AEO - Association of event organisers

The future of sales: A Q&A with the Sales Development chairs


The future of sales: A Q&A with the Sales Development chairs


What happens when cash flow grinds to a halt on your live event? What will the return from furlough look like for salespeople when we have a clearer roadmap of the months to come?

These were just some of the talking points from the AEO Sales Development Group’s virtual meeting last month, with particular emphasis on monetising virtual events and retraining sales teams.

We asked the chair, Sarah Beale and vice-chair, Dan Dixon what they thought the outcomes of the meeting were. Here’s what they said:

Sarah Beale, managing director of Forum Events:

  • What was the purpose of the round table? To share experiences, strategies and solutions to support each other, discuss the challenges within our sales roles within the business and support the events industry as a whole.


  • What were your top three findings? How sales teams have adapted to change, how businesses have created new products in virtual, the level of staff furloughed and the differences between company strategies


  • What do you think that the biggest challenge is for sales teams based on this roundtable? Sales teams have major challenges ahead, they have to adapt to the new world of selling, understand their clients' needs and requirements and offer bespoke solutions. Self-motivation and getting in the right mindset after furlough is important


  • What do you think about virtual events from an engagement perspective/ revenue perspective? It’s a solution for the short term. Long term, we could see hybrid events take place, I doubt it will replace a live event or generate as much revenue.


  • What is your biggest concern moving forward for sales leaders? Some enterprises may inevitably need to reduce staff, sales teams will need to work harder and adapt their skill set extremely quickly, maybe take on new events and cross-sell more often, potentially work across many portfolios as most businesses would have developed and introduced new products.  Motivating staff post furlough and rewards key workers that have helped keep the business moving forward.


  • Do any of the findings shape the future strategy for the sales development group? I feel it will assist in the recruitment strategy for the group - what is a salesperson? Businesses may advertise differently post COVID.


Dan Dixon, Sales Director – Exhibitions, William Reed:

  • What were your top three findings from the meeting? Recognition that this was an opportunity to get closer to our customers and truly understand the challenges they are facing. How pure play event organisers’ businesses are rapidly trying to pivot to virtual and hybrid to capture revenue and engagement, skills, talent and training requirement going forward – the acknowledgement that the new normal would require the right people in the right roles and a different more agile type of salesperson.


  • What was the biggest surprise to hear from a member? The 2% - 10% return on digital monetisation from an event.


  • What do you think that the biggest challenge is for sales teams based on this roundtable? There seems to be a mad scramble for virtual and digital, for pure-play event organisers to acquire digital platforms and content.  Importantly, organisers need to decide if this is part of their new vision/strategy, how virtual/digital will complement their brand or market and understand how and if the digital environment can deliver for customers and create engagement, not just an (annual) event. The ability to build engagement with communities over longer periods was seen as important. How are event businesses able to monetise and create the value around digital consistently that smooths the peaks and troughs of the traditional exhibition revenue model.  


  • What do you think about virtual events from an engagement perspective/ revenue perspective? Understand how and if the digital environment can deliver for customers and how this complements F2F events. Most current activity is monetising something digital in the absence of the show/event (a virtual week), so the challenge is how this can be monetised consistently throughout the cycle with new revenue streams.


  • What is your biggest concern moving forward for sales leaders? Short to medium term- When will markets return? Ensuring the right skills and talent are within your business to ensure you have the right motivated people to deliver on your vision and strategy. 


  • Do any of the findings shape the future strategy for the sales development group? The Talent Group’s focus on Skills and talent and Tech group’s focus on digital transformation’s insight will feed in and help shape the sales strategy.  


We look forward to meeting with the Sales Development Group again.



  • "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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