What do you love about your life or life itself?
That’s an interesting one. I think very much right now, all of my love and attention is on my four year old son, if I’m honest. Through that, it’s about changing with him as well. Now we’re getting into him into things like, you know, he started playing his little kickers, which is a little football kind of league thing that he’s getting into and just really enjoying spending time, seeing him grow as a little person and what he’s into and things like that. Apart from that it’s the standard stuff. I really enjoy health and fitness, traveling and spending time where I can with family and friends abroad and things like that. So but it really all at the moment boils back down to Jude and what we could do for him.
How do you make sure that you look after yourself and live well?
I think it’s a balance of all things, right? Like mine and my wife’s travel has certainly changed in terms of priority and location and things like that, but very much still wanna make sure that we expose you to some of the culture and the things that we’ve managed to experience through kind of our young adulthood and stuff. I think it’s really important. I’m almost on that side of the, you know, when people argue about the school holidays and taking them out, I still feel it’s super important for them to get that experience of different cultures and travel. But again, for my own personal mental health, my own personal fitness and exercise, and a regime and a routine around that is really important. I feel more to, I’ve got no overarching goals. I’m not running, I’m not training for a marathon. I’m not trying to win a competition or anything like that. But I do feel that for me, it’s certainly a benefit to mental welfare and stress management. So I have a very strict, I say strict, it flexes, obviously, with travel and things. But three or four times a week is a minimum. I’m in the gym, kind of six o’clock in the morning, sweating it out.
You’re known from Event Industry News, which is your online media outlet for events professionals. You’ve got Event Tech Live, which now is in two continents. We’re here in the UK and in Las Vegas. You’ve got Event Sustainability Live, which is another exhibition, Event Tech Awards, and you’re a fellow podcaster. So where did it all begin? What came first and how did you even get into running your own business?
Sure, I’ll try and keep this brief and succinct because it is a fairly long story. But so I fell into the events industry, I think that is the definition, isn’t it really? How’d you get into it? We fell into it. I worked at a media and sports company and saw an opportunity to work with a B2B publisher and that role was kind of multifaceted, coming in and walking across editorial and content and revenue and all that kind of stuff. Actually my now business partner at the time was my boss. So Paul, who I’m not going to say how long I’ve known him for now, because that had been given both of them ages away. But I started working with him and another girl called Danielle. And really, we were tasked with building that publication from a bi-monthly to a monthly increase in revenue, increasing the audience and the readership. And actually, in essence, event industry news was an idea that we brought to the company to say, hey, we’ve got a website, but it’s not really used for anything else other than a glorified subscription form. And we have a cap circulation because print, you have to accept the balance. Advertising with editorial and that costs a lot of money to send 10,000 magazines out a month and we were like, why don’t we, you know, some of the content that we can’t publish in the publication because of timing or whatever or to support supply chain, why don’t we put some of this on the website, do a newsletter and at the time the pitch was, we can use this thing called Twitter that’s just kind of starting out and we can put news out there.
We pitched this idea to them at one of the kind of the yearly kind of review things andwe put a really, really humble figure on it of something like we think this could increase revenue by 10,000 pound a year. And the B2B publisher that we worked for at the time had 20 something magazines. So we were like, if this works for us, you could possibly replicate this across 22 and that’s a healthy amount of money with not really any incremental increase in staff or costs because everything existed and the person who ran our division turned around and said the internet’s just a phase. You know, maybe constantly think about other ideas for the for the public magazine. Funnily enough that business now has one magazine. So yeah, we definitely do more than 10,000 pound a month.
I kind of went away in a huff as I did when I was much younger and I had a friend who was a web developer and he helped me set up Event Industry News, bought a domain name, just let’s call it something. And then actually I exited the industry for a while because I got poached or offered another opportunity from a company that worked in technology, but found myself in a morning and in the evening still doing this thing called Event Industry News in my spare time. And then we had, you know, the audience started to grow kind of organically. We had supply chain and others reach out to say, hey, what’s your audience look like? Is there opportunities for us to market our business through to you?
So I reached back out to Paul and said, do you fancy a beer? And then agreed to form what is now Event Industry News. And our approach has been with Event Industry News that through the power of the internet and the reach that can gain you and leveraging other platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn and other mediums like podcasts and videos and these kinds of things, we can actually reach an audience that often is very rarely in an office for very long, where they’re not necessarily receiving a magazine, they’re out and about, they’re on site, and they’re trying to catch up on news and information on the go. The events industry is very mobile in its movements and things like that. So we’ve done that and the audience has grown massively. I think on LinkedIn, we’ve got something over about 80,000 followers and have a LinkedIn for news updates. We’ve got a LinkedIn newsletter which is about 30,000 subscribers. The podcast has done 125,000 listeners in its time. So it’s very much worked.
That also comes back to our advertisers because we can provide them some of those statistics as well in terms of here’s how many people have read this article or clicked on this banner or listen to this sponsorship message and that was something that was always really challenging with a print publication. Now I think print’s got its place, I still like to pick up a magazine myself and I think that’ll never go away right? There’s something very nice about seeing you written about in a magazine or even your advert or something like that, it’s prestigious I think is the word that I put to it.
How did EventTech Live come about?
So through Event Industry News, we started to write all kinds of articles around my interest in technology, kind of like what was happening in tech out there and nobody was really covering it at the time, other than I’ll give him his dues, Julius Solaris of EventMB. It was really challenging to find anything to do with anybody that was harnessing technology or using technology or data or innovating and things like that. I sat down with a good friend of mine at a Confex when it used to be at Olympia over lunch and we started chatting about it. The idea came that actually awards programmes are a fantastic way to harvest information on who’s doing what because that’s what they do to enter an awards they tell you what they’re doing and who they’re working with. We looked around in the market and there’s lots of amazing award programs out there but they were kind of broad in themselves.
So if there was even reference to a technology kind of category, it was a catchall. It could be anything from drones to lasers to CRM software. And we felt that just really didn’t give any company a real chance and ability of kind of being compared in a market for what they actually did really, really well. So we launched the Event Technology Awards. In all honesty, Emma, our idea was this was going to be an online awards. We were going to take entries online. We were going to judge remotely. And then me and Paul were going to go around with awards to people’s local pubs and kind of get the photo opportunity. There wasn’t actually going to be a ceremony to it.
What was really humbling though, was that we had companies like Barclays, George P. Johnson, Pharma companies and Verizon I think it was at the time kind of enter these awards because they wanted the prestigiousness or the accolade of them as an organization having harnessed technology. And I can remember the email vividly from a company that said, can you tell us when the black tie gala dinner is? And we were like, oh crap, expectations are a lot higher. So we decided to make a business decision, I’d never organised a birthday party before, never mind an awards ceremony or anything like that and holy crap was that a learning curve but we decided to go all in, reinvested all the kind of the revenue that we got around it, sponsorship and everything into delivering this gala dinner. I’m glad we did. I’m not gonna lie, I think we pulled it off by the skin of our teeth, in all honesty and that was really successful.
Event Tech Live was born out of being Northern, we don’t like to waste a penny and we had this venue all day for this like four hour event in the evening. We were like, well, this just doesn’t make financial sense. There’s got to be a way that we can leverage this daytime opportunity so we decided to put on a conference. And at the time we just called it the Event Technology Awards Conference. We invited everybody that was entering the awards and started marketing it through Event Industry News to come along. We found some speakers. We got John Bentley from the Gadget Show involved back in the day. And that went really well because it was on the radar of an organization called Double Dutch who at the time was kind of this unicorn on the rise of creating event apps for the industry and had quite a lot of notoriety and things like that. And they engaged with us and wanted to be the headline sponsor of it. So we struck a deal with them that brought a really nice chunk of revenue into the event and no additional cost to us because we had this venue and this space.
But what was very clear was that in order for people to access the content, because we had to drive it through ticket sales, a lot of people were kept out in the dark because either there was a budgetary issue or red tape meant that it was very challenging to get that authorised for an individual to attend. And me and Paul had a discussion afterwards so why don’t we design an event that is free to access and sponsored and supported by the companies that want to reach that audience and that way we can we can drive growth through that. And the second year we rebranded it as EventTechLive and really the idea was to have, you know, maybe 10 companies with pop-ups or something at the back of a conference and do a couple of streams. That turned into we hired the Truman Brewery. We had 60 exhibiting companies about a thousand attendees so it was certainly the right decision.
You obviously focused very much on tech and now sustainability as well, because you’ve got events Sustainability Live. What has been your driving force? What’s been the common thread for you personally through all of these different businesses and how you’ve grown and developed the brand?
Yeah, so very much building for audience first. I think that’s really important. Now there has to be a layer of strategy and about how a company’s investing in your business and what that means for them. That’s quite challenging because lots of businesses have lots of different ways of quantifying success and what looks good and their own kind of individual kind of idea and thesis on things. But what’s been the successful for us, I think, and a differentiator is the focus of the topic of the event and that’s why you see now Event Sustainability Live carrying that same kind of framework through everything.
EventTech Live has worked because, for the supply chain specifically, because they know that everybody walking into that room is interested in technology software or has some kind of relationship with it. Whereas other events and I’m going to use yours as an Emma, they’re great audiences but they maybe sometimes have to work a little bit harder or try and figure out how they fit into that. And don’t get me wrong we have lots of exhibitors that exhibit at lots of other events and they will probably continue to do that as well. But that’s one thing that’s helped some of especially the new companies you know the new startups they’re just getting started it’s like where does our audience live? And it’s like, well, some of that decision-making process or some of that stress is taken out of it by going, well, we go to events like that because we know just everybody there is on that theme.
They’re not there to look at catering or venues and these other things as well. So that’s me, I think that’s been a part of our success, and that’s also helped a little bit in our marketing, right? We very much have to market one message, which is if you are looking at technology, software, innovation and kind of a little bit of the future of this stuff, this is the place to come kind of thing. Now it means that we have a smaller audience than maybe some of the larger scale events, because we’re not trying to reach as many different types of buyer. But certainly it’s helped keep a focus on it for both the suppliers and the audience. So like I said, we’ve carried that forward with Event Sustainability Live and I think that’s also been carried forward through to our geo cloning of the event in different locations because that brand now carries and that message now carries as well.
So succession planning has been really key for us to grow the business in that way. How is that working for you? How are you finding recruitment, succession planning? How do you spend your time?
Yeah, sure. So I wouldn’t say we have like a really strong recruitment policy or structural or what we look for. But I think what’s very true in the events industry, we look for people people, right? We look for relationship builders, people that can hold conversations and have passion and things like that and across the board, I think we’re very good when it comes to our approach of that work-life balance. So we’ve had for many years now a 9 till 4pm workday. People get way over and above their holiday allowance and allocation, we’re very flexible when people need time to go and do things that are personal or health related and things like that. We obviously track and give back time that’s worked over and above around events because that’s obviously important and we make sure that people are looked after as well from things like private medical so they don’t have to worry.
So we try and build a culture that everybody mucks in and very much so and sometimes that does unfortunately mean that it’s a there’s a late night or an early morning especially around the events, but we also give that back at times when people need it. Actually some of our incentives are built around people actually having more of that as well as part of their overall renumeration. I’m a strong believer in yes obviously money makes the world go around and everybody would happily have more money but sometimes actually an extra three days off a year or other things that add to the value of their life are more important sometimes. Often companies don’t put those things on offer. It’s all just money, money, by the time that the government takes their share off you you’re not left with necessarily as much as you’d like so we try and do that.
Recruitments in terms of industry, we’ve recruited within the industry and we’ve recruited without the industry. So we have a number of people who came from organisers with lots of experience and I have to say, when it comes specifically to working on an event, I think that’s really important. You can’t teach anybody quickly enough how to help organize or run an event. It just doesn’t happen. Where as on the sales side of things you can teach people industry knowledge. So actually quite often when it comes to bringing people on board that are in charge or contribute to revenue, we have to look outside. Because to them, it’s about what they can do in terms of targets and bonus, so it’s easier to structure.
So that’s how we’ve done it. But it is challenging out there and I think there are some great people. So if anybody’s looking, I know some people that are looking. They might not be publicly looking, but they’re definitely looking for the next opportunity. I think what I’ve noticed coming out of the pandemic is there was this real hard push, real hard push from everybody to come back. And there’s probably been what I would call a little tightening of the belt recently over the last maybe year or so and maybe that’s other contributing factors like rising inflation rates and other things going off that are contributing to that.
But people have been very, there was like this big, big roar, let’s go, let’s go, let’s get ourselves out there, let’s promote, let’s exhibit, let’s sponsor, let’s do this. Everything now, for me, for the last 12 months or so has been very much like, right, we wanna be there, or we wanna do this, but we’re gonna wait, we’re gonna kind of take a more studied approach to things. So it’s interesting to see that, but there is a really good report out from an organisation called Collingwood with Plural Insight, I think they’re called. And that talks about the M&A market for the events industry and I think that’s always a really, really good barometer of how healthy the market is because if people aren’t looking at buying companies, then that’s a really big sign that things aren’t necessarily going in the right direction.
Can you share any plans of what’s coming up in the future for you? Are you looking at growing, I guess without details around specific events, but are you looking at geocloning? Are you looking at growing geographically or is it through different products or is it just more of the great content? What’s your focus?
It’s a combination of all of the above, Emma. Yeah, we’ve certainly got some growth within events at Live London that we can see an opportunity for and certainly, our Vegas event or our North America event was the first time that was held last year. So there’s definitely growth there. I think also something I’ve spoken about recently as well is kind of looking at ways to diversify those revenue streams as well. Kind of like we have an audience at EventTech Live that we don’t necessarily tap into or provide value to in a monetary term. So how can we kind of open up that opportunity? So definitely in terms of size and scale of the events that we currently hold, Event Sustainability Live again is one of those. I wouldn’t say it’s written down on a piece of paper that we will look to GeoClone Event Sustainability Live, but again, it kind of just naturally will make sense at some point to take that brand and co-locate it with like say the North America version of EventTech Live.
I think then as well our audience is global on Event Industry News. The technology companies that we work with are almost always global as well. So there’s opportunities to look at other regions like the Middle East and AIPAC and those kind of things. Again, where there’s not necessarily anything that supports that kind of niche audience to kind of come together around the topic but there’s appetite from our customer base to help support them in that. Whether that’s a massive trade show like EventTech Live London or not, I don’t know. But certainly that’s an opportunity for us to do that. And then there’s, you know, I’m sure you’re the same. I know there’s a laundry list of kind of other ideas and it is trying to decide what are great ideas, what are good ideas, the timing of those deployments, you know what the strategy looks like around people. Because often you need to take the step to recruit before you actually deploy and I think that sometimes, and we’ve been true of this, you know, you deploy before you recruit and then you kind of get caught with people being stretched again because they’re now having to take on that work to deliver that.