May 09, 2024
By Victoria Akinsowon

Event agencies face their fair share of challenges. Not only are you balancing high client expectations, but you also have to contend with the impact of tighter budgets, ongoing economic uncertainty, and the pressure to deliver outstanding events regardless of external factors. 

Recently, we hosted a seminar in London that brought together event professionals from different agencies to hear their experiences and some of the strategies they're implementing to navigate current challenges.

Read on to learn tips on managing client expectations, dealing with internal stakeholders, and more.

1. Managing client expectations

It’s no secret that many event and marketing teams are being asked to do more with less. In fact, in the European edition of our Annual Planner Sourcing reportmost (38%) event planners cited cost inflation as their biggest challenge. 

While budgets are up for many, this isn’t necessarily in line with inflation. For example, 67% of respondents to the 2024 Amex GBT Global Meetings and Events Forecast predicted an increase in their event budget — but of those, only 13% said budgets would increase by more than 10%. 

During the seminar, attendees agreed that clients often expect the same level of output without factoring in the impact of rising costs and inflation on event budgets.

So, while many organisations are prioritising events as part of their strategies, without a corresponding increase in event budgets that accounts for inflation, event teams, and by extension, event agencies, have to find creative solutions.

What you can do

As an agency, managing client expectations is critical. So, keep up with industry trends, educate your clients about market conditions, and clearly communicate how rising expenses will impact event budgets. 

But setting realistic expectations isn’t all. It’s also important to support your clients in finding creative alternatives to engage their audiences when budgets just don’t stretch far enough. As one attendee aptly stated, “Bold issues need bold thinking. You can squeeze in more events, but you’ll need to throw out the rulebook to make it work.”

Consider complementary event strategies such as combining or co-locating smaller events, repurposing event content to reach new audiences, hosting virtual events to extend reach, and considering unique venues that offer more flexibility.

💡Read more: 10 event industry trends you should know in 2024

2. Influence of internal stakeholders

While you may have established a strong relationship with your main point of contact, don’t underestimate the impact of other internal stakeholders.

Broader management teams, with whom you may not have a direct relationship, often have a say in key decisions that affect your project. This can be particularly challenging to manage if your main point of contact hasn’t taken the necessary steps to align stakeholders. 

It’s not uncommon for internal teams to have differing priorities and objectives, which can put you in a difficult position where you may lack the influence to effect change. Plus, encouraging clients to embrace new ideas can be tricky, as they are held accountable for any potential failures. 

What you can do

To tackle this challenge, it’s important to identify key stakeholders, such as marketing and sales teams, right from the start. Understand their objectives and work with your client to ensure they are having the right internal conversations. 

One attendee shared their approach: “We ask clients to compile a list of the top things they and their team aim to achieve, along with the individuals involved in the decision-making process.”

Educate your clients about the importance of internal communications and encourage open communication channels. By involving the right stakeholders and establishing a clear decision-making process, you can align objectives and streamline project execution.

3. Organisations not using their event data

It’s surprising how many companies possess a wealth of event data but fail to utilise it effectively. According to a 2023 commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Cvent, 59% of teams say their companies struggle to capture and leverage the right data.

Many event agencies find that their clients struggle to interpret and extract meaningful insights from their event data, thereby missing out on valuable ways to optimise their event programme. Plus, without a clear data strategy and analysis, it becomes challenging to showcase the true value of events to key stakeholders. 

Key reasons for this include a lack of standardisation, inconsistent processes and data, and a lack of tech integrations

What you can do

As an agency, you can help your clients define a clear data strategy aligned with their goals. How? Prior to the event, understand the specific data points your clients wish to capture and craft a narrative that illustrates how these data points can determine event success. 

Remember, too, that you’ll need the right event technology to capture the right data. So, emphasise the importance of using event technology that not only supports the attendee journey but also allows you to derive important insights about an event’s performance.

The image below shows examples of the various data points that can be collected before, during, and after an event: 

data points before, during, and after event

Additionally, help your clients implement a framework and supporting narrative to measure the business impact of their event programmes. 

Rob Curtis, Owner and Director of Event Footprints, an event and marketing technology consultancy, outlined four key pillars to help you measure the impact of events and an event’s return on objectives:

  1. Brand value: Determine if engagement with the brand/organisation influences a shift in perception
  2. Attendee value: Assess whether attendees find the event valuable
  3. Business value: Evaluate if the event drives tangible business results
  4. Event execution: Gather feedback on how stakeholders rate the overall execution of the event

4. Macroeconomic factors

The events industry is uniquely susceptible to external factors, particularly economic uncertainties. Macro-level economic factors can significantly disrupt event planning, often beyond an agency's control. Challenges such as flight cancellations or delayed baggage deliveries can disrupt group bookings and create logistical complications.

However, the events industry is known for its resilience, and there are ways to mitigate the impact of these issues.

What you can do

Mitigate the impact of macroeconomic factors by incorporating contingency plans into event strategies. This includes exploring alternative travel arrangements, identifying backup venues, or maintaining flexible itineraries to adapt to unexpected changes.

Maintain open communication with clients and suppliers so that you can solve problems quickly and minimise the impact of external factors beyond your control.

💡Learn more about how to deal with the unexpected at events

5. High cost and time of pitching

Pitching is a critical aspect of winning new business and retaining clients. But the process can easily become time-consuming and frustrating if you’ve invested a lot of time and resources into a pitch only to have clients change their minds or significantly alter project scopes. 

Even more disheartening are those ‘invisible objections’, where clients decide not to proceed without providing feedback.

What you can do

Attendees at the seminar acknowledged that navigating this challenge is not straightforward. One approach to consider is implementing a pitch fee structure. This could involve offering a consultation or pitch session for free but charging a fee for additional time and resources invested.

But while this approach helps set clear expectations about the working relationship and ensures that your team's efforts are valued and compensated, it may also benefit other agencies that do not require payment for pitch work. Striking a balance between valuing your work and remaining competitive is key.

Additionally, it’s important to foster open and transparent communication channels with clients throughout the pitch process. Regular check-ins and seeking feedback proactively can help mitigate the risk of being ‘ghosted’ and allow clients to express their thoughts, concerns, and expectations openly.

By creating a collaborative environment, you can strengthen the working relationship and enhance the overall success of the pitch process.

Finding opportunities for growth

Event agencies face a range of challenges in their day-to-day operations, from stakeholder management to navigating macroeconomic factors. Although these hurdles may seem daunting, they also present opportunities for growth and innovation.

As an extension of an organisation’s events and/or marketing team, event agencies play a crucial role in delivering impactful and successful events that align with clients’ goals and objectives. Communicating your expertise, creativity, and strategic thinking will go a long way toward demonstrating your agency’s value. 

Download our Top 10 Meetings & Event Trends guide to learn more about the latest trends in the meetings and events industry.

Victoria Akinsowon

Victoria Akinsowon

Victoria is the Team Lead for Content Marketing in Europe at Cvent. An IDM-qualified marketing professional, she has over five years of experience in developing and implementing content marketing strategies that drive business
growth. In her spare time, you’ll find her learning a new language, travelling, or reading a good book.

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