IN PERSON: Sam Gill, chairman, Corporate Event Association

Sam Gill cites his chance meeting with his now business partner as one of the reasons for his involvement with the Corporate Event Association.

"Networking is key,

he says. "And if I can encourage more of this in my position as chairman, then that will be part of my job done."

A deckchair in Cyprus set the scene for the chance meeting. The founder of Business Pursuits met his counterpart from The Ultimate Experience, Mike Kershaw, during a forum. "Although Mike probably would not admit to it, when we got up from those deckchairs, we had emotionally merged the two companies,

he says. And with Richard Groves Catering making up the triumvirate, this three-way merger led to the birth of The Concerto Group in 1999.

Gill sees such networking opportunities as the Cyprus forum as vital to the events industry. "Our industry is frustratingly fragmented and it is only by getting together that we see the whole picture,

he says.

This is partly the reason for his involvement with the Corporate Event Association (CEA). He was only appointed chairman in January this year, but has been associated with the body since 1992.

His appointment comes at a time of change for the CEA - last autumn saw it rebrand from the Corporate Hospitality & Event Association in what Gill describes as a "retrospective repositioning". The CHEA was formed in 1988 as a body for the hospitality industry, but has since absorbed members from all parts of the events spectrum. "That name didn't reflect our membership,

he says. "The repositioning was not to start something afresh but to recognise all our members."

Gill views his appointment as part of the rebranding too. "The CEA wanted someone with experience of all sides of the events business,

he points out.

His role at the CEA will see him focus on boosting membership by around 40 per cent, establishing a buyer's membership and ensuring the association represents all aspects of the corporate event industry.

The buyer's membership is something Gill believes will encourage industry professionalism. Bad buying practices are one of his bugbears. "There are still schools of bad buying practices and they create bad selling practices - every bad salesman has to find a bad buyer."

Gill sees the buyer membership offering networking events in the future where clients can discuss best practice. This, Gill says, will help eliminate the problem. "It isn't just agencies buying events,

he continues. "There are an increasing number of internal event purchasing teams - some with events budgets of up to £5m a year - particularly since the recession, and they need the reliability of an association as well as the chance to meet each other."

As for the future of the events industry, Gill looks back to his career in advertising. He sees the relationship between client and agency as one to which the events industry should aspire.

"Event organisers should be allowed to have a greater understanding of their client's objectives - they need to work more openly and in partnership,

he says. "Closer relationships will eliminate things such as a four-way pitch for an annual conference. A client shouldn't be changing their agency for an annual conference - if they have a good relationship they should only need to be reviewed every year or bi-annually - unless, of course, they aren't performing."

It is working practices such as these that have got Gill to where he is today. And his skill for building relationships extends to staff as well. Some colleagues are firm friends of his, and it would appear that a few of them have taken this even further - the two company weddings so far have led to the firm's first corporate offspring.

Gill on ...

... his fondest memory

"Delivering a Glaxo Wellcome event in 1997. We won the pitch having failed to win Glaxo business before and organised an outdoor festival that involved putting staging in a lake and flattening an island. There were two concert evenings and a fun day for 5,000. It was an amazing success."

... what he would do instead

"In my twilight years, I'd like to write fiction. Also, I'd like to transfer some of my team-building events that I have created into the public domain in some form - maybe as board games or something similar."

... what he does away from work

"I spend as much time as possible with my children, play tennis, bridge, some rally driving and try to holiday as much as I can. I enjoyed the Galapagos Islands and I love Cornwall."

... his most embarrassing moment

"My first ever corporate fun day was for Visa back in 1989. They wanted to stage a football tournament so I put up the goal posts myself the night before. On the day, the first shot at goal hit the crossbar and sent the posts hurtling to the ground. Then, five minutes later, someone broke their leg."

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