The year ahead: 2008: what the future holds for the C&I sector

As the year comes to a close, C&IT asks its readers for the key challenges they face next year and their predictions for 2008.

- Natalie Gasson, events and publications manager, Welcome Financial Services

"Our infrastructure is growing and we have a newly-appointed chief executive, so I foresee many positive changes. We will certainly be doing more and larger events. All these elements will mean careful consideration in planning and implementing our events calendar for 2008."

- Sarah Jones, chief executive, Olive 360 deg

"Budgets have increased slightly and we've seen a trend towards longer lead times for 2008, which makes a pleasant change. It seems to be being driven by greater flexibility in corporate budgets - in recent times a lot of people have been operating on a quarter-by-quarter basis. You'd have clients ringing up last-minute with money they had to spend or lose as the end of the quarter was coming, but I haven't seen that for a while now. In terms of challenges there are, as always, never enough big venues."

- Padraic Gilligan, partner and marketing director, Ovation Global DMC

"While business into Europe from the US will undoubtedly suffer due to the falling dollar, we are impressed by how robust it has remained, particularly when you consider the extent of difference with respect to, say, four years ago. However, it does of course make the US very tempting for Europeans too. Germany is rallying extremely well and again becoming the strong source market it used to be for C&I business. Russia is emerging strongly too as a source market. Elsewhere, Dubai continues to have strong appeal followed closely by Abu Dhabi, thanks to the impressive expansion of Etihad."

- Liza Bonthuys, events manager, National Policing Improvement Agency

"Our workload is growing. We did 138 events in 2006, we'll top 164 this year and current bookings indicate this figure will grow again in 2008.

We're also being asked to do more challenging projects as a result of people realising the value events add in the marketing mix. Events are a key channel for communicating with and between our customers - and by offering a professional event management service, we can ensure essential information is communicated effectively to and across the sector."

- Richard Waddington, chief executive, First Protocol

"In terms of market conditions, there's a strong threat of slowdown in spend influenced by market volatility. This hangs on the US markets - the weak dollar really is putting the squeeze on non-executive level activity. Also, many clients are seeking reduced costs and improved services and re-engineering their approach to events, with an increase in outsourcing going on. On a more positive note, London is booming due to its proximity to emerging markets - our US clients are using us more in these markets. Elsewhere, I foresee greater professionalism in the industry. The move towards fees over commission makes sense to our clients, as people want total transparency."

- Andy Robson, retail marketing programme manager, General Motors

"The key focus for me next year will be to leverage the Max Incentives website across all the GMUK brands and to introduce a common approach to incentives and programmes across the group."

- Lucy Foster, national conference co-ordinator, Grant Thornton

"My major concern is finding venues large enough to cope with a residential conference of 300-plus, that are centrally located and reasonably priced, with excellent facilities and service."

- Chris Parnham, events and communications director, Zibrant

"Competition for the best people and clients is not far short of aggressive, so to protect our assets and secure more, we're declaring 2008 the year of opportunity. We will be focusing on career progression: finding out what our people want to achieve and helping them to realise these goals. These may be related directly to their events, but conversely they may be personal achievement goals. We also need to ensure we examine all the opportunities our clients provide for us by doing something more or different, or offering another of our services they've not previously experienced."

- Janice Howard, head of courses and conferences, Chartered Institute of Management Accountants

"We run a lot of training courses for accountants and next year we'll be introducing 16 new topics. On a wider level, the big factor is the economy - if there is a recession then one of the first budgets to be axed is training. So it will depend how 2008 business performance goes as to whether it will be a good year."

- Mike Ford, group managing director, Universal

"One of the wider challenges is the Corporate Manslaughter Act - we need to ensure we understand the true ramifications and align our processes accordingly so we continue to act with due diligence. Elsewhere, the challenges are to continue developing complementary services beyond core logistics to meet the increasing demand from clients and developing our talent strategy. As a growing company in a growing market, talent is in short supply, so we need to develop our people and focus on retention. Perhaps most importantly, we need to remember not to take life too seriously and to put the fun back into event management and what we do every day."

- Kate Cripps, event group director, BBL Event Management

"We will continue to face the challenges of getting truly excellent service from venues and the shortages in good venue availability at certain times of the year is a growing concern. In terms of the wider picture, we will be continuing to take a stance on delivering simple practical advice on making events more environmentally conscious to our clients."

- Charlotte Cresswell, events manager, Agresso

"The public sector is a key market and one challenge is judging the credibility of events we're asked to sponsor or exhibit at. Each organiser promises their event is different, but we often find they're not worth our time or money. Next year we'll attend fewer external events and run more of our own. The challenge is to make these stand out: we'll need a great venue to attract the numbers, and finding suitable venues that offer something different within budget is difficult. Our user-group meeting needs somewhere for 400-plus and there's not many options outside of London. We're considering taking this abroad, but that does means going into unknown territory and it becomes much more complicated."

- Ian Irving, sales and marketing director, Sledge

"Brands have long recognised the power of face-to-face activity for internal communications, but 2008 will see them engaging in deeper, more immersive experiences akin to those being used for consumer audiences. The messages may be different, but communication methods for the two audiences are progressively merging. Current events with little bearing on demographics or tastes of their audience will make way for more targeted, engaging communications."

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