To Master Content Game, Event Managers Need Broadcast Mindset: Roshan Abbas

Industry Watch | July 2, 2021 | News

Roshan Abbas EEMA Kommune

A positive repercussion of Covid19, lockdowns and events being forced to go virtual, has been event content getting streamed across the world. Have event managers then arrived, as content creators? 

“I don’t think they have,” responded Roshan Abbas, MD of VMLY&R Encompass, Founder of Kommune India, and President of EEMA. 

He was in conversation with Gokul Krishnamoorthy, Founding Editor of EVENTFAQS Media and independent content consultant, at the inaugural session of the second ‘Event Education Festival’ hosted by Whistling Woods International’s School of Event Education on 1 July 2021.

Abbas described what is happening currently as largely ‘virtual articulation of physical sets’. Creating a huge virtual lobby or an auditorium-like feel, can create nostalgia but that merely lasts for a moment, he contended. Urging a shift from a theatre mindset to broadcast, the event veteran explained what it means to be thinking like a television channel, in terms of every aspect of presentation to the audience on screen. Going further, he urged content creators looking to create engagement to take inspiration from not just television, but all digital channels from Youtube to Instagram to Tiktok. While on innovations on Tiktok, he said, “Bring five of those innovations to virtual events and see what happens.”

According to the speaker, event managers have covered just a fourth of the distance to be called ace content creators. The journey is one that will necessitate the transition from ‘Jugaad’ to the right technicals, he noted – because content, like flowing water, never stops.

A Bigger Event Universe Awaits  

While the Covid19 pandemic has indeed affected the event industry across the world, people who understand the hybrid and digital space have taken it as a big opportunity, said Abbas, when asked of when the industry is likely to return to normalcy and hire professionals like it used to. 

“Just like in the US or UK, when large numbers of the population (60 or 70pc) are inoculated, the virus will go into recession – it will get virulent but keep getting weaker. In the meantime, this hybrid and digital space will add another 30 percent to the industry,” he stated.

Those who have discovered hybrid events would add a virtual link to their physical events, thereby growing audiences, Abbas explained. A ticketed physical event with social distancing and limited audiences would run the same event online with digital audiences paying a hundredth of what the physical audience does for the experience, according to the speaker. Event managers therefore needed to figure out the economics of this hybrid future, he reasoned, adding that to win in such an environment, people also need a deep understanding of the consumer’s online and offline journeys. 

The event veteran said he foresees a lot of opportunities in the event industry for aspirants. “The joy of young students is, you are carefree, you are reckless at times and you are hungry,” said Abbas, urging them to retain these qualities as they move forward. 

Entrepreneurship and Event Management 

Roshan Abbas was reminded by the moderator that he had started Encompass in the 1990s, because he was tired of badly organised events that he was invited to host as a radio and TV personality. 

Asked about the evolution of the industry since then, Abbas noted that in the early days there were more well-meaning people than there were well-trained people. And that has changed. The industry is now more organised, he noted, with formal education and a lot of aspiration and ambition.

He emphasised the importance of networking and how events are about putting various elements together. While the entry barriers to setting up shop are fewer in events than in some other industries, he urged a five-year training and experience window for those looking to take the plunge. 

“In the event space, I believe you should have at least five years of experience before venturing out because if you spend less time than that, you get ‘a little knowledge’ which is a dangerous thing. And then a  habit of Jugaad becomes your habit which is not the best way to grow,” he explained.  

Tracing the evolution of event management from hosting a conference in a hall to events at stadiums, roadshows and award nights extravaganzas, he pointed to global possibilities for Indian event managers in future. The aspiration is growing, according to the multi-faceted event industry leader.  

Events vs Ads and the Business of Awards

Asked about brand promotions, where awards and accolades seem to be dominated by ad agencies, Abbas reasoned that there was enough creativity in promotions by specialist event agencies, but most such agencies are not good at showcasing their work at award shows.   

“There is a lot of excellence, the problem is we don’t know how to sell it well enough,” he added. “It is  the right articulation of what you have achieved that wins you an award.”

The three-minute award video itself needs storytelling to impress the jury, and the art of creating that has to be mastered, he surmised.  

A common confusion in the minds of a student is whether one should pursue a career in event management or advertising. With the converging of different aspects of marketing communications, what should a student choose? 

Posed this question, Abbas said if a student wants to learn how to make money, survive and thrive in the most difficult of situations, they should choose the route of going to an event company. However, if a student wants to earn rewards and reputation and if they are oriented to be salaried professionals who wish to grow within an organisation, they should take the  marketing and advertising route. 

The Journey of Kommune

On the journey of storytelling platform Kommune India, its proud founder said, “Kommune is a passion project where creators come forward to support each other. I believe creators do not have enough creators to support each other. That’s why we came up with a place like Kommune where creators without a selfish motive can help each other. Kommune started as a place to build creative ideas around people which quickly became a home for storytelling as it was the need of the hour.”

On the relevance of authentic content that Kommune is a platform for, he added, “This young generation, for all the filters it uses on Instagram, is looking for an unfiltered life otherwise. The present generation is looking for honest and purposeful communication and that is what Kommune offers. The ideology behind Kommune is to help every selfless creator on his or her journey.” 

The MD of VMLY&R Encompass, Founder of Kommune India, and President of EEMA was speaking at the inaugural session of Whistling Woods’ ‘Event Education Festival’ on 1 July.

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