Nicola Peel, Managing Director, HG3 Conferences Limited.
How did you get into the events industry?
Pure luck! In my very early working days I started in a hotel as part of their event team, before quickly moving into the oil industry where I worked as a PA for the CEO of a global energy company organising both his work and family life. With offices in a former Gentleman’s country residence and large estate, I even started to organise their clay-pigeon shoots and corporate event days for their many business associates. From there I moved on to work for a large non-profit-making association in the healthcare sector as part of their in-house events team.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of being a PCO?
The most challenging part of being a PCO is to co-ordinate everything to be ready at the same time. I often meet with clients, who when they are faced with a deadline say, ”can we put that back a week or two?” My usual reply is “yes, absolutely fine as long as you put the event back by a week or two”. You can imagine the responses I get.
The most rewarding part is seeing an event through successfully from start to finish and when it is all over, to see both how happy, and, more often than not, relieved the client is that their event has been delivered without a hitch. I have a saying as a PCO, you have to appear like a swan gliding across the top of a lake whilst paddling furiously below.
What changes are you seeing in congresses and events with the advent of new technologies?
The more recent changes I have seen are all ‘app’ related. Whatever the clients require, they seem to want an app for it. Paper copies of registration forms are now a thing of the past. There is more virtual conferencing and everyone is looking at savings on printing costs of large abstract books and instead putting these on line. I can remember having to send out abstracts anonymously and having to first tippex out the names of the authors and then photocopy the individual abstracts multiple times before posting out. Those days are long gone now!
How is the increased focus on data and technology changing the way PCOs and associations manage events?
Everything is more streamlined now. Information is updated by the minute and there is more instant access to ‘live’ delegate and attendees’ information. I have seen more and more associations looking to outsource the management of their events as it is cost-effective and they can keep abreast of new technology more readily. PCOs are constantly looking at streamlining and updating their systems and we have recently migrated across to Eventsforce for this very reason. We always strive to work ever smarter and to deliver our event management services on time and within ever-tightening budgets.
How has event registration technology changed and what do you see as the future challenges?
Throughout my career in event management, registration technology has continually changed, and this rate of change has quickened in recent years. When I started out, everything we did was manual. Today the systems are slick and user-friendly and it takes only a fraction of the time than it did to process a registration or book a dozen rooms at a conference. At the same time the clients have become ever more demanding. We do however have to be careful that we don’t lose the personal touch and ensure that we endeavour to keep in touch with delegates, clients and venues by not hiding behind our computers! There is nothing quite like having a catch up with a client or answering a quick question from a delegate over the telephone, instead of filling someone’s inbox with numerous emails. While technological advances are driving our industry, there will always be a place for experienced PCOs and the personal touch.
I really do believe the major changes will continue to be in the field of technology. There will be less and less of delegates printing out their own registration documents and delegate badges. More efforts will be made to ensure that they have their hand-held device with them to view the ‘live’ confirmation of their delegate registration and acceptance of payments, live event information and timetable updates. All this alongside being able to view their accommodation details and know where they are going when they arrive at the conference!