In our most recent Power of 5 series, JEGI CLARITY Managing Director, Kathleen Thomas and Partner, San Datta asked five questions to five leading executives across the global B2B Information and Events landscape.
This series featured Peter Jones, CEO of Nineteen Group, Lisa Hannant, CEO of Clarion Events, Paul Miller, CEO of Questex, Gareth Bowhill, CEO of CloserStill and Simon Foster, Group CEO of Arc. A big thank you to all the participants for their involvement.
Here we share some of their collective thoughts on the trends and opportunities ahead for the events industry. Please click here if you would like to access the videos.
How have you seen the B2B events market evolve in the last 12-24 months?
The resounding story from the B2B Information and Events sector over the past couple of years has been the successful return of live events.
We’ve seen a ferocious appetite from both exhibitors, sponsors and also delegates to come back to events.
Gareth Bowhill, CEO, CloserStill
Peter Jones of Nineteen Group emphasized the value of live events, suggesting that their true worth became evident only when they were temporarily lost. A sentiment echoed by Gareth Bowhill of CloserStill who stated that their revenues have surged by 15% organically compared to pre-Covid levels. Statistics and attitudes of clients clearly indicate that people wanted live media that they could trust for lead generation opportunities, continued Simon Foster of Arc.
However, as several participants in the Power of 5 identified, the composition of event audiences has undergone significant changes. Lisa Hannant of Clarion observed that there was a trend happening pre-pandemic of people, both in the industry and customers, changing roles, which has accelerated post-pandemic. She noted that industry operators need to adapt as their customer base is predicted to change roles every two-three years, which would continue to drive a shift towards many more first-time attendees to the events.
This change in audience masked a second trend explained by Paul Miller of Questex – the entrance of technology and software into the market. These tools enable data driven strategies that, through smarter customer insights, are resulting in better products and more meaningful relationships.
We see ourselves as a modern media business, bringing communities together 365, 24/7.
Paul Miller, CEO of Questex
Where do you see the key opportunities for your business during the next year?
There was an agreement from all the participants that the future is omnichannel businesses that seamlessly integrate content and live events with strong membership models.
Nineteen Group’s commitment to embracing digital through podcasting and digital events, while retaining a focus on physical events was the main emphasis for the next year according to Peter Jones. Gareth Bowhill of CloserStill outlined their core growth levers being existing events and extensions of these brands, new product launches and engaging in M&A, seeing a landscape that allows them to push forward on all fronts.
We have a comfort in the many different formats that customers want to meet their customers – whether a conference, one to one event, digital or in-between – that allows us to respond in the right way to whatever customer group we are serving.
Lisa Hannant, CEO of Clarion Group
Simon Foster of Arc revealed their future strategy of integrating businesses within their group and leveraging the expertise and knowledge and different elements they have within the business to deliver success to their clients. A commitment to doubling down on the data driven strategy aimed at providing superior products, that had been shaped from intelligence generated through interaction with content on their websites, was stated as a key opportunity for Paul Miller of Questex.
From an M&A perspective what is your criteria and where are you focusing?
Criteria for possible mergers and acquisitions included shared interests with existing organizations – mutual markets, complementary geographies, client synergies – or adjacent industries, companies with talent sets that can help build greater businesses and those with matching cultures and ethos.
Lisa Hannant of Clarion mentioned that they have a clear view of the sectors the Clarion team felt the business was potentially unweighted in and wanted to push harder in. Gareth Bowhill of CloserStill, echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the importance of opportunities of the underlying markets they are already serving.
Paul Miller of Questex stressed the significance of EBITDA thresholds and focusing on businesses with verticals they are already within or adjacencies to the verticals, so they can build buy-sell strategies. Peter Jones of Nineteen Group emphasized their strategy of identifying established, successful events with existing infrastructure and enhancing them to achieve even faster growth.
There were no real limitations when it came to regions for most, although the US, Europe and Asia were of particular focus.
We are looking at businesses that fit with our existing structure and existing markets that can add value as opposed to just driving scale.
Simon Foster, Group CEO, Arc
If you look at the landscape, who of your peers do you admire?
Companies that are not only great to the outside world but are focused on building culture and strength internally while growing was the type of business Simon Foster of Arc admired. While Lisa Hannant of Clarion Group acknowledged how there is so much good work from so many organizations in the sector – from larger companies to smaller, more nimble start-ups. But what she admires most are those companies that are focused, and purpose driven around individual markets. Paul Miller of Questex commended companies that prioritize culture and leadership and are not building just a great business but a strong culture as they grow.
Phil Soar is an absolute genius. He has the ability to see around corners in blizzards.
Peter Jones, CEO of Nineteen Group
All the stakeholders underscored the importance of collaboration within the sector, acknowledging their peers and their organizations as those they admired and respected the most. Clear articulation around company vision, purpose driven business models around individual markets, leading stances on ESG initiatives and those that embedded culture into their leadership were admired by all.
It is evident that these five leaders are at the forefront of driving the Information and Events landscape, with a shared vision for a promising and vibrant future.
To view the full interviews, please access Power of 5 Series – Events reinvigorated.
If you want to learn more about this series or the market more broadly, reach out to us at Contact us.