Times are tough out there for the independent organizer – whether PCO, Event Management company or whatever type of name used to explain the duties and tasks of the range of co-ordinating requirements for any gathering of people.

Unless an independent organizer has long-term contractual clients – which are more the exception than the norm – associations are erring on employing an in-house individual to undertake their annual member conference while corporates are tending to establish an events management department.

With the corporate being the majority of organizing business, it stands to reason that an events management department makes a whole lot of sense in handling the myriad of events for the entire company. Independent organizing costs have been steadily rising – some justified while others could have blown themselves clear out of the water. Only recently the MICE Academy was advised of a fee exceeding R1m for a potential 500 paying delegation conference with limited bells and whistles. On the other side of the coin, clients are checking budgets and reducing organizing fees to the point of being ludicrous.

There is limited point in bemoaning that various clients are using inexperienced organizers or crying ‘foul’ as incoming associations prefer their own organizer to undertake the internal arrangements. Outgoing MICE groups should equally be encouraged to use a South African PCO. The variety of reasons for using a known PCO are the same as those of incoming associations and are simply well-formed relationships.

In a democratic society unless the independent organizer convinces naïve clients of the error of their ways – in a positive and proactive manner – the plight of less clients or eroding bottom-lines are likely to continue.

So what are the PCO’s to do? Individually draw up a communications plan which is consistent for a minimum period of about one year – thereafter ensure swift and proactive follow-up. Be innovative in drawing-up lists of potential clients especially with the dearth of information overload out there.

Communication is indeed a two-way street and no matter the limited response to ongoing efforts – becoming disheartened is to be avoided. Continue with the communication plan – tweeking along the way – yet not abandoning the flow due to lack of response.

Of course if PCO’s are in a ‘collective’ such as holding a distinct qualification or part of an appropriate association – a collective marketing plan detailing the noticeable advantages should be implemented. Once enquiries are received – which should be distributed to all on an equal basis as a collective – individual follow-up with the potential client would take place.

All self-employed organizers should have a portfolio of authentic certificates – with CPD (Continuing Professional Development) score-cards – proving their up-to-date knowledge on a range of subjects and topics that could have great appeal for any potential client.

E-newsletters such as the weekly SA Conference can have a powerful ‘reach’ if the communications plan is designed to attract the requirements of the end-user.

Now is the time to dispel the notion that it is the ‘winter of discontent’ and progress in a proactive manner.

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