Home' micenet eMag : micenet October 2016 Contents PRESENTATIONS | IAN WHITWORTH
here’s nothing quite like your long-
term corporate client telling you
that the purchase decision is out
of their hands, and is now in the
sinister clutches of the procurement
department. So their corporate memory of all
those times you saved them from self-
inflicted disaster has evaporated, replaced by
cold benchmarking of you against a clutch of
The procurement people use all the right
words. They promise to take a “holistic” view
that values “quality and service metrics”, not
just a brutal reverse auction down to the
lowest, bottom-feeder price. After due
consideration of the huge pile of documents
you prepared, they choose: the lowest,
It’s partly our fault for letting it fall into
exactly the same decision category as ring
binders and paper towels. We haven’t
communicated the sheer risk of events, and
the major scope to waste time and money.
One reason is that everyone looks at the
expense budget: the actual money spent on
airfares, venues, F&B, registration, AV and all
the other items you juggle around your
spreadsheet trying to meet the magic
number. And if the procurement vultures think
they can get that number down another
7.5%, you’d better believe they will. Their
bonus is riding on it.
Consider the real costs of your client’s event, writes Ian Whitworth.
But how much cash is actually at risk when they choose the cheapest supplier? Think about
a two-day sales conference for 500 people. With travel, they’re out of the office for three days.
Let’s be conservative and assume an average salary of $80,000. With on-costs, that’s about
$60 per hour. Multiply that over three days and your client is spending $720,000 on salaries
alone. That’s the opportunity cost of the event, valuing all the things those staff aren’t doing
because they’re in a ballroom being motivated by the program you put together.
That’s quite a sum of money. And this is an industry that offers a thrilling level of commercial
risk. So much to go wrong, so little chance to go back and fix it. A bad batch of paper towelling
procured on the cheap can be sent back to the distributor with little consequence. An event?
Keynote presentations can be killed stone dead with a chip failure in a single device, the sort of
thing that happens around the office every day. But at an event, there’s no “come back
tomorrow, it’ll be all good”. Miss that window and you’ve severely compromised your client’s
Even if nothing goes terribly wrong, an event that’s just drab and pedestrian means nobody’s
behaviour will change as a result. If I was the client spending that much, I’d want them walking
out of there punching the air with excitement after two days of inspirational thrills. That’s
something you need to help the procurement department understand. Better yet, discuss the
opportunity costs with the client CEO to keep the decision out of their hands in the first place.
Tell them what you’re doing to safeguard their investment. On the presentation side, there is
much you can do that often doesn’t happen on the cut-price event. Getting accurate technical
plans drawn up so nothing changes on site, so setups run to schedule, so rehearsals don’t run
late or get missed, so all your presenters and techs are relaxed and prepared. Assembling all
your media before the event, so it can all be checked and consolidated, rather than panicky
onsite triage. Having hot backups of show computers so that if one locks up, you’re ready.
Using AV techs you’ve worked with before, who know the client and their presentation style.
These are the things that translate into a better experience for the higher levels of
management, and better results for their large investment in the event. Once they believe it’s an
investment rather than just an expense, you become a consultant rather than a tradie. It’s so
much nicer spending your time advising than quoting. m
Ian Whitworth leads a double life as a co-founder of audio-visual group Scene Change, and principal at
creative marketing agency, A Lizard Drinking. He can be contacted on email – email@example.com.
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