Farah Parkinson

Saxton Speakers Bureau

After a trying year for event professionals. members of PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties class of 2021 have proven resilience is a key skill in their toolkit. Farah Parkinson, Marketing Manager at Saxton Speakers Bureau in Melbourne, Australia, shares what she has learned about the business events industry as a result of the pandemic.

What has this year of disruption taught you about the industry?

I’ve learned that the events industry is incredibly resilient and innovative. In a matter of months, events professionals around the world have mastered new skills — you only have to look at how quickly the level of quality and sophistication of virtual events has improved to find evidence of that. They’ve also developed entirely new business models. One of my favorite examples is the Australian company Stagekings, which went from building stages for the Australian Grand Prix Formula 1 race in Melbourne and other large-scale events to producing flat-pack, easy-to-assemble furniture for home offices in a matter of days. Similarly, I’ve been in awe of the incredibly talented speakers, emcees, and entertainers that we represent, who flawlessly transitioned from speaking in front of crowds at live events to addressing silent screens for virtual events without minimizing the impact of their stories.

What new skills has the pandemic led you to pursue?

The pandemic has given me the downtime to expand on my culinary skills and pursue some formal marketing qualifications. For the last couple of years, I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a master’s degree in marketing, and reduced working hours this year meant I ran out of excuses to keep puttinh it off. I’ve enjoyed going back to university and studying as a mature student. It gave me something productive to focus on during the most challenging parts of our lengthy lockdown in Melbourne. I am one-third of the way through now, and it’s given me more confidence in my decisions and added structure to my work.

What creative initiative or innovation have you seen this year that you believe should remain after this crisis passes?

The quality and sophistication we’ve achieved with virtual and hybrid events in such a short time are mind-blowing. The reach and impact we’ve seen these events have are exciting, and there’s no doubt in my mind that they will get even better with improvements in technology and practice.

I also think the trend we’ve seen in really leaning into the expertise of speakers and using them to amplify events messaging is exciting and here to stay. We’ve seen this range from activities like engaging the speaker to help promote the event to new audiences right through to creating follow-up materials like white papers, learning modules, and workbooks. These activities add depth to the audience experience and ensure the takeaways stick and make a lasting impact.

Members of PCMA’s 20 in Their Twenties class of 2021 will be recognized virtually at PCMA Convening Leaders 2021, Jan. 11-15. Check out the complete program and register for Convening Leaders today.

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