Deanna Varga, Founder and CEO of Mayvin Global, is the go-to expert on commericalisation in associations, business tourism and business events, and the arts and culture sectors. Renowned for her strategic, impactful thinking and resourceful solutions, Deanna is a sought-after leader, advisor, board member and strategist.
What should associations be focused on amongst major changes in the business and global environment?
The world has shifted, and so have stakeholder expectations. Associations now need to be laser-focused on articulating their purpose, and then delivering on that purpose whilst ensuring they remain commercially viable. Members need to know their association has long-term vision and is financially healthy. This balance must be kept in check and should remain the Board and Executive’s key priority.
To do this requires a sound understanding of your revenue and profit, but also what activities will support the mission and stakeholders’ requirements. The challenge maintaining your commercial status is marrying sustainable long-term thinking with strategic planning.
For inspiration, look to your regional or global equivalent and adapt from their experiences for your local situation. Especially in our Asia Pacific region, where we have a professional culture of learning and sharing, seek out experiences of other organisations who have managed the pandemic amongst different circumstances. The variety of challenges have inspired innovative ways of managing and delivering business events which can provide good food for thought for your events.
As a recognised expert in Business Events, what are the current industry trends in Business Events?
The Business Events industry was completely disrupted by the pandemic, and so many organisations turned to digital and hybrid event solutions as a result. As organisations determine their event strategies going forward, many will continue with digital or hybrid options, particularly to maintain vital revenue. However, they need to contend with the significant ramifications on income generation and profit as you are essentially running two events simultaneously. They aren’t easy (or cheap) to get right.
I believe organisations need to revisit and reflect on what business goals they are trying to achieve through their events, and seriously consider the scheduling of a face-to-face event, versus a digital or hybrid event.
I would also encourage people to really consider what is the true ROI of a hybrid event for your stakeholders versus the budget required to deliver them. Particularly on the revenue generation side of your business model, whereby sponsorship offerings need to be matched to your event format. If you’d like to consider this further, my colleagues and I debated the benefits of digital and hybrid events at a recent PCMA webinar.
There has been a boom in digital and hybrid event professionals, and with good reason. They require specialty skills and knowledge of technology to match the growing expectations for production and user experience, especially those of sponsors. Event owners, ignore the rise in expectations at your own peril.
Why did you decide to open an office in the Northern Territory during COVID?
Besides loving the Northern Territory, I recognised there was an opportunity to support their business events and tourism sectors at a time when most companies around Australia were reducing their growth investments. At that time, we had recently completed Industry Enhancement Workshops in Darwin, Alice Springs and Uluru for Northern Territory Business Events, as well as other projects for Darwin Convention Centre.
Opening an office during COVID-19 might seem like going against the grain, however, I knew this was a calculated risk worth taking.
The opening of our Darwin office in April 2020 was a great chance for us to show real commitment to the region, one I’m passionate about, by providing ‘boots on the ground’ to work across tourism, business events, associations, and the arts. It has proven to be a great move for us, and since opening, we’ve continued with various projects for the Northern Territory Government as well as tourism and events projects for Developing East Arnhem Limited, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, and Agentur. With our NT Project Manager, Lisa Malnar, based in Darwin bringing international event and travel experience to the company, we look forward to seeing this portfolio continue to grow.
What role can governments and government agencies play in supporting tourism products and experiences?
There are so many great and interesting tourism products available in the regions and out of the urban areas; it just takes different thinking to consider, organise and execute, however it is well worth it.
Local governments have a lot to benefit from increased business tourism. They can work to support their local business owners and the market on making their products more easily found, understood and connected to make for better overall tourism experiences.
Governments can also play a major role in coordinating tourism operators and businesses to share resources and information, encourage local purchasing, provide training, and encourage collaboration for efficiencies in resources and marketing efforts.
For example, we recently worked with Destination Sydney Surrounds South (DSSS), a government agency which is one of the seven Destination Networks formed by NSW Government to help grow the visitor economy in regional NSW. The local government areas of DSSS are Kiama, Shellharbour, Shoalhaven, Wingecarribee, and Wollongong. The overarching program’s goal was capability building through a mentoring and workshop program. It included developing a checklist to help suppliers understand the value of business events, and if their products were ‘business events ready’.
This is a great example of how regions can benefit from collaboration which will support suppliers working with each other, cross-referring of business, and growing the region’s tourism and business events offerings. Highlights of the program can be watched here.
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