Trends and challenges in the organising game

What are you looking for in an organiser? Most people would say one or more of the following: a professional company, expertise, additional resources, realistic quotations, maximum ROI, new ideas, unique venues, hassle-free planning.

On the flipside, what are organisers looking for in a client? An exciting project is always inspiring allowing you to stretch yourself to achieve something sensational. Event timing that fits into the rest of your jobs makes for easier planning and staff capacity. A client that is understanding and cooperative in communicating their objectives certainly helps. And of course an unlimited budget would be nice!

One of the biggest challenges in the organising field is that if you make your job look too easy, then people don’t always realise what goes into the back-end. In a 2012 career survey in the US, event organisers rated in the top 10 most stressful jobs following military personnel, firefighters, airline pilots and police officers. Exhibition or event managers are responsible for full project management of the logistics and activities associated with the exhibition or event which has high visibility and equally high success stakes. Although these managers may organise many projects throughout the year, any event may be a once-in-a-lifetime occasion for the people involved. Exhibitions are often annual gatherings for a specific industry which incurs huge marketing spend and investment of senior management time. There are no second chances and you really are only as good as your last event.

Looking at industry trends, there are a few notable features being experienced. Recent tough economic times have resulted in many companies cutting their market spend, taking smaller exhibition stands, hosting fewer events and shopping around for the best offering. This means that organisers need to be on top of their game all the time which has created a cutting edge business events industry in South Africa.

Competition is compounded by ‘fly-by-night’ companies, who believe that having organised a party or attending an exhibition gives you sufficient skills to become a fully-fledged organiser. Lack of understanding and skills for the job can jeopardise the entire industry as companies cannot compare quotes correctly and inexperienced organisers are not always able to deliver.

Some companies believe that being able to do everything gives them an advantage (and in some cases it does help to lower costs), while other companies prefer to specialise their skills and develop a niche, appointing preferred suppliers to fulfill certain elements on the project.

Introduction of new exhibitions or event concepts coupled with an increase in event venues in South Africa has also made the industry more competitive as new venues heavily discount in order to secure business. This can shake up the status quo, encouraging existing venues to market themselves better and to lower their quotations to keep the business. The advantage of having all this choice is that organisers are able to offer their clients something different and special. Guest attendance and the overall success of an event is often dependent on location, accessibility and the ‘wow’ factor that the right venue can deliver.

Organising is a dynamic profession which is constantly evolving. The exhibition and event managers that will survive long-term are those who consistently deliver with professionalism and passion.

By: Jacqui Reynolds and Amanda Margison