Monthly Archives: April 2017

Reflecting on Meetings, Events and Conferences sector: csuitepodcast show 39

Show 39 of the csuitepodcast focussed on the meetings, events and conferences sector and was recorded at the Meetings Industry Association’s (mia) Annual conference that took place in London in March.

The first guest of my three guests was by Trevor Williams (below) who is Professor of Economics and Finance at Derby University, but also a member of the Institute of Economic Affairs Shadow Monetary Policy Committee, where he has the role of a rotating chairman.russ-and-trevor2Trevor had opened the conference with a macro scene setting presentation on the wider UK economy, highlighting a number of challenges that the UK is going to be facing in the months ahead, which of course include Brexit.  However, he also raised concerns over President Trump’s threat of protectionism in the US, Russian adventurism, Political risks from votes in Netherlands, France & Germany, and concerns from China and the Middle East.

In terms of Brexit, Trevor expects us to have a ‘Hard Brexit’, which as he explained, would mean leaving both the customs union and the single market.  He therefore believes that the focus for UK policy makers must be to forge trade deals to replace those it had with the EU, which needs to happen as quickly as it can after leaving the EU.

With respect to the Meetings and Events sector in particular, Trevor said that the change in output over time is more cyclical and volatile than overall growth in UK economy and it appears to already be slowing and in fact has turned negative year on year, meaning there are fewer meetings and events of the same basis compared the year before.  This has been as a result of the uncertainty generated by the Brexit vote and that business investment in the UK has slowed.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom though for the sector post Brexit and in fact, one thing the UK meetings industry has benefited from is the weakening Pound as it’s resulted in it being cheaper for people to visit.  Trevor said that this has meant that the foreign element of meetings and events has probably been holding up. He was also quick to add that the UK is a welcoming environment and that we’re seeing lots of tourist flows as a result in the fall of the currency.  However, he explained that the overarching growth in the sector is driven by what happens domestically, and that slowdown has already begun to show up and therefore the benefits of the fall in the currency are not enough to offset this.

Trevor does believe that ‘face to face’ and that the personal touch and human contact, seeing the white of someone’s eyes, can’t be beaten in any other way of communicating and therefore thinks the Meetings and Events industry is vital and is certainly not on the verge of collapse and that it does have a healthy future.  However, as he pointed out previously, he stressed that the volume is not as strong as in previous years.  Of course, he also pointed out that once Article 50 had been triggered, there may be a requirement for lots of events and conferences providing advice to businesses as what to do as plans for the UK leaving the EU begin.

In my second interview (starting at 10:59) I spoke with Jane Sunley (below) who is the Founder & CEO of Purple Cubed, an Employee engagement consultancy and tech provider.


Jane had been part of a panel discussion about industry talent and one of the key issues she highlighted is that she doesn’t feel that organisations are placing enough emphasis on nurturing UK talent,  She said that companies need to have a plan on how they are going to be an employer of choice and a best place to work so that people want to work there.

To highlight how Jane’s company helps their client’s in this sector retain their talent and improve engagement, she talked through some of the work they had carried out, using their bespoke software product ‘Talent Toolbox’, with Valor, a hospitality management company, that operate (according to their website at time of writing) 19 hotels including, 4 Holiday Inn’s and 5 Crown Plaza’s.  When the organisation employed a new CEO and new HR director, whilst going through an expansion plan, they ensured they put a plan to, as Jane explained, make sure the culture was very clear and engaged their people, ensuring their leaders were role model leaders and embracing and reinforcing the culture every day – see full story on Diginomica.

Purple Cubed Talent Toolbox:

My final guest (starting at 20:18) was the Deidre Wells OBE (below), Chief Executive of UKinbound, a trade body for approximately 370 member organisations involved in inbound tourism to the UK, such as tour operators, hotels, attractions and service providers to the industry, plus she also sits on the UK Government’s Tourism Industry Council.


Deirdre had been on a panel at the conference discussing life beyond Brexit in the Meetings and Events Sector and she said that what characterises the meetings industry is resilience.  She explained that amongst her organisation’s members, confidence is strong in terms of what the short-term opportunities that Brexit provides, mainly due to the fall in the Pound, resulting in the UK becoming a competitive place for inbound visitors when they’re hosting events, or coming for leisure purposes.  As for the long term, her confidence will be based on how the negotiations [between the UK and EU] will pan out and on this, Deidre made specific reference to getting the right support for their workforce, in particular, their migrant workforce, and continuing to have access to the Single Aviation Market, which she said is critical for the 70% of visitors to the UK that come by air, which she said would be a strong signal to the industry that the UK is going to get a good deal post Brexit.  However, Deidre also made the point on what the look and feel of the ports and airports will be for people visiting from overseas will also be important, both in terms of logistics, i.e., how easy for people to transit through them but also what the welcome will be like.

As an industry body, UKinbound lobbies government on behalf of its industry, and in that role, as part of their wider annual conference, the organisation hosted a round table meeting in February with CEOs of Inbound travel companies but invited Giles Smith from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to attend as well.  In the meeting, they raised three key concerns over Brexit and its potential impact on the industry, which Deidre said were:

  1. Employment – what’s going to happen to the 30% of UKinbound member employees who are migrants in the short-term, and how those companies can continue to replenish that workforce in the long term
  2. Access to the Open Skies Agreement – as mentioned above – ensuring there weren’t extra barriers to prevent people travelling to the UK as easily as they can
  3. Welcome on arrival – ensuring no changes to the transit arrangements to EU visitors, who make up 2/3 of visitors to the UK.

However, despite these concerns, Deidre made the point that the industry has dealt with 9/11, Ash Clouds and Foot & Mouth, and so Brexit is just another challenge.  Therefore, she said that her industry needs to ensure it is as resilient as possible and to keep calm and keep doing business through the [Brexit] negotiations as they pan out.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the website, Soundcloud, itunes and TuneIn.  There is also a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion.  Finally, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

Prioritising employee wellbeing: csuitepodcast show 38

Show 38 of the csuitepodcast focussed on the importance for companies to prioritise employee wellbeing and was recorded off the back of research that had been released on the day of recording that showed that that employees are now more stressed and under more pressure in the workplace, with 1 in 3 adults saying that they do not feel supported at work and with over half of all respondents saying that they would consider changing jobs this year as a result.

The research had been carried out by Cisco and joining me in the studio were two representatives from that company – El Cavanagh-Lomas, VP for HR at Cisco Europe Middle East Africa and Russia, and Jean Kerr who works within Leadership and Team Intelligence in the organisation’s EMEAR HR team.  Alongside El and Jean was Jessie Pavelka who was a fitness trainer on the US TV programme, The Biggest Loser, but Jessie had also been recently working with Cisco on a new wellbeing programme.  As it happens, Jessie was also the third most followed guest of the podcast on Twitter!

L-R: Russell Goldsmith, Jean Kerr, Jessie Pavelka and El Cavanagh-Lomas

L-R: Russell Goldsmith, Jean Kerr, Jessie Pavelka and El Cavanagh-Lomas

We started the podcast discussing the findings of Cisco’s research and El explained that what they had learned is that the pace in which people are working today is continuing to accelerate.  She said that we used to talk about work life balance but believes now, with the pace things are going and the scale of change that we’re facing, that’s just not possible.  Instead, we have to focus on work life integration, bringing all elements of life together.

Cisco’s findings actually came off the back of another report by consultants Mercer that showed British employers are losing on average 27.5 days per employee every year due to sickness and underperforming in the office as a result of ill-health and in monetary terms, absenteeism and presenteeism is costing the UK economy £73 billion a year in lost productivityHowever, El said that this wasn’t just a UK issue and that, with Cisco being a global company, they are facing this concern all around the world.  She said that they know wellbeing has a direct impact on employee engagement – relating to higher motivation, creativity and positive customer experience.  Ultimately, according to El, you are affecting the bottom line as you are helping to avoid all those issues listed in the Mercer report.

To combat these issues, Jessie explained that he had been working with Cisco to launch the CiscoPavelka Initiative, which is based around his own philosophy of health, which itself is based on four elements:

  1. Food
  2. Movement
  3. Mind Power
  4. Family

What Jessie is looking to do is implement small changes in each of these areas.  For example, in Food, it could be as simple as drinking more water, having more leafy greens, or eating more protein.  For Movement, go for a 5min walk in your lunch break.  However, when it comes to stress of anxiety at work, Jessie feels that Mind Power and Family are probably the most important.  He said that Mind Power equals Mindfulness and that for a lot of us, we get so busy that we forget to take a break.  Jessie believes it’s important to find time in the day to go and do some deep breathing for five or ten minutes or to meditate, and that a lot of us need to be open to these exercises and new ways of doing things, especially if we’re constantly feeling stressed.  Finally, with Family, Jessie said that’s ‘Connect’, i.e. the people in your world that support and encourage you to be healthy, both at work and at home.

The initiative is delivered in an online community, called the ‘Pavelka House for Cisco’, where employees can go for information and inspiration and find tools, tips and tricks to practice Jessie’s four elements.  They’ve also developed an app called ‘Nudge’ that acts as a reminder that keeps everyone taking part accountable.

The conversation moved on to a related topic of the importance of Mental Health in the workplace off the back of a question sent in by Jon Salmon, who is working with the charity ‘Heads Together’.  In response, El said that Mental Health is a taboo topic in many organisations and that employees often feel more scared to bring forward issues of their mental health than they do about their physical health and that the impact of this on their lives at work is phenomenal.  She went on to say that at Cisco, they want to create an environment where people can come out and talk.  In fact, the company is sharing more and more stories through their Mental Health ambassadors across the business who are training to provide assistance and support, plus they have an employee assistance programme available too.

One of Cisco’s employees who had worked with Jessie on the programme for over six months was Jean Kerr and you can watch a bit of Jean’s story in the below video:

Jean explained that the key is showing someone what they can do.  She thinks that for a lot of people, when they are in that place of overwhelm, when you are in that scenario that you don’t feel that you can have the balance, you stop believing in yourself and your ability to do things and so that’s all about mind power.  Jean said that the key thing for her though was actually asking for help from both her home family and her Cisco family, which has made her much more effective in how she gets things done.  But the big thing was the mind power – having no devices first thing in the morning and last thing at night has helped her to sleep better and start her day better.

You can read more about Jean Kerr’s story on Cisco’s Blog, and find out more on Jessie’s Philosophy by visiting The Pavelka Way

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on the webite and on Soundclouditunes and TuneIn, plus there is a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion – please do!  Also, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!

What makes award winning B2B Marketers: csuitepodcast show 37

At the end of 2016, I attended the 12th B2BMarketing Awards, with Audere Communications proudly sponsoring the ‘Best use of content marketing’ category.

L-R: Russell Goldsmith, Gary Muddyman, Cate Dominian, James Erskine

L-R: Russell Goldsmith, Gary Muddyman, Cate Dominian, James Erskine

Following on from that partnership, two of the winners from the night, Catherine Howard, UK and Ireland Marketing Director for Atos, an international Digital Services business with annual revenues of around 12 billion Euro, and Renaye Edwards, Marketing Account Director at the B2B marketing agency Digital Radish, joined me and B2B Marketing’s Editor-in-chief, Joel Harrison, in the studios of markettiers, to record Show 36 of the csuitepodcast where we talked about their award work and discussed why they think they walked away with the coveted trophies in their particular categories.

L-R: Joel Harrison, Catherine Howard, Russell Goldsmith, Renaye Edwards

L-R: Joel Harrison, Catherine Howard, Russell Goldsmith, Renaye Edwards

As was the case for both my guests, this was actually the second year they had won an award at Joel’s event and for Catherine, whilst her team at Atos won Team of the year for 2016, the previous year, she personally won B2B Marketer of the year after spending the first 12-18 months after arriving at the business transforming the marketing function.  This was achieved by doing one-to-one reviews with different stakeholders across the business as well as team members, which resulting in needing to change the perception of the team.  Catherine explained that at the time, the [marketing] team were seen as very reactive and not visible, and so she set about changing that within the organisation to being a more proactive, more approachable and more professional team.  By setting a clear direction, strategy and aligning the team to the business objectives of the organisation, she was able to transform the business.  She also felt the real turning point, around five or six months into the role, was presenting to her executive board to show what marketing was really about, what her team were there to do and how they were re-aligning to the business, and then securing budget for the campaigns and activities that they wanted to do.  Catherine’s vision for her team now is to be known externally as pioneers, which she says makes them braver in some of the marketing that they are trying, but they continue to be focussed on return on investment (ROI) on everything that they do.  However, she was also keen to mention that from a Global perspective, they lead a centre of excellence on a number of different initiatives across an end-to-end perspective of the sales cycle, from client and market insight at the top end of the sales funnel, through to demand generation programmes supporting pipeline and closure of deals, to finally client advocacy.

It was fair to say that for Renaye, the size of her team and available budget to work with were at the other end of the scale to Catherine’s, which is why it was so good to have both guests on the show sharing their stories.  Renaye’s agency won in the B2B Marketing Limited Budget category for the second year running, in this instance for a campaign for conveyancing firm ‘When You Move’, which Digital Radish worked for from initial concept through to launch.  Renaye explained how the integrated campaign, localised by region, aimed to challenge the norm of conveyancing, which she said is known to be slow, with poor communications with the house buyer and estate agent, which leads to a frustrating process, with the estate agents often having to spend a lot of time chasing the conveyancers on behalf of the buyer. As part of the campaign theme, Digital Radish therefore created a concept of ‘lost time’, calculating how much time an Estate Agent would save on a daily basis by involving more technology in the process, and then, to make it more meaningful, showed what could then be done with that time saved.  A key part of the activity was becoming a disruptor to the industry through the development of an app that gives buyers, sellers and the estate agency the ability to track the process of the move.  In terms of KPIs, what was key for Digital Radish’s client was that they booked 100 meetings from the campaign, getting a response from 71% of their top tier 1 campaign targets.

When it comes to the key ingredients that make up a winning team or campaign, Catherine, Renaye and Joel highlighted the following:

  1. Relationship building – Catherine explained that she put’s in a massive investment as a team to talk with each other but also to work with their business counterparts too.  She added that you can’t ever beat a face to face conversation with someone, in particular, in the relationship between Marketing and Sales, so that there is no divide between the two.  This also goes for how they worked together in the team itself, where they changed a number of ways that they worked together.  For example, they now have a monthly team meeting that takes place that, even as the head of marketing, Catherine makes a point of not chairing, and instead leaves that role to a different team member each month.  They also go off site to learn from other organisations, be that agencies, competitors or clients, taking time to work together on different programmes and projects and talking through them as a team.  She believes that its having that time together that makes a massive difference in how your team actually works.
  2. Putting creativity at the forefront – This was key for Renaye and she added that you have to foster creativity and so encourages her team to get out of the office to places like the British Museum that is next to her company’s office. [This linked a lot to what was discussed in Show 36 on the topic of Creativity in Business – worth a listen!]
  3. Working together as partners – Catherine said that she sees her agencies, of which there are five or six, as partners and that she views them as an extension of her marketing team.  She therefore has a lot of individuals from her agencies that sit on site and work as part of the marketing team, including being involved in client and sales meetings.
  4. Chemistry – Joel added that actually liking the people you work with is really important, because if you don’t, those partner meetings that Catherine referred to, can be really long, and the individuals within the agencies are unlikely to want to go the extra mile for you either.

When it comes to measuring the success of their campaigns, Catherine said there are a few different ways they achieve it.  Firstly, everything they do has to show an ROI in some shape or form and from a financial perspective, the three main areas they focus on are around:

  1. Demand Generation – real qualified opportunities.
  2. Supported Pipeline – engaging with existing deals
  3. Conversion from unqualified to qualified pipeline – when Catherine starting looking at the metrics at the beginning of 2016, only 8% of what marketing was generating was converting to qualified pipeline with a solution team assigned from it having been through a bid review, but by getting her team to own that pipeline, that number has risen to 37%.

However, what’s also key for Catherine are the qualitative metrics, including end-client feedback, which comes through anecdotal feedback and client surveys as well as internal surveys with business stakeholders too.

Joel added that from his judges’ perspective, what they are also always looking for in award winning entries is how they are aligned to the business objectives or have helped to move the business forward.

The next B2B Marketing Awards will take place in November 2017 and it’s now open for entries.

All previous shows of the csuitepodcast series are available on Soundclouditunes and TuneIn, plus there is a growing community on Facebook and Twitter, where you can get involved in the discussion – please do!  Also, if you subscribe to the show, please can you give it a positive rating and review on itunes in particular as this helps it up the charts!