More than a quarter (28%) of the 50 corporates surveyed by C&IT stated that budgets are what keep them up at night as they’re forced to not only maintain high standards but continuously raise them while funds are spread ever thinner. "Our budgets are constantly changing and getting squeezed so we need to be more creative," says Melissa White, head of experiential marketing, Sony Mobile. "Expectation levels must not go down so you have to find the best way to use the budget you have."
Rebecca Harmer, marketing specialist at Network Rail, says that over the course of the next five years all budgets at the company are being closely looked at and greater savings need to be made moving forward: "We are asked to deliver more for less as budgets are spread further."
At Kaspersky Lab, former VP of marketing for Europe David Preston told C&IT before he left his post earlier this month that event budgets were feeling the strain and the company is looking at new avenues to save money. "Budgets have gradually decreased over the last few years and this year we have seen aggressive cuts of almost 50%. We will be using sponsors for our internal events for the first time this year to reduce costs," he comments.
2) Internal resources
As budgets tighten so do resources with 8% of corporate event planners claiming that internal resource is their biggest challenge. Advent Software, Centrica Energy and Peugeot are three examples of huge brands with one-person event teams delivering hectic yearly programmes.
Fico’s director of corporate events, Joy Thomas, is planning to add more people to her team this year as assignments continue to build. "The workload and the capacity to execute our events has been a challenge. It gets to a point where you can’t physically do more as a team and to get standards high and keep them there you have to get more support," she says.
3) Staying innovative
If the last two challenges are keeping corporates up at night then staying innovative, which 6% of the survey put ahead of budgets and internal resource, appears to be one they welcome. "It’s a question of differentiating yourself from your competitor," says Lucy Hudson, head of field marketing, international at Teradata. "In the UK, because there’s lots of suppliers doing lots of similar things, you have to make sure that what you’re providing is giving your delegates more than other events."
Sony’s White says keeping audiences engaged with innovative content is particularly challenging in the IT & Telecoms industry where delegates have the latest device at their fingertips around the clock. She explains: "Our delegates are so over stimulated and constantly connected to so many channels. We need to keep them engaged with what we’re saying and spark their imagination with content that is both meaningful and interesting."
Fico's Thomas says she not only welcomes the challenge, but relishes it: "It’s the best part of my job. My manager gives me the freedom to test things out like registration platforms and set design. We have confidence in new ideas because you’ve got to try new things."
4) Lead times
Although some annual conferences and staff parties are put into calendars months in advance, some events just can’t be planned for, which is why 6% of corporates told C&IT that lead times are their main challenge. "We are being asked more and more to be responsive with short turnaround times," states Network Rail’s Harmer. "This puts added pressure on budgets and reduces what we would like to achieve."
The fast-paced nature of nearly all industries today means that time is valuable and people’s diaries get booked up fast. Not being able to give delegates sufficient notice about upcoming events makes it very difficult for corporates to secure attendees. However, Harmer believes that events are starting to adapt adding: "I think the industry is moving in this direction and events will become more and more reactive."
5) Rising venue and supplier costs
"The cost of suppliers is always increasing and it has done so recently," says Fico's Thomas. Unfortunately for corporates, rising venue and supplier costs tend to align with shrinking budgets meaning event planners have to become more creative in the way they utilise their finances. Thomas admits to being one of the luckier few: "Our budgets need to reflect this so they increase as a result. We have a bit more money now so we can be more choosy with suppliers."
However, the events team at Network Rail hasn’t been so lucky. "With the rise of venue costs we have been forced to reduce roadshow coverage and make greater use of in-house resources such as training centres where available," states Harmer. Solutions lie in web streaming, filming conferences and online interactive seminars as alternatives to finding a venue. "We work very closely with our event agencies to ensure we are making the most of their services, which puts increased pressure on us to keep budget," Harmer adds.
Read the full analysis on this year's State of the Industry Top 50 agency rankingNew and exclusive content from C&IT's State of the Industry Report will be published online throughout June with the full report downloadable at the end of the month.