Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA) celebrated its 10th Anniversary with a Conference and Snow Ball on 7 December at Ricoh Arena. A total of 170 delegates took part in a packed programme of speakers and panels.
The conference was followed by the Snow Ball and ESSA Anniversary Awards where over 300 guests saw Samantha Fenlon of Freeman win the Young Person Award, Aztec Event Services win Member Company Award, and the Outstanding Contribution to the Industry Award was won by Chris Criscione, managing director of Equinox Design.
The conference proceedings began promptly, with a short valedictory introduction from Andrew Harrison, ESSA director. Harrison then handed over to Andy Gibb, the conference chair for the morning sessions.
Keynote speaker Grant Leboff kicked off with a sharp yet amusing look at how the digital revolution has changed the world of marketing from one of interruption-based tactics to one of audience development.
With content based around international research, Leboff explained how social sharing has become the primary communication tool and how successful brands use both to great effect but with a cautionary tale that enterprises will now need to be competent in their own field as well as being a publisher in their own right.
Leboff ended his keynote session with a surprisingly insightful quote from Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols.
The remainder of the morning session adopted a more conventional tone. An industry panel examined the challenges faced by the industry when it comes to recruiting and retaining the best young talent and attracting the next generation of graduates, apprentices and school and college leavers into the industry.
Sophie Holt, Explori’s global strategy director, completed the morning’s presentations, sharing insights gained from Explori’s analysis of data collected from over 1500 participating events, and she made a strong case for including supplier dynamics into the data from ESSA and its members.
After a buffet lunch provided by Ricoh Arena, the conference reconvened for the afternoon session, which was chaired by Chris Skeith, CEO of the Association of Event Organisers (AEO). Skeith’s address was followed by Chris Merrington of Spring 80:20 who gave some solid and practical advice on the often neglected skills of sales and negotiating, with insight into spotting and dealing buyer objections, including the introduction of an interesting new tax.
The second industry panel of the day examined positive and constructive ideas for delivering better events despite challenging operational and commercial conditions, the subjects ranged from the speed of build and breakdown through to traffic flow, and all points in between, which generated a spirited discussion amongst panellists and delegates alike.
Skeith gave a quick roundup of the day’s speakers and content before introducing the headline speaker for the day – Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards, who with practiced ease, regaled the conference with his tale of turning an almost hopeless starting position for an Olympic ski jumper raised in Gloucester, into a personal victory at the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics and cementing his place in the hearts of the nation. Harrison then brought 10th Anniversary Conference to a close and delegates dispersed to make themselves ready for networking drinks, to meet additional guests for the evening, and then on to the Snow Ball and 10th anniversary prize-giving.
The Snow Ball was held in a winter-themed hall accompanied by an indoor fairground where diners were entertained by theatrical performances including dance, inline skating, BMX, fire poi, trapeze and ribbon artists.
The highlight of the evening was the presentation of three awards with Andrew Harrison in the role of MC. After the awards, the guests enjoyed the indoor fairground and music
“This was our 10th Anniversary and we wanted to mark the occasion with something a little bit special. The Snow Ball capped off what was another strong conference which, despite the weather and traffic problems, was the best attended to date,” explained Harrison.
“We wanted to recognise the achievements of our members and so we created three awards but we also wanted to keep the number small and significant. I’d like to offer my congratulations to Samantha Fenlon, Aztec and Chris Criscione, all three are very well deserved and the winners each support and exemplify precisely the values we hold as an association. The rest of the evening was an amazing spectacle and I hope everyone had a great start to their Christmas celebrations,” he concluded.