Hot take: why eventprofs should focus on quality not quantity

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Emma Little Emma Little

Emma Little, founder and CEO of venue finding agency, ExecSpace explains why we need to be less busy and more selective about the business we work on...

Most of us will agree, the world has gone nuts over the past 20 months.

Who would have thought, just two years ago, we’d have lived through a significant period of time when it was ‘unlawful’ to spend more than one hour outdoors, sit on your mum’s couch or go to Sainsbury’s without a surgeon’s mask on?

But maybe, a lot of the stuff we did pre‐Covid was even more nuts. Not to go too deep, but in a way, I feel now our consciousness has been awakened and instead of doing stuff because we’ve always done it, doing stuff we potentially didn’t want to do and glossing over the parts of lives we weren’t happy with, now, every day, we make conscious decisions because we are much clearer on what matters, who matters, what we want and what we want our personal and business lives to look like. It’s like the fog has lifted and our eyes have been opened.

"It’s the classic mirror thing. Value ourselves and they’ll value us"

So, while we have absolutely no clue what the world will look like in 2023, what the ‘next norm’ is – no one does – we can make decisions now to ensure our lives and businesses are what we want going forward.

As an industry, I feel we have been far too focused on activity over output. We need to be less busy, more selective about the business we work on, more focused on the clients that matter and challenge ourselves more than ever about effort/energy versus reward.

We should value ourselves more, which in turn would make others value us. Until we do, others won’t and practices like booking five restaurants (so customers can pick on the night) and clients using venue finders with no intention of booking via them will only continue. It’s the classic mirror thing. Value ourselves and they’ll value us.

At the risk of sounding daft (I’m sure loads reading this will have got this years ago), I’ve listed a few of the nuts things ExecSpace did pre‐Covid and what we’re doing that’s significantly different post‐Covid.

We worked with way too many clients and didn’t do enough analysis on the profitability/conversion of those clients. Going forward, we’ve made a conscious decision to focus on two types of clients:

  • Those that we have a contract in place with.
  • Those that we’re incredibly close to, who value us and who, historically, have had strong conversion.
As we rebuild and scale our teams (and, let’s face it, before we really have the income to do it) we can’t be paying people to work on enquiries that’ll never convert or with clients who are either running their own search directly or even worse, sending the same brief to more than one agent. It doesn’t make commercial sense and I’d rather 100 per cent of our energy goes into the clients that matter.

"Let’s really start to respect ourselves and expect more for the effort we put in."

This will also enhance our employee experience as our teams will be working with clients who answer their calls, respond to their emails and take a partnership approach, over a traditional client/supplier one.

We created unnecessary urgency. We assumed clients wanted the proposal in 24‐48 hours but in reality, clients might not have needed it or read it for a week. And, let’s face it, clients will always prefer the quality of proposal to pace. Now we ask those that matter – the client.

In a similar vein, I think we in the industry have tried to sit in front of clients too regularly. Is that because the client wants it or because we think we need to be front of mind? We are now asking our clients how regularly they’d like to see us and how we make the best use of the time together. More of our client time is now at site inspections when we can add value and increase the collaborative approach. Surely this is more beneficial to our clients too.

We worked on half briefs. Yes, clients might enquire speculatively but in most cases, we should have delved deeper, asked more questions and had a more collaborative approach when working on briefs.

We’ve been too focused on churning out enquiries and not focused enough on profit. A lot of this will change organically as a result of what I’ve already covered but we need to change the mindsets of our teams. Enquiries shouldn’t be about ‘getting them out', they should be seen from the outset as an opportunity ‘to generate profit’ and add value to our clients.

We’ve had too many levels of management between me and those who generate the income. We’ve flattened the structure and will use the money we’ve saved to pay those generating the profit significantly more. Recruitment‐wise this will help us attract and retain the best talent, and bring in more experience.

Generally speaking, most of us in this industry have really struggled to keep our businesses open over the past 20 months. If we were protective of them and the industry pre‐COVID, we’re even more so now.

This industry is filled with some of the hardest working, smartest and most professional people out there. Let’s really start to respect ourselves and expect more for the effort we put in. Less busy-ness, more profit and more time with family and friends.

After all, why else are we doing it?

Holly Patrick
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Holly Patrick
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A desire to travel led Holly Patrick to the business meetings and events world and she’s never looked back. Holly takes a particular interest in event sustainability and creating a diverse and inclusive industry. When she’s not working, she can be found rolling skating along Brighton seafront listening to an eclectic playlist, featuring the likes of Patti Smith, Sean Paul, and Arooj Aftab.

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