Why You Should Care About Commoditization in the Events Industry
Wednesday, April 3, 2019
By Dustin Westling, CSEP
Working in any creative industry involves accepting misconceptions and challenges that come with the territory. But while there is a somewhat benign (if slightly eye-roll-inducing) level of misunderstanding that’s inevitable (and ultimately harmless), there’s also a more critical layer where the value of what event professionals bring to the table, and the growth and success of the industry as a whole, can begin to suffer. It’s this deeper level of confusion, misunderstanding and lack of clarity that has resulted in a growing commoditization of the events industry. Although the relevance of this topic to our industry right now isn’t ideal, on the plus side, it’s been insightful and motivating to sit down with other event professionals and talk about the issues we’re all experiencing, first at the ILEA Global Events Forum in 2018 and again this January as part of a webinar panel. In honor of Global Meetings Industry Day, it’s worth bringing this important topic back to the surface.
Commoditization matters for many reasons, but, at the end of the day, it all come down to value. No one wants to feel undervalued; when you’re bringing your creative intelligence, your experience and your professional ability to connect all the dots and execute on a strategy to the table, being undermined by things like the general lack of agreement around what defines a qualified event professional, or the ongoing struggle to quantify and apply value to the less tangible aspects of your work, is frustrating, demoralizing and financially stifling. In a commoditized environment with very little agreed upon standardization, we have to ask ourselves, and try to answer for buyers, some pretty abstract questions. What’s an idea worth? Better yet, how much is the right idea — one based on strategy, insight and experience — worth? How do we quantify the value of our partnerships, those relationships that we’ve spent years cultivating and that mean no matter what the problem, no matter what time of day, no matter how impossible it may seem, we know who to call and we know they’ll answer?
All of this being said, the good news about the commoditization that’s happening in the events industry is that the solution is something event professionals are already great at! Although we all have decisions to make and steps to take within our own businesses and careers, ultimately it’s collaboration as an industry that will allow us to solve the larger issues. The first step is the conversation we’ve already begun and continue to have; the next level is coming together to take action. We need to work together to define, clarify, standardize and protect those areas that are causing the confusion, mistrust or inconsistency that buyers are seeing in the industry. Rather than allow the situation to divide us, using it to band together will push our industry forward and ultimately lead to more success in our individual careers and businesses.
The first step is to be informed and, to that end, make sure you check out the Global Events Industry Report that was put together following the 2018 Global Events Forum. The report is a concise run-through of the conversations we had during the forum, highlighting the causes and symptoms of commoditization and considering possible ways forward. The report touches on messaging within the industry, selling creativity and where we collectively want our industry to be in 5, 10, 15 and 20 years. That future is definitely attainable, and I know that because I know event professionals. If anyone can come together to make change happen, it’s us.
Dustin Westling, CSEP, is the managing partner of Calgary-based OneWest Event Design & Logistics. A self-described “senior millennial,” Westling brings his tongue-in-cheek humor and engaged energy to his role as commander-in-chief of OneWest, where he leads a team of talented event professionals to collaborate with clients and partners on over 300 innovative and award-winning projects each year. If these kinds of questions around value and demonstrating ROI are of interest to you, you can read more thoughts on the topic on the OneWest Event Design blog. We’d love to hear your take on the conversation.
Tags: Global Meetings Industry Day , events professionalism