How has the pandemic created unique opportunities for events agencies to reposition and re-build their business strategies from pitch through to delivery?

Michael Gietzen on this week’s episode of Identify is joined by Chetan Shah, CEO & Founder of micebook, discussing how agencies have the opportunity to reshape how the sector operates.

You can read the full transcript below or watch the episode here.

MG: Hello, and welcome to Identify the news, views and insights from within the events industry. I spoke with Martin last week about the roadmap of returning to live events based on Boris Johnson’s announcement. So I thought what better than being joined by Chetan Shah, as we maybe unwrap that little back and think about the learnings that we were gaining from this last period and how we can kind of build back better as a, as an agency, and as an industry um, on the learnings that we’ve had. So Chet,  just chatting about this. What do you think are going to be, you know, some of the great learnings we’re going to take on into this future?

CS: Thanks for having me, um, I think, I mean, it’s been an incredible journey for so many agencies. And of course, some who have had a narrow offering have really suffered because they’ve not been able to offer services to clients, but there’s a lot of agencies that have really moved quickly and I’ll use the word pivot.

Um, and they’ve started to really offer great services to their end clients to solve their kind of comms needs, whether it’s internally or externally in this virtual world, because that’s all your. Been able to do. Um, and those agencies have learnt a hell of a lot. They’ve also had to probably change the makeup of their people, uh, the skill sets, but finally they probably have got, um, a seat of their strategic table.

We’ve talked about this a little bit, but finally clients are coming back to them and going, what do we do? I’ve got this problem. I’ve got this need. What should we do? And then agencies are having to do what agencies should have always been doing, which is consult and provide solutions to the challenges and, and to do that, they’ve had to talk at the high level of, um, the clients kind of structure.

They’ve had to put in solutions that only event agencies, you know, quite broad, but only they’ve been able to kind of master in this virtual world. I think. So they are in a massively strong position. You touch on something, because I remember going back a few years ago, we used to regularly say things here about, Oh, I wish they engaged with us just a little bit earlier.

Then we could have given our strategic application and said, you know, is that the right choice, rather than sometimes being given a set brief this is the parameters that you need to follow. And then it can sometimes become a bit of a commodity trade off because. The agency lead, the client knows exactly what it wants.

And I think as you alluded to now, this has been a great period of true collaboration between client and the sector.

MG: Yeah. I mean, I’d love, I’d love to see some of the old procurement ways. Trying to purchase some of the things that are now being sold because you just couldn’t. Cause it was a drill down to the bottom, you know, to the, to the lowest common denominator for the room, night  and this and that.

And that’s all they really thought, you know, agencies did and, and to a certain extent, we that’s, all agencies were doing to a little, to a certain extent, but you’re right. I think much, much earlier on in the process and far more collaborative. Yeah. Which is only a fantastic thing for agencies going forward. I think that’s a really good message to the sector. Yeah. To not forget the things that we’ve been doing in this period and how consultative and how strategic we have been. And, and that, yeah, that, that is something that can be, A – sold, I guess, how can we monetize this, but also just how really it can be a much better wrapped package from the agency.

So do you think there’ll be a different around fee structure now?

CS: Um, it depends on the kind of agencies, how they were operating. Some were doing the rate card, which is of course how it should probably should be, you know, being valued for their time and expertise. And. Not necessarily even seniority, but just time and expertise.

So I think more agencies will model that way, which is better than the percentage and the commissions and, and that structure, which has all kind of demeaning to the role that agencies have played. And if you think back to the last year, how much work do we all do for free? Um, well, when I was agency, how many agencies just put on so much and they don’t get paid for it.

And now I think finally clients will understand the work that goes in and it will be valued properly.

MG: Do you think there’ll be an exciting shift into the sector with more, more thinkers and more strategic people as a result?

CS: Yeah, I definitely do. I mean, you can already see, I’ve already seen some of the hires and people coming into agencies are at a different level of strategic thinking.

Um, comms specialists, engagement specialists, learning specialists, all of these, of course, on the technical side as well. It’s not just logistics. Of course that’s needed, but. I think going forward the future of the agency as, as the topic is they’re going to need people who either really rounded and have comms and technical, um, digital capabilities rather than just logistics, but logistics will be needed in a back, but

I think we’re going to attract an amazing pool of talent back into this, all into the sector for the first time really and that makes us a much stronger part of the marketing mix than we’ve probably ever been. Um, I think advertising PR have always had a great voice, uh, very strategic high level.

Finally we will, I hope.

MG: Yeah. I think that will be a big difference in the sector. I think as we kind of wrap up, I think one of the things I noticed there as well as not only in addition to these thinkers, There’s that digital wrapper that’s being. Yeah, we had to adapt to in this period. And I, when I say we, I mean the industry as a whole, and I think the, one of the things I would like to see is that obviously that, that stays uh, and, uh, yeah, we, we continue to represent a kind of a full total solution.

Um, but also that we continue to challenge ourselves, you know, for all the learnings that we’ve had, uh, we’ve had moving forward. So I think it’s a really exciting time for our sector and how, how we react and bounce back to the kind of future of the future of events. Yeah, I totally agree. And I think we shouldn’t put, take the foot off the gas at all.

CS: We’re probably only scratching the surface of the opportunity or the, almost like a glass ceiling and I’m thinking we should break through and, and there’s, you know, there’s huge opportunities for our sector to do far more incredible work than we’ve ever done before.

MG: Yeah. And, and. And for young people coming into it, they’ve just got such so much of a louder voice than they probably ever had.

If they’re savvy. I mean, digital natives are they’re called, you know, they’ve got great opportunity to shape agencies and be far more kind of contributing than they ever have. And, and, and I think you’re all alive as well. The fact that we, the focus on content has been so rich in this period because you haven’t had built the whizzbang of all production value.

And I think that keeping that emphasis will be great  as well. Is there anything, as we, as we sum up kind of thinking about a future of the future of agencies, is there anything else you want to add?

CS: No, I think a united voice at a government level, which, you know, for One Industry One Voice, which is, which is, you know, we partnering with BVP.

I think that voice is hopefully stronger with we are more united as a sector than we’ve probably ever been because of the challenges. So hopefully that continues with a far broader remit going forward. Once we get out of this, um, that that could be really interesting and could pave the way for better. Better scrutiny and better kind of support going forward.

MG: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. Well Chet thank you so much. If you’ve enjoyed listening to anything, that Chet and I discussed. If you’ve got any opinions on what you think the future shape of agency will be kind of post COVID then please leave a comment below otherwise. Thank you very much and have a lovely day.

Thanks Chet thanks.