull of Corperactive Event Business 27/03/2008

Well Chris, if such a 'name and shame' list were to become reality, you would need an entire magazine to fill it.

Yes - using other people's ideas for free is intellectual theft, but not illegal unforntunately. As a result there are very few genuinely new ideas in circulation (just old fomats re-hashed using the latest TV show or second hand ideas stolen from unsuccesful pitches). This means that companies like ourselves, (who only produce new ideas) have to be extremely careful about the information we share and with whom. If buyers want something genuinely original, increasingly (and perhaps regretably) they will have to pay for it.

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