Conversations with ci - Mario Valenti
Mario Valenti, General Manager of NW Group Australia in conversation with Simone Seiler, General Manager of FCM Meetings and Events.
This our third in a series of talks with some of the most influential companies and individuals in the MICE industry - and one of the big guns would have to be Mario Valenti, Group Director of Sales at NW Group. My belief in the power of community has been fuelled by the partnership we have with NW Group. Throughout the pandemic, NW Group have shown their true colours - supplying crew, equipment, venues, technology always with a smile. Together we’ve produced virtual events, hybrid experiences, great debates, studio shoots… all in an extremely challenging environment.
cievents belief in the power of community has been fuelled by the partnership we have NW Group. Throughout the pandemic, NW Group have provided unconditional support - supplying cre, equipment, venues, technology - and it goes without saying their service is always with a smile. This community and partnership allowed us to produce virtual events, hybrid experiences, great debates, studio broadcasts… all in an extremely challenging environment.
Mario, what were your challenges in 2020?
As the pandemic really set in and momentous changes happened seemingly hourly, how did you respond to those developments?
The main challenge in 2020 was trying to hold onto our talented staff. With the severe cut in revenue and by the time JobKeeper kicked in, we had made the 1st round of redundancies. The remaining staff needed more work than what JobKeeper was paying them, so we encouraged them to go find additional work. As projects started to increase from August and September, finding staff to work on the events has been the biggest challenge. At the same time, the business has decided on a strategy to transition from a full-time workforce to more of a contracted/freelance business to help us manage the peaks and troughs.
I think many of us in the MICE industry can relate to the challenge of restructuring and transitioning. It’s paramount to continue communicating and bring the best to our people at all times.
How have you changed?
What changes have endured? How are you doing things differently? What are the good, the bad, and the ugly things about the fallout from COVID-19?
I’m not sure if I have changed so much as appreciate the value of the phone call in the absence of having face-to-face meetings. It's easy to hide behind an email, but taking the time to call someone is very valuable to me. I’m encouraging my staff to get on the phone more.
The good part of COVID-19 has been re-connecting with my family. I was often on the road traveling and to have that time back has been very special to me.
The bad is definitely the stress levels of running a business and being on a reduced salary.
The ugly has been dealing with our creditors and the stress they are going through. Some of those conversations have been tense but further to my first point, the power of a telephone call has been invaluable.
How we took for granted meeting in person and having these important meetings face to face. Our email inboxes are full of conversations and promotional propaganda - to move our conversations away from this, as you said via a phone call is crucial in times where communication and connection are so sparse.
What is your outlook? What do you think the future holds and how are you preparing for it? Which trends do you see lasting and which ones won’t?
I can honestly say that 2021 looks to be a bit more stable. There are definitely cancellations occurring for the January, February and March quarter but after that bookings seem to be solid. As a business, we are preparing ourselves for being able to cope with sudden changes. This refers back to what I said about having a more contract/freelance workforce and reducing our exposure to fixed costs - at least until a vaccine is found. The main trend is the studio work for virtual events. We are seeing that if there is a Live Event there will be a virtual element to the event. I can’t see this changing.
Neither do we. That’s why our teams are structured to help our clients truly understand what it takes to make a Hybrid event a success.
What are your top tips for hybrid/virtual / COVID safe events and meetings?
My main points around this are:
- Skill up in digital. You need access to some or all of these depending on the event: Digital Event Strategist, Content Manager, Digital tools expert, Speaker coach, Comms and Social media expert, a very good AV company!!
- Adapt your content. A good content manager will guide you through the pitfalls of not having your content adapted for virtual.
- Have the right Platform. So many options here. Do your homework.
The right platform is something cievents understands greatly and we have done the homework for you. Our team will help discover the best platform choice for your upcoming event, get in touch. Thanks Mario - A very good AV company, is exactly what you are - plus a whole lot more. Thank you for being in our community. I look forward to our future partnership in hybrid and virtual events.