Supplier viewpoint: The rewards and challenges of meetings industry suppliers

  • Penni Holdham, CSEP, Creative Director, The Display Connection Inc.
  • Heidi Welker, Vice President, Marketing, AVW-TELAV Audio Visual Solutions

The rewards and challenges of meetings industry suppliersWhat are some of the challenges of working in the meetings industry and how can these challenges be addressed?

Penni Holdham: The current do-it-yourself trend among event and meeting planners can offer up some awkward moments that can be easily averted with full disclosure and proper communication. There is no question that with tighter end-user budgets, the planner is looking to make their purchases as ‘directly’ as possible. Greater transparency from DIY planners would be ideal. At the early stages of seeking creative support, the DIY planner is well advised to reveal up-front which products or services they can and will be securing themselves. Planners who effectively partner with their ‘visioneers’ realize the value-added aspects a fully cohesive and comprehensive event design offers. I believe it is the creative vision suppliers that provide the differentiation between an event and a special event.

Heidi Welker: Planners are too stretched these days and more focused on the budget than the experience. They are under huge performance pressure, with little time to spend on the solution, selection and buying processes. We, as audio visual partners, need to get in the door earlier with new solutions and explain our value proposition clearly. Planners would equally benefit by recognizing that – although some new products and services will work for them and some may not – incorporating new solutions ultimately leads to experience enhancement for their audiences and leadership in innovation for them and the industry.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of working in the meetings industry and why are they rewarding to you?

Penni Holdham: The event industry has provided me with a platform to continually explore and discover something new. The industry stretches my imagination in ways I would never have imagined if left to my own devices. I have found great personal reward in discovering that Canadian designers and producers absolutely hold their own – and in many cases, provide leadership in design vision within the global marketplace. Finally, my volunteer work in the industry has resulted in a stronger national understanding among our creative practitioners and our various industry associations.

Heidi Welker: It’s showbiz, with all the pressure, dynamism and engagement that goes with it! You get to build a tremendous sense of team with event planners, your own staff and other suppliers – there are very few other fields of endeavour that provide this camaraderie. Whether an event is big or small, event planning is tremendously challenging, and it’s gratifying to see everything work as it should. There is nothing like seeing a concept come together into an incredible reality, making our customer look good, and seeing the delegates leave the event pumped with motivation and excitement because we have created a memorable experience.

What changes would you like to see take place in the meetings industry as it relates to your area of expertise?

Penni Holdham: First, please give me more time! To gain an event design that offers innovation, proper lead time is required to adequately inform the vision to ensure it is viable. Second, please let me do my job! Often the planner will pitch a creative vision without engaging a designer’s support. Often, this causes a disconnect between what one might imagine compared to what is available or deliverable within the same budget. If a planner has the foresight to engage creative support at the vision stage, they will begin on an event path that is deliverable and stands to match the budget available.

Heidi Welker: As audio visual solutions providers, we would like to come to the table earlier in the process so that we can work effectively as an extension of an event planner’s staff and help sell the experience to their peers and colleagues. We would also like to achieve a better understanding of how our company can play a key consultative role in using technology to deliver and enhance our customers’ messaging and what our frontline teams can do to further exceed their expectations.

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