Chris’ Story

The events industry is dead.

Long live the events industry!

Twelve months ago, the world of live events came to an unexpected and tumultuous halt. A global pandemic put the world into lock-down making international travel and large gatherings impossible or illegal. Consequently, in-person events haven’t been held, planned or even considered for the past year. But is the events industry dead, or will it return?

Of course it will return, but it will be different.

Without change, nothing happens. This is a mantra I have used for many years, through a long and wonderful career that has so far spanned more than 30 years.

My first taste of the industry was as Head of Events for Barclays, in the early 90s. This role gave me an insight into life as a corporate meeting planner, and introduced me to many agencies including the good, the bad and the ugly.

Later in the 90s, I decided it was time for change. I wanted to create effective communication events, so I began working as a Producer for many clients and agencies, before setting up my first company, ILLICO Events. In the mid 2000’s ILLICO Events joined with some great old companies; IBR, McGarvey Russell and Peter Rand, to become Zibrant. As co-creator of the Zibrant brand, I later stepped up to MD.

During my 7 years as MD of Zibrant we survived the last global recession and enjoyed the highest levels of employment, turnover, profit and recognition in the company’s history. Using my mantra, ‘without change, nothing happens’ I championed a period of change within Zibrant, making it a full-service agency built on the growth and commitment of its great people. We all changed and grew together, adapting to a new generation of regulation, procurement and enhanced creativity.

Towards the end of my time at Zibrant, I became Chairman for the industry association HBAA and led radical change to make the association relevant and valuable to its membership. At this time, I was leading and influencing more than 200 Zibrant staff and 400 HBAA members, my largest audience to date.

In 2012 I felt it was time for change again. I had been MD of a large company, now part of a PLC, for 7 years, and the will of the PLC was becoming stronger and less in line with my own ambitions and conscience. I wanted to be captain of my own ship again, so after a thorough search across smaller agencies, a meeting with an old friend, Angie Mason, led to me taking over her company, the wonderful Absolute Corporate Events.

The story that followed is well-known, as we transformed a small venue finding agency into a full-service creative events brand, growing in size and value by 400%.  Everything I had learned over the past decades I threw into Absolute Corporate Events. I recruited the best of the best to work with me; built the perfect leadership team; motivated, rewarded and cherished each of my team, and focused on developing long-term meaningful relationships with clients.

In what was to be our best year ever, (as I have heard from so many friends) in 2020 the unexpected and unimaginable happened. The pandemic devastated our industry, almost overnight, and we all became casualties. But without change, nothing happens. I carefully but quickly streamlined the core business, and soon after, created and launched Absolute Digital Communications, a team of communication and technical specialists focused on creating engaging and beautiful content for digital events, as well as delivering virtual events with real feel.

ACE is on stand-by, keeping in touch with our clients, waiting for the world to re-open, whilst ADC is producing some beautiful virtual projects and events, but I sensed there was another opportunity to be harvested from the pandemic tragedy as we were slowly recovering.

Hundreds of event professionals have found themselves furloughed or out of work. The number of Linked-in profiles carrying the banner ‘ready to work’ is staggering. Even those lucky enough to keep hold of their jobs, are perhaps looking at the future with a new level of uncertainty and a feeling of lost control.

This unfortunate situation led me to create Meeting Allstars, a lifeline for the stars of events and meetings. Meeting Allstars is intended to be a community of event planners, united by a common goal of delivering personalised and dedicated service to clients requiring global venue sourcing. Very soon corporate meeting planners will need to start sourcing venues for their next events, but they may find that the person they have built a relationship and trust with is no longer there. Anyone who has experience of global venue sourcing and has client relationships that need attention can join my new company, whilst retaining ownership of their clients, their delivery and their destiny. They won’t be just employees, they will be entrepreneurs, engaged at an Associate or Partner level.

As Allstars are building their own businesses within this new community, they will each benefit from personal coaching and development from myself and from my business partner in this venture, Angie Mason.

More than anything, we both love developing and inspiring others to be successful in something they love, and this is our new dedicated mission; to develop and grow the stars of the meetings industry.

I am so excited to build a new community and a new audience, focused on creating positive opportunities for those industry stars who have been side-lined or disadvantaged in the passing but devastating pandemic.

Each new member of Meeting Allstars will have ownership of their own destiny, whilst retaining the comfort of security in a strong and credible company. Supported, encouraged, protected, inspired. That’s what Meeting Allstars is all about.

Chris Parnham

Meeting Allstars CEO & Co-founder

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