Learn how to choose an event venue & handle challenging venue owners
We sat down with Naveen Bharadwaj, a self-professed Tech & Cyber enthusiast with more than 12 years' experience as a Partnerships & Events Director, and asked him about... well, event marketing, obviously.
More specifically, what makes an event memorable? How do you avoid your event being meh while on a limited budget? How do you deal with tough venue owners without landing a criminal charge?
Read on for some wisdom from the guy whose had projects endorsed by the King & Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, President of Kenya, and the Prime Minister of Jordan.
Hi, Naveen. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Could you briefly tell our readers more about yourself? Do you have much experience in events - either creating, marketing, or attending them?
Before I took a break from the events industry in 2019, I went by the tagline, "Computer science engineer by qualification and Events Director by profession".
I've spent over a decade in the events industry, of which over 7 years were in the B2B space & the rest in B2C brand activation space.
The 100+ business events and training I conceptualized, produced, managed, led or launched are primarily in the areas of cyber security, fintech, smart transformation, blockchain, IoT, hospitality tech, private equity & venture capital, women in leadership, diversity & inclusion, human capital, financial innovation & renewable energy.
That's pretty impressive, I'm not going to lie. Do you think that trade shows, summits and the like still hold much value for professionals? Should professionals still be attending B2B events like these?
Affirmative. Humans are social by nature, therefore there's still a lot of need for physical interaction via trade shows & business summits.
However, technology has definitely reduced the dependency on events & changed the way professionals expect & experience these events. An amazing agenda & a bunch of great companies showcasing is no longer enough. Event organizers are having to focus heavily on providing an unforgettable & unique experience in order to remain relevant.
The line between our personal and professional lives are blurring rapidly so business events such as trade shows & summits are increasingly integrating personal experiences to their events to remain relevant.
I'm glad to hear that the 'human' element of these events isn't being neglected. On that note: what was the most memorable event you ever attended? It could be anything from a wedding or birthday to a corporate trade show.
In 2017, I led a large cyber security conference in Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) under their then-Crown Prince's endorsement.
It was the largest gathering of cyber security decision makers in the Kingdom & will remain a dear experience to me.
How important was the venue in making this a memorable experience?
Venue was a key crowd puller. It was a secure & classified government club where typically high-level foreign dignitaries & delegations are hosted.
It was comparable with most 5-star hotel venues & managed by one of the leading branded hotel operators.
Wow! Sounds fancy. Have you ever had a terrible experience at a venue? Without mentioning names, tell our readers a bit about what made the venue such a negative experience.
If any event organizer claims they've never had a terrible venue experience, or if a venue claims they have 100% customer satisfaction, they are lying.
Given the dynamic nature of events, no matter how meticulously one plans their event, there are always high chances of last minute changes & requests. Most venues are aware of such situations & are flexible. But a few are rigid & that could cost them future business.
Also, some have poor customer interaction & service, others have onsite issues that takes forever to resolve.
When it comes time to host your own event, what are the factors that you’d take into consideration when deciding on a venue?
1. Scalability - can I expand if need be?
2. Flexibility - will the venue accept part payments, reduction of space or pax etc?
3. Reputation - is it a place that would WOW people?
4. Resources - do they have the right support staff?
5. Cost - how deep do they need my pocket to be?
A lot is said about creating a WOW experience too. But I'm of the opinion that the onus is on the event organizers to do that, and if the venue can innately offer a WOW experience, it's a bonus.
In any job, you sometimes have to deal with people who can be a pain in the ass, but I think that’s more true when you’re organising an event. Do you have a strategy for dealing with pain-in-the-ass venue owners?
There are multiple ways to deal with tough cookies.
Have a split payment based on non-negotiable KPIs. Branded venues might not agree to it, but it's worth a sit-down discussion.
Show commitment to hosting more than one event (if possible), so they see you as a repeat customer - their cash cow.
Make them understand the value of your event & the associated supporters so the venue realises its not just revenue, but also enhanced reputation that your event brings to them.
If you had to compare your venue budget vs your marketing budget, how would that look? For instance, would you generally keep your marketing budget to 50% of the venue cost?
Our marketing budgets were typically pegged to the expected revenue of the event & not the venue. Anywhere between 3% to 10% of the revenue went towards pre-event marketing. Additional budget was assigned for digital & print-based marketing for the days of the event.
Thank you so much for your time, Naveen. Lastly, is there anything else you’d like to add for our readers?
As stressful as it might be, events are an absolute fun space & there's a lot of money out there. We need to evolve with changing market dynamics to remain relevant and attractive.
I'm open to advising events & event business owners if & when they need me for my experience & expertise.
Thanks! Have a great 2020, Naveen.
If you want to get in contact with Naveen, you can do so here.