AEO - Association of event organisers

Recruit or retain, that’s the question!


Recruit or retain, that’s the question!


Recruit or retain, that’s the question!

The arrival of spring is all about growth, renewal and development so, as Chair of the AEO Talent Working Group, I think this is a perfect opportunity to reveal what we’ve been up to and what we’re planning for the rest of the year ahead.

There’s been a lot of discussion in the Group about whether we should focus on recruitment or retention. As an association with a varied member base covering both very large and very small businesses, the AEO has to consider the needs of all members. The CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) Resourcing and Talent Planning study in 2017 found that 84% of UK organisations are having difficulty in retaining staff and 82% are experiencing increased competition for attracting new quality talent. It’s reassuring to know that as an industry we’re not unusual but it does highlight that we can’t hang back, we have to do something about it.

Luckily, drawing from the experience and talent within the working group, we’ve made a great start and it would appear, from the findings of the CIPD study, that we are going in absolutely the right direction. To be in with a chance of attracting the best quality candidates, the research findings highlight the importance of building an attractive employer brand, or in our case industry brand, and demonstrating great career development opportunities. This is exactly what the AEO has been focussing on with the resources that are available in the Talent Hub on the AEO website. These include the videos, fast paced visual content giving an overall feel for the industry and the different roles involved in organising an event, plus the stories behind some of the successful individuals that work in the industry and an idea of the type of career progression a candidate could realistically expect.

Our next priority is to understand where to focus these resources to promote and raise the profile of the events industry as the fantastic career choice it is. To help with this we’re conducting some member research to find out what the recruitment needs are as well as the entry route our members’ star employees took to get to their current position. We’re hoping this will provide insight into who we need to target and ultimately how we engage them – whether that’s through raising awareness with educational establishments, via apprenticeships or a campaign to target industry and career switchers. Our long-term objective is for events professionals to state that they made a specific career choice to work in the industry rather than it being a happy accident.

We’re not forgetting retention of course. The CIPD study shows that over half of CEOs are prioritising talent management and the most popular method for improving staff retention is to invest in learning and development opportunities.  Between 2016 and 2017 a focus on retention over recruitment increased from 40% to 63% and developing talent in-house from 50% to 78%.

Following the success of the AEO Forums that took place at the end of January and the Sales Conference that was held at International Confex, the Talent Working Group is also looking at how we can further expand on the learning and development opportunities that the AEO provides for junior and middle managers. The decisions on what, when and how these opportunities will be delivered to members will be based on insight provided by those individuals. AEO members will be kept informed as further information becomes available.

In addition, we will be working with members to identify success stories and best practice in terms of company culture. The O.C. Tanner Institute has conducted an interesting study called Talent Magnets which demonstrates how an irresistible culture, attractive to employees, can deliver business success.

This starts with great leadership and making sure you have the right ingredients to provide an excellent employee experience, including showing appreciation and improving wellbeing to make people want to stay at your organisation, as we covered at the AEO Conference in September. Then by giving a sense of purpose and opportunity, as our keynote speaker at the AEO Forums highlighted when he discussed the experience of the mechanics in the factory compared to those in the pit lane, you can massively improve engagement. This in turn leads to tangible and visible success that acts as a magnet to new talent.

That’s the theory. The Talent Working Group is now working on what we put into practice to build awareness, understanding and appreciation of the opportunities the events industry can offer as a career choice.

Check out the current resources on the Talent Hub of the AEO website 

Alison Willis

Chair of Talent Working Group

  • "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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