Inside the mind of a planner: How to implement technology into events

Stephen Morton-Prior

  • 19 years of experience in the Events Industry
  • Prior to the launch of Clearwater Events, he has held positions in the Event Management sector
  • He had the opportunity to work with a diverse portfolio of global accounts (e.g. pharmaceutical, technology, media and consumer)

Tell me a bit about your company. How did you come to set up Clearwater Events?

Setting up Clearwater Events was a natural progression for me. I felt it was time for me to develop my own business and what started with a discussion over dinner soon became a solid business plan with a real focus and objective. Clearwater Events was born 4 years ago and it is focused on two specific streams: event management and inbound destination management. Many of our clients are based in the Midlands area.

Who are your clients? What type of events do you organize?

Our clients include those from the construction, financial, engineering and pharmaceutical sectors.  Terex Construction and Terex Trucks are two of our largest clients. We have developed a robust and loyal client following with clients now as far afield as Scotland and Turkey. We organize all type of events – corporate sales meetings, gala dinners, workshops, conferences.

You’ve just came back from IMEX US. How was the event this year?

IMEX has a very solid product, with very strong attendees, with people who go there to do business, not to experiment. The event focuses on its attendees, and makes them feel loved and cared after. It is very well organized, with a broad spectrum of exhibitors and hosted buyers. Every detail is planned, you have a map and you are well informed about all your appointments. It was also impressive that they invited not only big hotel chains, but also boutique hotels or small companies that could help you grow your business. There were transportation companies, entertainment companies and many people willing to do business. The diversity of the exhibitors impressed me.

What was the most popular topic, in your opinion?

People discussed a lot about technology and how to implement it into events and meeting rooms. The benefits of social media for events and event planners was another popular topic. Many event planners still do not understand the benefits of social media for their events, because they do not know how to use social media as marketing tools.

Do you think that social media is crucial for events?

Yes, I do, but the landscape has completely changed. For instance, we do not look at Facebook pages that much, we are now more focused on Twitter. As a business in the events industry, it’ s important to become a point of reference, to showcase your products on Twitter. In our case, also the company’ s blog has a huge influence and it helps us to be more visible. Growth can come from many angles. In our case, the website has been our most important shop window, aligned to a strong and powerful social media strategy, using it’s power to help develop our brand.

You organize events with a great number of delegates. How do you manage to create flawless and well organized events?

Our events portfolio is incredibly diverse, one week, our team could be in a muddy field helping to launch a 15 ton truck whilst the next, we can be managing a corporate sales meeting or gala dinner for 500 delegates. The key to well organized events is our team of qualified and experienced event managers. Managing events for 500 delegates is not very different from managing events with 100 participants. It’ s all about planning. We see events as movies and we plan each event as a script and the script tells you exactly what to do. It’s all about collaborative working and planning and also the operational schedule is very important.     

Most of the event professionals are anchored in the hospitality part of the meetings, forgetting about the content. How do you improve the content of your meetings?

Though it is seen as secondary, the content is actually the most important piece of the pie. When you see an event only from the architectural point of view and you do not know how your attendees will be rewarded, how they are going to be inspired and motivated, you can’t reach your goal. We work with our clients on that and before we move further, we ask them about their aims and objectives. The main question is: “What do you want your delegates to get from the event?” Do you want them to learn something, to exchange information or to be rewarded for achievement, so that they can go away and feel empowered?

Engagement can also be an issue. How do you produce engagement?

First of all, not by preaching to them on a powerpoint. It’s over with that now.  We use Prezi to create funny and interactive experiences. People aren’t engaged with that anymore, everything it’s about interactive experiences and technology is a great way of doing that. If you have 500 people coming to your event bring them into small rooms where they can interact with each other. Help them learn and be motivated. An event isn’t an event just because you’re bringing people together. Attendees need facts and figures, they need motivation, they need fuel to feel energized. It is all about creating experiences. For instance, if you have non-English speakers then you need good interpreters who can explain things in local languages, who can connect with delegates. So, you would not give them the slides on the day of the presentation.

How do event management tools help you in your daily planning?

I come from an environment where technology was not there, where you have to receive registrations on fax and the events were as successful as they are today. However, technology is a facilitator, things that could take you an hour are managed now in 30 seconds. Technology is a very powerful facilitator. Using a technology platform allows us to communicate with delegates very quickly and to share info with our suppliers very quickly and accurately. You can pool rooming lists and give access to your hotel to these rooming lists, generate different reports. We become much smarter and we can do things three times faster than before.

What do you like about working in this industry?

I set up Clearwater Events because I did not like the events industry. People were maximizing revenues in uncomfortable ways, so I was happy to go back to the basics. In the end, it’s all about customer service, interacting with delegates, with different people, from different cultures. There is a great place for fabulous events that involve great creativity and amazing concepts. Now, event planners have to adapt to this “Millennial thinking”. Millennials do not think big is best, they work smartly, keeping small and collaborating with other millennias to develop solutions to specific problems. These are temporary collaborations. Years ago, you had to be the biggest and the best. Now, the market has changed. Millennial thinking is about being small, movable, flexible, affordable.