Outsourcing: Help Is on the Way

November 28, 2016

By Leslie Thornton

Associations and other nonprofit executives face numerous challenges as they seek to allocate resources, time and staffing while also trying to create dynamic events that provide value for attendees, sponsors and other stakeholders. In many cases, these executives are turning to experienced external sources to handle specific functions, roles or even entire events.

In fact, 81 percent of association executives said they are currently outsourcing key functions such as graphic design and multimedia, membership technology and event strategy, according to a 2015 survey conducted by research firm Ipsos and commissioned by SmithBucklin Outsourced Services. The full survey results can be found here.

Further, survey respondents said they saw outsourcing as a way to achieve their organizations’ goals by acquiring specific skills, supplementing in-house staff and saving money. When asked what benefits they expected to achieve with outsourcing over the next two years, 70 percent of the association executives cited accessing specialized talent.

Outsourced functions include selling event sponsorships, managing organization finances, delivering marketing campaigns and developing year-round education strategies. This article (the first in a series) will focus on how to improve planning and executing conferences, meetings and tradeshows by leveraging outsourced partnerships to access specialized talent, acquire specialized skills, supplement in-house staff and increase revenues.

Accessing Specialized Talent

Having access to specialized talent outside an association’s current staff can provide the capabilities needed to better serve its members.

A large financial services organization wanted to update its event offerings for its annual expo to provide more value to attendees and add an additional revenue stream for the organization. The association partnered with an outsourced team of tradeshow experts to envision and create a designated area at the event that showcases physical demonstrations of innovative, next generation products and solutions that change the way the industry thinks about banking. The innovation showcase increased attendee excitement about the event, drove traffic to the show floor and attracted new exhibitors.

Acquire Specific Skills

Developing a new event, tradeshow or convention – or even revamping the annual meeting – is a challenge for any organization that has a finite amount of resources. Perhaps there’s a specific objective or a vague idea of how the event should look, but how does it all come together? 

By reaching out for outside expertise, assistance may come in the form of event strategy, conference design, logistics, site selection, attendee experience enhancement, housing management, registration and fundraising.

For example, a technology solutions organization wanted to launch a new event, including a trade show expo, in just 12 weeks. The organization’s staff and its outsourced partners collaborated to shape the vision into reality by setting a tactical timeline and focusing on priorities. Besides the logistical arrangements, the team developed an event flow plan, created buzz through a redesigned website and other marketing tools, and launched a mobile app. More than 2,000 people attended the event.

Supplement In-house Staff

Event planning and execution require a team of people to handle everything from high-level strategy to tactical logistics. By outsourcing some of these operational requirements, an association executive can focus more attention and resources on member programs, industry issues and other efforts that deliver value to members. Additionally, the executive will have specialized experts on hand to help solve problems and develop new opportunities.

For its 2015 fall event, INCOMPAS (formerly COMPTEL) put in place new approaches that resulted in one of its highest revenue events in 10 years. To make that happen, INCOMPAS – the leading trade association representing communications and technology companies that provide broadband communications products and services to businesses and residential customers – analyzed its registration history, pricing approach, fixed overhead and per-person cost, and determined it needed to update its financial model. The event professionals serving INCOMPAS used this information, as well as data about attendee needs and industry trends, to recommend and implement new registration categories, price adjustments, and updates to sponsorship and exhibit packages.

Rev Up Revenues

Increasing event revenue is often one of the central needs of an association. By bringing in an outsourced services team with innovative ideas, the organization can build a strategy that not only opens up new revenue streams for the event but provides opportunities for continued revenue growth for the organization throughout the year and beyond.

Three years ago, the American Organization for Nurse Executives outsourced all aspects of its event. The outsourced team helped AONE achieve event growth through redesign and reinvention by creating customized sponsorship packages, connecting with potential attendees through social media outreach, and more. These efforts resulted in a 51 percent increase in event revenue during the past three years. With the assistance of the outsourced team, the AONE staff is able to focus on providing its members with critical resources for professional development, as well as access to the latest industry news and trends.

As the survey showed, the need for outsourced services is extensive. Association executives realize they cannot hire and employ every talent they need to deliver against the important work of their organization. By outsourcing solutions for specific needs, they can ensure that their organizations thrive while serving the best interests of their members.

Leslie Thornton is vice president of SmithBucklin Outsourced Services. Email her at lthornton@smithbucklin.com.

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Partner Voices
Less than six months ago, Lisa Messina joined the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) as the first-ever chief sales officer after leading the sales team at Caesars Entertainment. A 12-year Las Vegas resident, Messina is a graduate of Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration and serves on MPI International’s board of directors. TSNN had a chance to catch up with this dynamic leader and talk to her about her vision for the new role, current shifts in the trade show industry, creating more diversity and equity within the organization, and advice to future female leaders. Lisa Messina, Chief Sales Officer, LVCVA With Las Vegas becoming The Greatest Arena on EarthTM, what are some of the things you’re most excited about in your role? Our team was at The Big Game’s handoff ceremony earlier this month, and I couldn’t help but think, “We’re going to crush it next year!”  These high-profile events and venues not only drive excitement, but also provide unmatched opportunities for event planners. Allegiant Stadium hosts events from 10 to 65,000 people and offers on-field experiences. Formula 1 Grand Prix will take place in Las Vegas in November, after the year-one F1 race, the four-story paddock building will be available for buyouts and will also offer daily ride-along experiences that will be available for groups. And, of course, the MSG Sphere officially announced that it will open in September, ahead of schedule, with a U2 residency. It’s going to be the most technologically advanced venue as far as lighting, sound, feel, and even scent, and it will be available for buyouts and next-level sponsorships inside and outside. There’s no ceiling to what you can do when you’re doing events in Las Vegas.  Allegiant Stadium As the trade show and convention business returns to the pre-pandemic levels, what shifts are you noticing and how do you think they will impact the industry going forward? Our trade show organizers are very focused on driving customer experience. Most of our organizers are reporting stronger exhibitor numbers and increased numbers of new exhibitors, with trade shows proving to be almost or above 2019 levels. Now our organizers are really doubling down on driving attendance and focusing on the data to provide that individualized, customized experience to help attendees meet their goals and get the best value. Some companies continue to be cautiously optimistic with their organizational spend when it comes to sending attendees, but I think it will continue to improve. As the U.S. Travel Association makes more progress on the U.S. visa situation, we also expect a growing influx of international attendees. What are some innovative ways the LVCVA helps trade show and convention organizers deliver the most value for their events? We focus on customer experience in the same way that trade show organizers are thinking about it. We got rave reviews with the West Hall Expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC), so over the next two years, we will be renovating the North and the Central halls, which will include not just the same look and feel, but also the digital experiences that can be leveraged for branding and sponsorship opportunities.  Vegas Loop, the underground transportation system designed by The Boring Company, is also a way we have enhanced the customer experience. Vegas Loop at the LVCC has transported more than 900,000 convention attendees across the campus since its 2021 launch. Last summer, Resorts World and The Boring Company opened the first resort stop at the Resorts World Las Vegas , with plans to expand throughout the resort corridor, including downtown Las Vegas, Allegiant Stadium and Harry Reid International Airport. The LVCVA also purchased the Las Vegas Monorail in 2020, the 3.9-mile-long elevated transportation system that connects eight resorts directly to the convention center campus. This is the only rail system in the world that integrates fares directly into show badges and registration. For trade show organizers, these transportation options mean saving time, money and effort when it comes to moving groups from the hotels to LVCC and around the city. Also, the more we can focus on building the infrastructure around the convention center, the more it supports the customer experience and ultimately supports our trade show organizers. Scheduled to debut in Q4, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will offer 3,700 hotel rooms and 550,000 square feet of meeting and convention space next to LVCC.  What are some of the plans for advancing DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) within your organization? We’re currently partnering with instead of working with a leading consulting firm, to lay the foundation and create a solid DEI plan and be the leader when it comes to DEI initiatives. The heart of that journey with the consulting firm is also talking to our customers about their strategic approaches to DEI and driving innovation in this space.  What are your favorite ways to recharge? My husband and I have an RV and we’re outdoorsy people. So, while we have over 150,000 world-class hotel rooms and renowned restaurants right outside our doorstep, one of my favorite things to do is get out to Red Rock Canyon, the Valley of Fire, and Lake Mead. Five of the top national parks are within a three-hour drive from Las Vegas, so there’s a lot you can do. We love balancing the energy of Las Vegas with nature, and we’re noticing that a lot of attendees add activities off the Strip when they come here.  Valley of Fire What advice would you give to women following leadership paths in destination marketing? I think it’s about being laser-focused on what you want to accomplish; building a team around you that lifts you and helps you achieve your goals; and being humble and realizing that you do it as a group. No one gets this done alone. Thankfully, there are a lot of women in leadership in this organization, in our customers’ organizations, and in this city that we can be really proud of. We’re a formidable force that is making things happen.   This interview has been edited and condensed. This article is exclusively sponsored by the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. For more information, visit HERE.