Event Management: The Curse of the Free Lunch C&IT Blog November 2013

IMEX America
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C&IT Blog November 2013

I have just come back from IMEX America and I can honestly say that it was one of the very best shows I have ever attended. The show was well designed and considered the needs of the Hosted Buyer perfectly. I didn’t feel like big brother was watching over me and I felt it was a place that people WANTED to do business, learn and develop.

With IMEX came hospitality and very generous it was too! I wont go into the details as it would make you green with envy but, if I said Will.i.am and private cabanas, you would get the idea. I don’t think I have ever been so spoilt and can’t thank Preferred Hotels and the Wynn Hotel enough.

So, it got me thinking. This week Clearwater Events have been debating the R.O.I on purchasing some memory sticks as a promotional tool for our event management and venue finding services. We decided against buying them because although they looked snazzy, we feared our lovingly purchased gifts would fall pray to the curse of the free lunch…….. If you’re rolling your eyes at the thought of memory sticks, then I am afraid I’m talking about you.

I’ve been in the industry long enough to know the tricks of the trade. Once you fall into the free lunch curse it’s hard to get cured. We’ve all heard of the fake event enquiry to get a free hotel stay, or the promise of business in return for hosting a client dinner. We have seen the magpies that work the trade show floor grabbing every last giveaway, like it’s an episode of Supermarket Sweep. And it’s these very people that moan about the quality of the giveaways – ‘they were so much better last year’’.

Whilst at IMEX, I was privileged to experience some wonderful activities, much thanks to the amazing Preferred Hotel Group and the Wynn Hotel. These activities were things I simply would not have access to as an independent traveller and for that I am so very grateful. Yet, it was incredible to see just how many people at IMEX ‘generally’ had negative comments to make about the hospitality (may I just say, my UK hosted group was amazing and this doesn’t apply to you!).

The food, the lack of Wi-Fi, the quality of the room gifts, the entertainment……. It seems we love to moan when being hosted and some of us feel that because we are hosted, we have some divine right to be treated like the Queen of Sheba, just because we book events and ‘might’ have business for the host. I myself ‘almost’ fell pray to the curse when I heard myself moaning about having to pay for three nights hotel Wi-Fi. However, when weighed up with the experiences I enjoyed, I soon shut up.

On one particular night after enjoying an incredible Cirque du Soleil Show, I asked someone in our party if they enjoyed the show. Their response was…. ‘’It was OK, shame we didn’t have better seats’’. REALLY?!?! I rest my case……

Giveaways, large or small along with hospitality costs money and alas they don’t come from the free lunch tree, rather from our own bottom line. Just because we book events doesn’t mean we have a divine right to expect freebies. We all try and push down supplier rates, yet when it comes to hospitality and freebies we seem to expect nothing less than the very best from our suppliers which ultimately has to be paid for. It’s a flawed model and for those that think this way, then its time to change.

Yes, our memory sticks were just going to be memory sticks, but, they were our memory sticks and we would have loved them. So next time you roll your eyes at the lack of giveaway, or indeed are lucky enough to be given a real treat, just think for a moment how very lucky you are, especially if it is a free lunch!