Skip to main content

Dear Rob...


Brightelm’s Rob Eveleigh provides some troubled association eventprofs with a shoulder to cry on, and some practical advice.


Dear Rob - my association hosts an annual flagship conference, but we’re struggling after years of the same old format. What can I do to give it a fresh look, and shake things up without losing the all-important community engagement? Thanks, Andrew, Edinburgh

Andrew, your issue is very common – but fear not, so long as you keep your community at the heart of your events, you will not drift far. Besides, what makes you think a shake-up is likely to result in alienation? Many associations struggle to stay relevant, but let me assure you, keeping your event the same year after year will put the nail in the coffin of your organisation quicker than you can say ‘Association Event Network’.

In reality, most of your members will welcome a fresh new look to engagement, particularly those who are your future leaders. Have you asked yourself: “why are we running this event?” If you haven’t, make sure you do, and soon. The answer will lead you in your event design journey.

I recommend EventCanvas, by the Event Design Collective. It’s a great methodology for helping to review the event design process, and the outcomes can be quite surprising. Do use an independent and qualified consultant to walk you through the process, though.

A word of caution: don’t change for the sake of change. If and when you do change, you’ll deliver much better value for your members if you focus on what’s important to them, both now and in the future…not what might have been 10 or 20 years ago. Good luck!


Dear Rob - I’ve been an event manager in my organisation for a few years now, but I’m never given time to go out and learn more. Can you suggest any good online resources I can look at?
Priti, London

Priti, stop right there! There is a world of online resources available to you, but let’s look at a slightly larger issue, which affects many internal event professionals.

That’s the key word - professional. How can you be expected to re-organise, re-strategise and deliver new event concepts without appropriate learning and development? You are a professional and much like accountants, lawyers, risk managers and data miners, you need a good and regular dose of CPD in order to remain relevant.

I would imagine you’ll be asked to write a business case for the funding you need, but rather than writing the business case ‘for’, try writing it on the basis of what is likely to happen if you don’t get the funding, such as less engagement at events, and lower membership.

There are some great content providers for the events industry. As you work in an association, I’d recommend membership of ABPCO, whose membership specialises in delivering events for associations (disclaimer: I’m on the board, other associations are available!). If budget allows, I’d also advise attendance at the MPI European Meetings and Events Conference.

If you are strapped for funding, then most of the big industry exhibitions offer free education programmes. And finally, you might also want to check out the Delegate Wranglers, a Facebook community based in the UK that has a membership of over 15,000 event professionals.

Above all, value your own education as highly as that of your members. Ultimately, they will be the ones that benefit.