Keynote Interview: Phil Annesley of Incisive Media
Incisive Media almost swept the board at the 2016 PPA Connect Awards, securing an impressive four gongs on the night, including the Grand Prix. Phil Annesley, Events Director of Incisive Insight, tells us what drives the company's events strategy, and how team culture underpins their success.
Ellie Austin scored a job at Immediate Media as a Features Writer for Radio Times after graduating from the Magazine Journalism MA course at City University. Here she talks about working in the fast-paced world of a major weekly magazine and the power of a good coffee.
The judges cited impressive revenue growth, bold changes to the event model, and an “enviable culture of togetherness” as just some of the reasons that Incisive claimed four trophies at the 2016 PPA Connect Awards. What do you think is the root of these achievements?
First of all we have fantastic people working across our events business who really care about what they do and are constantly encouraged to look at ways to improve our events – that is essential for any successful events business.
Our conference producers, marketers, and sales executives are all aligned to specific event portfolios which enable them to develop a deep understanding of the key issues facing their markets, while building up their network of contacts at leading firms who are at the forefront of these markets.
Secondly, we are fortunate that all of our events are aligned to leading brands such as Risk, FX Week, Central Banking Publications, and Waters Technology, which have long heritages and are widely recognised and respected within their markets.
While we always look to identify new opportunities and launch new events each year, many of our conferences have been running for 15 years or longer. In fact the two events that won PPA Connect awards have run for 14 and 22 years respectively.
The financial markets we serve are constantly evolving and have seen significant upheaval, particularly over the past eight years since the financial crisis. We have had to adapt and evolve our events with them to ensure they remain relevant and compelling. It is this willingness to continuously re-evaluate our event models and change with our markets that was recognised in our PPA Connect award for Risk USA.
It also helps that while our conference producers specialise on specific market areas, they can draw on the expertise of our Editors and journalists who work closely with them to develop our event content in advance and then participate in the events on the day, chairing sessions and live reporting on emerging news.
The Incisive team on-stage at The Hurlingham Club to accept the 2016 PPA Connect Awards Grand Prix.
Innovation seems to be a thread that runs through all of your winning brands, and this is something that everyone strives for when running live events, particularly conferences. How does Incisive cultivate that culture of innovation, and ensure that it’s executed in a relevant way?
We encourage innovation across all event functions – whether it relates to new event ideas, improvements to existing events, or to improvements to working processes. Each member of the team are set KPIs that we want them to focus on each year which are assessed as part of their incentive scheme – encouraging innovation and improvements to our business is central to these KPIs.
In addition, we look to reward individual team members for identifying and implementing new event opportunities. We want to encourage innovation and new ideas from all levels within the team, not just the managers. It’s then my job to assess the commercial viability of these ideas and decide whether they progress to the implementation phase.
As I mentioned earlier, the financial markets we cover have undergone significant change over the past few years with new participants entering and changes in business models. It has been vital to our success to ensure we understand and adapt to these changes and that our events address the new challenges and opportunities facing these markets.
Is there one thing that stands out as being a particularly proud achievement for your team in the past 12-18 months?
Well obviously winning four PPA Connect Awards is a proud achievement! We are a global events business serving financial markets across Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. While our head office and the majority of the team are based here in London, we have superb event teams based in New York and Hong Kong. I’m really proud of the sheer number, range, and scope of events we have run globally over the past year - something that was recognised and commented on by the PPA judges.
I’ve also been really delighted with the performance of our flagship conference in the Asia-Pacific region - Asia Risk. This event had run successfully in Hong Kong for 10 years and was a firm fixture in our clients' calendars, but two years ago we took the bold decision to move it and the associated awards event to Singapore. Since then we have seen significant growth in revenues and attendees. This shows the importance of being open to new opportunities and being willing to change the status quo to continually improve as an events business.
"I am very optimistic about the outlook for live events, but we do need to continue to adapt to our clients' changing business needs"
Are there any plans to develop your live events portfolio, or is the focus on building on what you already have in place?
The majority of our events are established annual conferences and awards which have run successfully for many years. However, events do have a lifecycle, and each year we look to launch new events to respond to new market opportunities - we have several new conferences planned for 2017 - while assessing whether any existing events should be discontinued.
Within the financial markets that we serve, if you looked back ten years, a lot of event businesses were launching new conferences in emerging markets. I think over the past five years there has been more of a consolidation to focus on core markets. While we will still look at opportunities to launch events in new geos, particularly in emerging Asian markets, a key focus for us at the moment is to grow our existing events and launch new events into the largest financial markets where we already have a strong brand and presence. Online events (webinars) are an important part of our business model and a continuing priority is to grow the volume and margins here.
Live events have become increasingly valuable to media owners in the past ten years as a profitable revenue stream and valuable way to engage with audiences. How do you see this evolving over the next five years within your business, and the industry at large?
I am very optimistic about the outlook for live events, but we do need to continue to adapt to our clients' changing business needs and what they want from the events, whether they are attending as a delegate or a sponsor.
From a sponsor’s perspective, they want more than just a packed exhibition room to send their sales people into – their marketing teams are increasingly being targeted on return on investment from their events spend, and in response they expect event companies to be able to provide much more granular event analysis to demonstrate this.
In our space we have seen increased demand over the past three years for what we call ‘bespoke’ events – these are typically single sponsor half day or full day events aimed at a very targeted audience. We see these as complementary to our public conferences and not replacing them.
More clients are also running their own events and I think this trend will continue, although they will still look to publishing and event businesses for our editorially independent content, marketing and event management expertise and to align themselves with our market leading brands.