The pandemic had stirred up transformative changes for the events industry in the past year. Managing that change is paramount in these disruptive times for organisations. We spoke with Razlan Manjaji, Head of Global Events at South China Morning Post (SCMP), on how they not only survived over this time but thrived as they increased their events four-fold, while decreasing costs and doubling revenue. Here are five key learnings we took away from our Customer Deep Dive webinar with Razlan.
#1. Avoiding “Manels” requires commitment from the start
Panels with all-male speakers, aka ‘Manels’, face much criticism as the absence of female speakers underrepresents their involvement in the industry and the expertise that they bring. At their recent China Conference, SCMP created a diverse panel where one third of their speakers were female. How did they do it?
“We prioritise finding female speakers first, before we fill the panel with male speakers.” Instead of leaving it as an afterthought to include women and realising you have created a ‘Manel’, Razlan says the commitment must be established from the get-go.
#2. Successful organisations have contingency plans
“Rules might not always make sense and they are always changing. We have to hope for the best as we envision it but prepare for the worst.” Similar to Kirsty who was featured in our previous Customer Deep Dive, Razlan says having a back-up plan is crucial to manage uncertainty.
SCMP developed a set of plans that delineated their responses, timelines and communications for each particular stakeholder, ready to be executed at any moment. At the start, Razlan and his team scrambled to adjust to the country’s regulations. Now, with the process streamlined and documented, it provides the assurance for the team and Razlan jokes that his team is so prepared, his only role is to be a “Food Ambassador”, ensuring everyone is well-fed.
#3. Expectations are growing and we need to as well
Digital events are not as forgiving now compared to the start of COVID-19. One year into the pandemic, our stakeholders are looking for much more, delegates are looking for better content and delivery, sponsors want digital-driven leads, expectations are growing, and we need to be able to deliver. Razlan shares that right as he begins to grasp how to operate in this digital space, he finds himself pivoting once again to adjust to these new expectations. However, the pivot this time is even more challenging as we need to experiment while meeting those expectations. “If you thought these 12 months were hard, the next 12 months will be even harder.”
#4. Generic programs only add to virtual fatigue
The concept of virtual fatigue is not foreign to us as everyone is increasingly feeling exhausted by the sheer number of online meetings. So, ask the question – what makes people want to attend yet another meeting?
Razlan agrees, virtual fatigue is imminent. “If your webinar content and speaker address a pain point of your audience well, people will want to participate. Don’t create a generic program, even if you can attract tons of sponsorships because chances are you are not going to deliver, and you will have a hard time explaining that to the sponsors. That is an unproductive way of doing things.”
#5. Create value for your sponsors
Sponsorship plays a huge part in the profitability of events, including virtual ones. Retaining these sponsors becomes more challenging as the value is being diluted by the multitude of events. “You must understand your brand’s equity and key strengths to create value for the sponsors by generating leads in those areas. Are they getting the same number of leads from your event compared to other events?” Razlan also shared that he had a very interesting opportunity with NASA but that was out of SCMP’s scope. This approach to create value for sponsors directed Razlan to focus on building his target audiences and continually improving events with new selling points before expanding to other areas.
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