Panoptic Event’s CEO provides insight into his Events business
Event Point’s International MICE correspondent Ramy Salameh catches up with ‘Convene’ hosted buyer and owner/ founder of Panoptic Events Craig McGee having met at Convene 2020 just before the Covid-19 outbreak, to discuss the measures he is taking to sail his company through stormy seas, whilst using these unprecedented times to ‘Factory Reset’ many processes to be better prepared for the future.
Tell our readers what Panoptic Events does?
Panoptic was born in 2014 and since then has been involved with some 2000 events. Our vision is to deliver world-class experiences cross sector. Our ethos is to create and understand a client story, develop an event around those needs and then to ultimately provide a lasting legacy through the event for their brand. The three main cornerstones of the business are EXPERIENCE - we work across multiple sectors and are able to place your brand across multiple events to maximise the reach to your markets; EVENTS - using our networks, connections and years of experience to become your event partner offering a complete event creation and management service; PRESTIGE – this arm of the business offers high end luxury and exclusive events plus all the logistical elements to design an unforgettable and prestigious event. Clients have ranged from Start-ups to FTSE100s, Major Brands, VIPS, Space Agencies, Drinks companies, Governments, musicians and restaurants and more.
Can you give a few examples of Panoptic case studies?
We really have designed an eclectic mix of events for diverse partners. This has included turning the Hard Rock Café in Glasgow (during New Year 2019-2020) into Studio 54; we designed the whole event transforming the restaurant into an all singing, all dancing nightclub – creating an iconic disco with Specialist DJs, 36 disco balls, 50 Slinkies, Bamboo trees, neon lights and 3 Instagram zones thus managing the full production. During the ‘Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival’ we utilised all three elements of our business (Experience / Events / Prestige) - Where sponsorship (last year with Audi) covered our ‘Experiential’ arm, an Event Manager covered myriad events at the festival and then the ‘Prestige’ arm sourced accommodation for the artists. We worked with ‘BoConcept’ to deliver an instore launch where our techniques generated a 10 x ROI on the night - we also brought in ‘Aperol’ as a sponsor providing them with a high end / high net worth audience - using Spritz and Negronis as the welcome drink. Panoptic designed events have also featured on the BBC One show when we created the storyline for the recent PayFest, an event celebrating women being granted equal pay in Glasgow.
As an event organiser, what are your key priorities during the COVID19 lockdown for your business?
First and foremost, showing empathy to others - everyone is in same situation right now.
I feel I had to get myself into a present state and decide what I can do daily to make the biggest difference on how we come out the other side. First and foremost we had to sail the ship from stormy seas into calmer water and wait for it to pass. Once there, we looked at all costs and what could be streamlined.
Thankfully, when I created ‘Panoptic’, it was to be remote. So moving to a fully remote company wasn't a major issue - though this meant the office rent was first to go. Then other costs went such as memberships and more. As mentioned we streamlined and prepared. We got ready. I often listen to podcasts with many business leaders being interviewed - one question asked is "If you could go back to the start and change one thing, what would it be?" I have used this as a basis of being able to look at what we required. This was a CRM system, processes, marketing materials and structure within business. I pulled together my next 90 day action plan and looked at everything we could do to get operationally slick, evaluate systems in the business so we could grow with structure.
I spent 28 days on this - I have introduced new team members in this time - allowing a process of constant learning, getting up to speed and creation of new ideas.
The research we have done setting this up, allowed us to really understand our clients, our leads and our products. We were able to find out who / type of companies’ which bought each product. This data is massive for us going forward. It has allowed us to reach out and be ready to let them know about our other services. Suddenly the jigsaw looks like it is coming together.
We lost a lot of business as there was an uncertainty in the industry. It was time to reach out to all clients and speak to them - to ensure this business is easy enough to move to a safer time - most have moved. Which means this business will come back in the diary. I have also confirmed some large name clients in this time which has been great. I also spoke to a lot of previous leads and collaborations are coming together now. Suppliers / Leads and clients want to come together.
Priorities here changed to survival, then to operations. We are not concentrating on sales, we are getting ready for the industry to wake up again. When that happens, we will sail back out into the water and be ready for anything that comes at us.
Remember the industry is only sleeping, when it wakes up, its best to be ready!
What can suppliers do to encourage you to think about their venue, incentive and destination, whilst we navigate this pandemic?
I appreciate a lot are furloughed just now, however to others home working simply reach out to buyers to ask how we are. I noticed a few weeks ago a real rise in regular calls from hotels / venues looking for answers on events we were placing, but the problem was our clients weren't booking, the venues were also chasing answers for deposits, though we all knew lockdown was coming. I feel this time can be used to reach out and make sure we are ok, offer us free cancellation/ postponement - be pro-active in moving events. If their marketing has moved to next year, what can they offer us to book?
Virtual tours work well. We are very likely to answer calls right now. I would love to sit down and get a private tour online. My business was developed on me building a ‘suppliers’ list, I am about to reach out to them to find out what peoples plans are and what they are doing. Not many suppliers (some have) are reaching out to us yet. Communicate with us. Form a relationship and tell us a unique story, be memorable. Be creative in marketing.
Special shout out to Deutsche Hospitality for their weekly quiz during office hours, which is a bit of fun, though is encouraging discussion with suppliers and buyers alike - I am networking in my kitchen at these events!
Will technology play a more pivotal role in events e.g. more hybrid events post COVID19?
I can't see how it won't! There was talk before about fully online events - now hybrids will become the norm. There will be a major switch up in the industry. Think how used to video calls people now are – it’s no longer an issue. I will have no issue having meetings via computer. Now let’s be honest - events face-to-face are what we live for - though the transition period for the foreseeable future will be interesting as we see how technology becomes a larger part of our everyday. There will be a marked increase - though it won't replace music events, sport or large conferences. Though at the mid-level, you might have more companies looking to ‘tech’ to save travel expenses.
New ideas will emerge and we will embrace them. We will also embrace change quicker, I mean, look how quickly people have got used to streaming as the norm? In a time of Green / CSR and more - people will embrace technology to limit air travel. Personally - some meetings won't require travel for me, so I can easily do video meetings. However, it ultimately cannot replace the feeling of shaking a hand or indeed hugging an old friend. Now more than ever, technology is allowing us to be together and long for that human connection. Events that get that balance right, will be the winners.
Do you see a downturn in the booking of events worldwide in parallel to the predicted economic downturn?
There is an argument for and against this; until mass immunity is a thing, or a complete eradication of the virus, we won't know right away.
One thing events will or can do is kick-start the economy. The UK Minister for Sport, tourism and Heritage understands this. The events industry will obviously take a hit in 2020, however once lockdowns and restrictions are lifted, people will want to see each other. Events bring people together. People will get together. Safety will of course be paramount.
In 2020 looking at domestic events - likely to see a rise in this as companies won't be travelling abroad. In 2021 the growth of the travel market will start again. Remember, people will get together, bands will tour again, sports teams will kick-off, people will go on holidays, and they will go to events! This all has positive (if potentially very busy) connotations for every event company.
Finally, what are the lessons we can learn from the pandemic and if there can be, are there any advantages from this 'pause' in business life as we know it?
Not to take things in life for granted. Be nice to your neighbour, be nice to others.
Cut the negativity out of your life, do the things you want to do, work with the people you want to work with; spend time enjoying nature, events, being engaged in conversations, pay attention to the sights, sounds, taste, touch and smell around us.
I have referred to it as a 'Factory reset' it has been good to really take stock and look at everything. When will you ever get a chance like this again? We of course hope never again, so make the most of it. It’s a perfect time to make changes, restructure, plan, take a good look at what you are doing, what your vision is and how you can align everything now. Personally I have used this to my advantage to get the business exactly the way I want it. Systems and operations in place, where I have time to get staff fully up to speed with hardly any distractions. Wow!
Very soon, we all emerge to shake hands, share stories and experiences and of course to do business. We will have a drink, we will laugh and we will all grow again together.
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