Martin Jack, Managing Director, Think Different Events

How has the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown thereafter impacted your business? 
Friday 13 March 2020. The day the phone never stopped ringing to tell us to cancel all our Live events for the next 9 months. By mid-morning on Monday, the team of three young ladies we had left the building more in hope than anticipation that they might return.
The hardest decision to make over the past few months is having to make one of the team redundant. However, it was a decision made to keep the company focussed on the way ahead.
Simply put we have had virtually no meaningful income since March though that is about to change as we deliver the SOCEX (Serious and Organised Crime Exchange) Economic Crime Conference in November.
We have used the Bounce Back Loan scheme to invest heavily in a virtual conference/events platform, other technologies to support the development and delivery of these events and to change our spending patterns from venue into professional video production.

What unseen challenges/ opportunities did the pandemic bring?
Working in the events industry is a roller coaster ride of challenges and opportunities. The main challenge was pretty obvious. How do we stay in business?
There were opportunities within the ‘virtual’ environment, though other challenges presented themselves here namely
  • clients assessing the value of meeting virtually, 
  • differing technological solutions and the firewall barriers placed on some organisations
  • clients actually being able to meet to make decisions, especially if furloughed, 
  • the value to sponsors and partners of supporting virtual events,
  • the fees structure to be created so as to remain viable,
  • how to pull a conference programme together that retained the brand and value of previous live events
In the sense that we don’t give up in the face of adversity, look for solutions to meet challenges head on, are pragmatic in our understanding that the world has changed and we have to change with it and finally that our first answer to any question is Yes we can do that and then work with people to make it happen, I think we are fairly representative of the country.

How would you describe yourself in three words and your role in a few more?
Creative, Pragmatic, Resourceful

What’s your vision for the company and is there a higher purpose its working towards?
We are in a ‘people’s’ industry. We look to serve the needs of our clients and the audience to ensure each and every one of them has a unique and often tailored solution. The online solutions now available open up doors for whole teams to attend events not just one or two due to budgetary or simple time constraints. It’s our job to design business events such that they are easily accessible, rewarding and continue to educate in a safe and secure environment.

Tell us a bit about the culture that exists or the one you’d like to see taking shape?
We are a Can Do organisation looking for Can Do Clients. The world has moved on. We have to accept this and recognise that mass gatherings of people will not be around any time soon. Our team remain positive that we have something to offer, we look to transfer that optimism to clients and we work with them to deliver the events they envisage both within the limitations of the virtual world but also to harness the many new functionalities that exist for audience engagement.

Any advice you’d like to share with other members of the Scotland House network?
If you have spent years building your organisations brand, please don’t squander the value of the brand by engaging with your business community via home based videos. Yes, they are fit for purpose for internal meetings and working with the supply chain. However, do you want your brand associated with what’s behind the speaker in a kitchen, or the books on a bookcase? The current crisis has reshaped the budget lines for many organisations. If the travel budget is now reduced, marketing spend on showcasing at events, etc is down I would ask members to look at how a professional digital library approach could reap benefits.

How did you come to know of Scotland House?
Through a Scottish Government bulletin. At the time I was visiting London occasionally with no base to meet myself.

Your experience with Scotland House and how has it helped your business?
I have yet to sample the benefits I’m afraid!

Anything you’d like to say to a Scottish business considering membership?
The saying goes that People Buy From People. When it comes to supporting Scottish business people, I can’t think of a more valuable friend and starting point.