AEO - Association of event organisers

Case study: Sales lessons through COVID-19 and beyond


Case study: Sales lessons through COVID-19 and beyond


Life changed at the drop of a hat

The biggest challenge we faced in the wake of COVID-19 was having to get to grips with the fact that our daily lives, both personal and professional, had to change at the drop of a hat, along with the indefinite uncertainty.

To address these challenges, we had to continue to work closely and maintain communication with employees. We were also in contact with all of our clients regularly – postponing was a tough call but one that was necessary.

As a team, greater rejection from prospects was a bitter pill to swallow initially, but as the lockdown continued, the team found new business to target, which in turn should support the shows in 2021.

Reminding colleagues to put themselves in the client’s shoes was a powerful message to help them realise how difficult it was for clients especially those in the healthcare sector.


Educating Healthcare

With 50% of CloserStill Media’s shows in the healthcare sector, we had to pivot quickly to online education to maintain the visibility in the market and keep our brands in the mind’s eye, as with many shows there will be a two-year gap.

Within four weeks of the lockdown we delivered our first of many weekly webinars, and to date have delivered 30 across healthcare in three months.

A surprising result for CSM was that Healthcare, though under extreme time constraints, still need education. As such evening and weekend webinars have delivered fantastic audiences. In the beginning, these were delivered with show education partners `free education’. Now they are being purchased by clients and offered to health professional for free.

CSM has a large eLearning portfolio and so implemented training in-house from our American colleagues, who have actually been running online education for 20+ years.

We formed ‘super user’ teams to develop new products and test systems so that we could quickly deliver online education. We even ran webinars for clients (current and prospect) on how to get the best out of webinars.


Moving on from COVID-19

Our long-term strategy is to get back to running physical exhibitions. That being said, the ability to add a webinar to a sponsorship package is enticing and we now have the capability and stats to do just that!

Unfortunately, the exhibition has had to go through some drastic changes over the last four months. We have encouraged team members of furlough to attend as much training either through CSM or externally as possible so that when they return to the business, they will be able to hit the ground running. This will be of vital importance to any business, otherwise, we will find ourselves going through the same initial decline period when the pandemic started.

To thrive in this industry going forward, flexibility is going to be key – not just selling sqms, talking but most importantly, listening to your clients. Ask them how the pandemic has affected their business and put together packages that will help deliver their KPIs. Helping them look good, in the long run, will help you deliver a bigger and better product.


Conduct your own research

Some final advice for other organisers training sales teams is first and foremost, research.

Continue to talk to your audience - both clients and attendees to ensure what you are offering is what they need.

Make sure your sales teams recognise the value of what you are offering – education is fantastic but most people want visibility and access to our databases.

Ensure your sales teams understand what they are selling. Being able to describe previous examples adds credibility – how many webinars have they attended? Have they supported the operations team in delivering them, have you?

This is the same as running a show - put the hard graft in and you will reap the rewards.  


Laura Shapiro, Group Event Director, CloserStill Media.

  • "Broadway Events joined the AEO on the Enterprise Membership. We’ve already taken advantage of the many benefits including the excellent FaceTime Masterclasses and training guides for exhibitors."
    Emma Barrett
    Broadway Events
  • "We are a member of the AEO because it is a proactive association for the events industry. As an organiser it provides us with high value ideas, networking, guidance and information."
    David Harrison
    PPMA Group
  • "This year, the association has led working groups to address industry issues and put on some amazing events full of insightful content for both organisers and, through the AEOs FaceTime initiative, exhibitors. In addition, the AEO has represented the industry at a Governmental level to raise awareness of the importance of events to the UK economy."
    Paul Byrom
    Upper Street Events
  • "I genuinely believe that if you’re involved in organising events you should become a member of the AEO."
    Simon Kimble
    Clarion Events
  • "Our membership of the AEO represents real and tangible value for UBM - it provides fantastic networking opportunities, practical training for our team as well as valuable insight into the state of our industry."
    Simon Parker
    Informa Markets
  • "As an Association business, we appreciate the excellent work the secretariat of the AEO do for our community. From the events side of our business, the AEO provides an excellent return on investment, providing thought leadership, fantastic networking, brilliant awards, excellent research and FaceTime, a valuable tool to tell our markets why exhibitions and events should be an essential part of the marketing mix."
    Neil Felton
  • "AEO’s networking and member meetings are valuable for individuals at all levels within our organisation. The promotion of our sector to the outside world, to government, authorities and business at large is another vital aspect of the AEO’s purpose for members, many of whom, like my company, work on events throughout the world."
    Stephen Brooks
    Mack Brooks Exhibitions
  • “Knowledge is power and the AEO dinners are certainly powerful, there is always a wealth of knowledge at the table. Insightful presentations make for a constructive and extremely social way to learn from the experts who’ve done it before. I attended the Japanese evening and gained really valuable insight about the culture and how best to communicate with a local audience.”
    John Whitaker
    Vice President Marketing, Data & Digital , dmg events
  • "We have the opportunity to contribute positively to the industry as well as gaining valuable insight and advice. There’s no need to spend valuable time and money reinventing the wheel when you have so many experienced professionals in AEO membership to learn from”
    Emma Cartmell
    CHS Group
  • "JOINING THE AEO HAS BEEN FANTASTIC! Being able to gift our customers with free places at the FaceTime masterclasses, learn alongside industry peers and seek advice to common challenges is invaluable”
    Sharon Azam
    GovNet Communications
  • I just wanted to send my most sincere thanks for everything that you and the AEO team are doing to help navigate the events industry through the pandemic. The working groups and communication from the AEO have been excellent and I’m really appreciative of being part of such a wonderful organisation.
    Simon Burns
    ICHF Events
  • I think what the AEO has been doing during this tough time has been exceptional.
    Greg Cherry
    QD Events LTD
  • It is so useful to hear from your peers at this time. Please pass my thanks to Ruth and the BTIG panel
    Dan Assor
    CloserStill Media
  • Just wanted to thank you and Ruth this morning for the Zoom meeting - it was really interesting to hear how things are moving along in the virtual/hybrid meeting/exhibitions. All very new to me, so a lot to digest.
    Maureen Wright
    Optic UK
  • The session this morning was fantastic. We are right in the midst of this and the information was so useful. We can apply it immediately
    Claire Adams
  • The AEO provides an opportunity to make a difference, to work with other companies for the good of the industry as a whole, but beyond that, it provides it’s members with valuable insight and tangible benefits to grow your business, upskill and engage your teams. For those reasons, our membership is in indelible ink on the each annual budget. In short, if you aren’t a member, you are missing out.
    Ed Tranter
    73 Media




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