Issue 8 2023

CEO MONTHLY / ISSUE 8 2023 11 Events Services You Can Count On David Preston is CEO and cofounder of Realise, a niche partner in the events industry. Business quadrupled during the pandemic – at a time when the events industry struggled to stay alive. Come spend a few minutes with our “Most Influential CEO 2023 – UK (Event Registration & Intelligence)” award recipient as he shares what made their growth possible. 1. Be clear about your “Why?” 2. Truly be a partner, not just a provider 3. Invest in developing future leaders while evolving your services and your industry David, along with co-founder and COO Richard John, started Realise in 2017. They began as an event-specific training organisation. First, helping to design and then deliver the Events Assistant apprenticeship programme across the UK, and delivering event management training for the Chartered Institute of Marketing. From there, Realise expanded into event services – specifically registration services for clients’ virtual, hybrid, and in-person events. That further evolved to helping their clients use attendee data for audience intelligence, building on David’s 25+ years’ experience in this area. David is very clear about their “Why?” and uses it to make decisions that guide their growth plans. “We are events people, and we love the events industry. The energy, the partnerships, the very fluid nature of creating an environment for people to come together around a topic or need. So, our services – online & on-site event registration, training, and the people who successfully deliver those services – are all about delivering more than expected because we care about helping each client’s event be its best.” Integral to their success as a services business are the values David has nurtured. All team members are treated like family. Regardless of the contractual relationship – full-time, part-time, freelance – everyone, including David, is paid the same hourly rate. Collaboration and relationships are the essential building blocks of David’s easy-going leadership style. Everyone is encouraged to make on-the-spot decisions that are best for the client; suggest new ways of doing things; and, especially, to enjoy what they do and keep a healthy sense of humor. Ask anyone in David’s extensive network and they will tell you he loves staying connected and being a connector. Have coffee with him and share your latest headache and he’s likely to suggest one or two solutions or contacts – whether related to a Realise solution or someone else’s area of expertise. Client-centric. Platform agnostic. By putting people at the center – whether that’s a client, a team member, or long-time friend and colleague – David’s platform-agnostic business strategy is a natural outcome. Realise offers a menu of solutions. Where Realise develops a service offering, it is available as a standalone solution. But the end goal is always to provide what is best for the client. That means their offering can include using the clients’ own products and services or going to the market and sourcing the best solution. Realise’s clients are primarily event technology companies who, in turn, build and run corporate conferences and events for their clients. David and Richard help them rethink their ‘registration’ process and operation to make it effective, stress-free and welcoming for the event attendees. The team understands technology and are experts in the registration systems they support. What sets Realise apart, though, is they are event managers first and, therefore, speak the language of their clients. “We work with an amazing group of freelance event producers who are more than a ‘hired hand.’ The Realise team becomes an extension of the client.” An absolute focus on partnership, and not just being a provider, generates loyal, repeat clients who find value in getting more than someone who can unpack equipment and print badges. “We help exhibition companies and in-house event teams gain more by turning attendee data into actionable information. We also work with event sales teams to create effective strategies for more profitable onsite rebooking levels.” Like many industries, skills shortages are the biggest issue a services business face. The training side of David’s business is there to support that from an industry-wide point of view. Second to that is the cyclical nature of the event industry. There are incredibly busy times and then troughs. To keep the team motivated and stay current, or a step ahead, Realise is one of the few agencies to pay their freelancers to get trained on their clients’ products and services. David’s passion for the events industry means investing in developing the future leaders. So, in addition to their core business of registration-related services, Realise offers the leading event apprenticeship programme, workshops and personal skills training. David is a coach, mentor and serves on the board of Elevate – a unique, free, mentoring programme and community created specifically for the events industry. During the pandemic, to encourage innovation, David and Richard created a challenge and then invested in the creators of winning ideas to benefit the industry. And they incubate and invest in new event concepts – finding niche opportunities to bring together organizers, providers, and communities. What’s next? Expansion into the USA marketplace. Realise already has some team members in the USA. Why? Because many of their clients are global and, again, it helps Realise do what’s best for their clients. With regards to his own career, David plans to continue to learn new skills and nurture the future leaders of both the industry and Realise as a company. “I want to ensure that the legacy of Realise continues.” Company: Realise Jun23296