Tuesday, 20 May 2008


Sorry it's taken me so long to get to this promised posting - I took off on holiday on the Sunday after Events Day 08, and didn't get a chance before I left. And, given how this controversy arose through what was probably me doing something in a rush as usual, I decided to leave it until there was time to properly open up the floor and get some real debate going.

The new Centre for Excellence in Events was the subject of one of my presentations at the conference. The purpose of a Centre for Excellence in Events is to develop a professional body for the events industry. What we have been hearing from the industry over the past 3 years is that we want one. We want a professional body that will:

• Develop Codes of Practice
• Create and Publish Standards
• Develop and Manage a Quality Mark
• Provide Certification
• Provide Education
• Be an All Island Organisation

To get to that point, I gave some of the real history of NEO Ireland. NEO is a private company, designed to be a meeting space and market place for people who work in the events industry. I get to play with it because it works very well in helping to promote my business (Eventznet.ie). I look at the money that we spend on it as my primary marketing budget.

Before the event, we went through all the finances carefully, and looked at where the money to run NEO Ireland comes from. We may have a couple of hundred members, and we may be marketing to a couple of thousand people, but only 20% of the money that it takes to run the organisation comes from membership fees. Less than 30% comes from the events we have been running, and the final percentage comes from sponsorship. Neither I nor the Advisory Board members get paid for the time we put into it. Most of that sponsorship is provided by Eventznet - which is fair enough given that we showcase our events systems and e-marketing through it. Other sponsors like SUMO Multimedia, Pure Graphics and Hire All Event & Party Hire (as well as the numerous venues who have showcased their offerings by sponsoring events) may not be able to put a figure on the return they get from sponsoring NEO Ireland, but I don't think they would keep on sponsoring if there wasn't a benefit in it for them - most of us can't afford to do that.

So, when it comes to the new Centre for Excellence in Events, the real question is where is the funding going to come from to a) set it up and b) run it? Many people in the audience made great suggestions, including making sure that receipt of a quality mark or certification is properly charged for. And a couple of people suggested running an event to raise funds. Here's where the fun started... I'm not entirely convinced that you can make money out of an event, not without there being a significant amount of free time and favours being pulled in. And unfortunately, I asked the question - and phrased it badly so that at least one side of the room heard me say that "there was no money in events". That's not exactly what I said, but that's what it sounded like to some people.

For the record - I think there is plenty of money in events, I make my living out of them and pay the salaries of a growing team out of them. I think there is far more money in the events industry than most people think and would love to see us really get a figure on it.

My point was that running an event to raise funds for the Centre for Excellence in Events probably wouldn't actually raise that much money. I think that, these days, it is harder and harder for events organisers to break even, never mind make a cash profit on an event. For most events, their first outing usually means an investment by the organiser (not necessarily the event manager, but the producer). We work with all sorts of event organisers, managers and producers - from academics through to public sector bodies, associations, marketing managers, media, public relations companies and a lot of exhibition organisers. We see them with tighter margins, lower budgets, timelines shrinking - every day. We see the cost of facilities, catering, audio visual, print, web and advertising increasing all the time and the numbers of people actually prepared to - or even with enough time to - attend decreasing by the day.

What I really think is that there is loads of money in events - but no easy way to access it. Now I'm about to get even more controversial... proof of this could be inferred by the low number of men involved in the events industry. Now let them fly!

We would love to hear what you think - please use the comment facility below. Comments are moderated - so they won't appear immediately (this is because so many spammers just post indiscriminately). I promise that nobody's opinion will go unheard. If you want to leave your name, go ahead. If you'd prefer to be anonymous then use an email address like mickey@disney.com.

To kick off the debate - here's the feedback from one delegate at Events Day 08.

I was disgusted with the talk by Sarah Carroll. I didn’t realise that we were coming here to be begged for money. The experience made me and I know at least two other people at my table very uncomfortable. We were told by Terry about people making impressions. Sarah created a terrible impression of herself and her business through her actions today. I was shocked to hear her to say to a room of people in the events industry that their is no money in event. You could hear the shock in the room. I have to say fair play to Alan Rafferty from Ann O’Brien (editor’s note: that is Helen O’Brien Management) stand up and challenge her. She proceeded to try and embarassed him. Don’t get me wrong, today was brilliant, however, Sarah put a very dark cloud over it and nearly made me leave. I have not joined NEO and probably won’t now because of her. I know that there were other people who felt this way.

Again, for the record, I do hope Alan Rafferty wasn't embarrassed - I personally thought it was brilliant to see someone opening up the discussion and only wished there had been more time to debate it there and then. Perhaps in another forum... like here! And again, for the record, we would be only too delighted to have Alan or anyone else volunteer to take on a fund raising event for the Centre for Excellence in Events.

So what do you think -- is there money in events or are we all just fooling ourselves into believing we're working when in fact we're just enjoying ourselves?

Wednesday, 23 April 2008


Our speakers have bravely allowed us to say nice things about them - so have our sponsors... So here goes:

Caitlin O'Connor - NetWorth and Accelerating Performance - Caitlin has a lot to tell us about the power of networking and about how she's built her business. Be kind to her, she's got a lot of competition with our good friend the Queen of Networking (Tricia Murphy), and a slightly different perspective.

Ellen Gunning - Irish Academy of Public Relations - When Ellen and I met for the first time it was a horrific experience for the others around us. Why? Well, we just had so much in common we were almost finishing each other's sentences! Since I kinda like myself, I gotta kinda like Ellen too! And she really wrote the book on event management...
Michael Nolan - iQuest (the producers of the new Family Show) - one of my favourite people who drives me mental with his negotiations... that's why he's speaking, he could teach us all a lot.
He's promised to be a pussy cat and not get into any, em, debates...
Terry Harmer - You may have heard the story about the florist in Kilkenny who was taking our details for the flowers we were sending to Terry for his birthday (yes, he's that good a trainer that we go the whole hog to make him happy and to make him make time for us - really). Anyhow, she's writing down my card details and she goes, oh, he's such a good trainer, isn't he? Yes, he's that good a trainer. Don't miss it.
And then there's me (Sarah Carroll). Instead of saying something nice about myself, I'm going to share this photo of me as a 7 year old. That's my communion dress I'm wearing which had been dyed a lovely indigo blue.
Don't forget - you need to book your place at the conference website to be sure to be joining us on Wednesday 30th April at the Ballsbridge Court Hotel (a d4 Hotel, formerly the Berkeley Court) : please click here to book.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Events Day 08: Sponsors: Pure Graphics

We love Pure Graphics, and it seems that Pure Graphics love us, judging from the way they have spoiled us over the years. It’s one of those relationships that never seem to make it out of the honeymoon phase, even though it’s been established for a long time. Since the birth of NEO Ireland, Eugene and his team have done (and still do!) their utmost to fill our every need for printed material, be it business cards, brochures or banners, and they have done it in the friendliest possible way. If you have ever attended a NEO Ireland event, chances are you have already seen the high-quality work that they do. Those welcome pop-ups that mark the spot for any NEO event? Pure Graphics. Our first batch of NEO brochures? Pure Graphics. The conference programme at last year’s Events Day? You guessed it – Pure Graphics. We wouldn’t be the same without them, and we just hope that their love for us will last, through Events Day 09, Events Day 10, Events Day 11…We look forward to seeing you on all of them, of course, but if you can't wait that long, please head on over to the booking page to book your place at Events Day 08...

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Events Day 08 : Speakers - Meet Sammy Leslie

One of my favourite people in the world of events is Aileen Eglinton - a woman after my own heart, she works hard and smart and is passionate about standards and qualifications. I'm hoping we'll get her more involved in the Centre for Excellence in Events (more about that at Events Day 08 ... ). Aileen has introduced me to many new friends in the world of events, including Marie Murphy of Innovative Events. She's a genuine innovator. And also to the delightful Eleanor Cullen, who took us out for a gorgeous dinner at La Peniche a week or so ago (more about that in the NEO Ezine shortly).
So when Aileen asked if we'd like to have Sammy Leslie speak at Events Day 08, I knew we were in for a treat. Sammy Leslie is the proprietor of Castle Leslie, and she has done the most amazing job of bringing what was a pretty delapidated old family home into being one of the most sought after venues for corporate entertaining and private enjoyment. She had a dream of filling the house with laughter and people and bringing it alive again. Which she has done - and into the bargain created a most impressive track record in the numbers field.

We're really looking forward to hearing Sammy tell us all about how she achieved this - so if you haven't already done so - book your place now at the booking pages. We look forward to seeing you on the 30th!