With so many events agencies in the marketplace, it is often difficult for organisations to hone down which one will be the best fit for their requirements. After a year existing solely in the virtual sphere, it is important that organisations can now identify an agency that has the expertise and experience to offer an adaptable and premium service.
In this article I explore how to choose the best agency for your organisation, what you can do to enhance the results and what to look for when working together.
Choosing the right agency
Expertise & Experience
As I mentioned above there are plenty of events agencies in the marketplace, before approaching an agency the first thing to do is look at their client base and examples of their previous work. There are thousands of different events from festivals to weddings to huge corporate exhibitions in many different sectors and there are events agencies that specialise in particular sectors and formats Sector specialists offer a wealth of knowledge that can be tapped into at any time and having (more than the) foundation of knowledge lends itself to other traits you need as an event organiser, such as:
- Organisational skills
- Communication and people skills
- Passion and energy
To read more about what it takes to be an event organiser check-out Judit’s article Everything You Ever Needed to Know about Becoming an Event Manager.
Aside from the knowledge that industry experts bring, a huge value-add comes from the pre-existing relationships with suppliers. Agencies will have a list of vetted suppliers they can lean on for anything and everything you can think of.
Adaptability & Creativity
In the past year we have had to postpone, cancel and transform events from in-person to virtual and now we are starting to look at hybrid events. Translating the event format is not as simple as collecting people together on a Zoom call or Teams meeting, sponsors and organisations are looking to get the same ROI as an in-person event provides. An attendee is still looking to learn and network an equal amount to the in-person and a sponsor is still looking to receive the percentage of leads from their package.
As we (in the UK) are seeing the light at the end of this tunnel, with lockdown restrictions being lifted, it is important to remind ourselves that this is not true of all countries. The events industry has forever been changed by the pandemic, in the next 18 months in particular, we will see the increased popularity of hybrid events and we will need a COVID contingency plan, allowing events to adapt to local lockdowns or regulations. Creative and adaptable solutions are needed no more than ever before.
When an agency is pitching to you, ask them about the processes they have in place and what would their approach to collaborating with your organisation be? An agency with structured, tried and tested processes and a breadth of experience should enable the adaptability and creativity that you need in the current climate.
Processes can also bring to light any red flags that you should be wary of as a buyer, for example payment plans should be structured around the timeline you have approached the agency with; whether that’s payments occurring on a monthly or quarterly basis. The processes should serve to support you and deliver the event as efficiently as possible.
When approaching an agency, it is important that you do your research, you want to make sure that you are looking at agencies with knowledge in your specific organisation’s field or that they are experienced in putting on your type of event. There is no better way to do this than looking at customer testimonials, case studies, client lists and the agency’s social media. Customer testimonials offer you a true idea of how those in your shoes have felt working with that particular agency. All of these should be visible on their company website and/or they should be able to give you access to a client of theirs for a reference.
The added benefit of looking at the agency’s social media is, that it gives you a true taste of who they are as a company, for instance, are they a large corporate agency or are they a small tight-knit team? It gives you an indication of their persona, ethos and core values. It also demonstrates their journey and growth and after the year that the events industry has faced, social media offers an insight into how well agencies have adapted and worked throughout the pandemic.
How to enhance the experience
Feedback. The best way to enhance the working relationship with an agency is to always be open and honest, providing feedback at every turn. If it is the first time collaborating with an agency, they will not yet understand the way you work or how you like to do things. Having a continuous conversation will allow improvements to be made with ease and when communicated correctly will mitigate any aggravations a team member may be sitting on.
When you bring in an agency to assist in any area of the business the responsibility does not solely rely on the agency to make the most of the partnership, there should be an open two-way dialogue to ensure best results. Information is power and in this case the key to achieving success – for both parties. When discussing an event with your chosen agency remember these three B’s:
- Big picture
- Budget honesty
Before starting a project, take time to sit with your agency and discuss how the event fits into your overall marketing strategy. An agency with a better understanding of your company strategy, your ‘grand scheme’ is better armed to deliver an efficient service and an excellent event. Visibility of your wider strategy provides the agency with an opportunity to offer innovative solutions to compliment your event, that you may not have thought of, or have the in-house expertise to execute.
This might be obvious, but it is worth highlighting the importance of providing a detailed background of the event and your company. Agencies work best when they really understand the organisations that they are working alongside, take the time to inform your agency of what you really do and how you operate, let them in on your company culture. Understanding the company means a better understanding of the event.
Agencies, also want to understand the whole history of the event, so provide answers to questions such as these:
- Event history
- How many times has the event been run before?
- What do you want to be different from previous events?
- Who will be attending the event?
- What is the job function of the delegates (i.e., are they salespeople, executives, or scientists in labs)?
- What are your delegates looking to gain by attending your event?
- What feedback have you received in the past?
- What have the delegates enjoyed/disliked in the past?
- Why are you approaching this agency?
- What are your pain points?
- Are you looking to change the agency you are working with, if so, what was missing with the last agency?
The history of an event is even more vital now. While in-person live events are translated into the virtual sphere and as you look to moving your virtual event to a hybrid one, you’ll want to replicate the elements your delegates will continue to talk about until your next event.
The Outsourced Events team have been discussing and debating what a hybrid event looks like, so I’d like briefly to touch on the necessity of intent. As we transition to hybrid events, we recognise the importance of having a distinct idea of what your event purpose and motivation for hosting in the hybrid format is, from the outset. Knowing this will determine the best way of executing the event and help deliver a blended experience for both in-person and virtual delegates.
Budgets can often be a taboo subject especially at the start of the negotiation process, but budget transparency and honesty will only serve to benefit you. Being honest on your budget from the outset should not harm you or impact the event agency’s fees. Whether you put on an event with a budget of £10k or a £500k, the amount you have got to spend provides the agency with an expectation and allows them to create an experience within those expectations.
When collaborating with an agency the team should make an effort to get to know each other outside of your event or professional functions. Having a better understanding and relationship with each other serves to enrich the experience.
A functioning relationship works best when both parties have clear tasks, objectives, and deadlines. When working with an agency ensure that the entire team involved has clarity on their roles and responsibilities, if you are a larger team you might want to put this into a spreadsheet or a project plan. If any questions arise you will know exactly who can answer your query, making for a more efficient project.
Having a discussion on the event’s requirements and objectives gives a better understanding of the event and allows your agency to offer value adds you may not have considered.
Deadlines will dictate your project timeline, there are some which can be moved and some which once missed are hard to rectify. Ensuring that both parties have clear visibility of the deadlines and are frank about which ones are which, will help ensure everything you want to achieve is done so.
Circling back to the start of my article and the importance of demonstrable processes, deciding a communication style that not only is proven but is also suited to both parties is necessary. Communication is not just limited reporting or calls, the use project management tools also fall into this. Project management tools offer an efficient way to track the progress of the project, the team and deadlines, and are a way of communicating the necessary information without having to fill each other’s inbox.
Ultimately, the relationship between an agency and organisation boils down to honesty, transparency and the relationship you can build. Outsourcing certain aspects of marketing, sales and events can often feel daunting, but with the correct agency or team to lean on your load can be shared.
If you would like to discuss anything mentioned in the article today, email firstname.lastname@example.org.