Lucy Francis, Jade Howgrave-Graham and Rachel Capell have launched a new events agency called Lemon Lane following the closure of the cievents brand name in the UK. We caught up with Lucy, former General Manager at cievents UK, to get her thoughts on launching a business amidst a global pandemic and what the future holds…
Can you explain what’s happened with the existing cievents UK business and how this led to the creation of your new agency Lemon Lane?
Lemon Lane is a completely new business that I have set up in partnership with Jade and Rachel. The cievents brand will no longer trade in the UK, and while some of the event services and roles such as venue sourcing and group travel have moved across to operate under the FCM Travel Solutions banner, sadly many other roles were made redundant.
We have got some really loyal clients who we hope will transition to Lemon Lane for their event management requirements in future.
Is cievents still operating across the rest of the world?
There has been no change to the Americas and Australia, but the brand is currently hibernating in New Zealand. Asia has always traded under FCM banner so there has been no change there either.
Where will you be based and how many staff will be joining you?
We will be based from home initially, but the hope is that we’ll move into an office space by March 2021, depending on what happens over the next six months and how quickly the industry recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially it will be just the three of us running the business as equal directors, but we would love to be able to bring up to half a dozen staff across by mid 2021, again depending on the industry.
Why did you decide to take on the challenge of setting up a new agency in the current challenging climate?
To be honest, we had always talked about setting up our own agency and being independent. Whilst the change to cievents was sad news, we also saw it as a perfect opportunity. The fact that live events are not taking place at the moment gave us time to focus on setting up a new business. Whilst it is currently a challenging time in the industry, we know that it will return and there is a market for a nimble player who can quickly and easily pivot into different styles of events.
What will be the agency’s core focus?
Production, creative and logistics will be the main focus, with virtual and hybrid being our initial priority. We believe that 2021 will very much be the year of the hybrid event.
Incentives will also be an important focus for us next year as companies will need to reward, motivate and engage with their staff after this challenging time. Once we do come out of the other side of this pandemic there is likely to be a lot of staff movement and so companies will want to retain their key workers.
We are exploring different ideas for delivering incentives in the current climate, for example offering clients the option to have a virtual awards event, and then the incentive winners will be rewarded with an experience they can enjoy in smaller groups or individually with their partners.
How will you differentiate yourselves?
Early in the process, we mapped out our brand values, and the key one for us is being honest advisors – everything we do will focus on that. Technology, creativity and innovation are incredibly important but ultimately events are about is connecting groups of people in a meaningful way and driving the right business outcomes for our clients. If you put that at the centre of everything you do and build the event strategy around it then you will always stand out.
We also love working together and have a fun but productive approach to everything. We have really different strengths and strong skill sets in our specific areas of the business. I think when people in a business work well together it really shows, and clients appreciate an approachable and friendly team. It helps us to build really strong client relationships.
Why Lemon Lane?
When we decided to go for it and set up a new agency, there was definitely an element of the famous of saying “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. It was taking a difficult situation and creating something positive out of it. So that’s where the Lemon came from. And we went for Lemon Lane because we liked the way it sounded, and we want to take our clients on a journey with us.
How do you think the industry has changed as a result of the COVID crisis?
The general feeling is that this crisis has moved the event industry 10 years forward within the space of 6 months. People need to stop thinking about when things will return to normal and more what normal will look like in 2021 and beyond. The drive towards virtual and hybrid was already happening, but this has pushed it forward much more quickly.
Interestingly as well at the cvent conference this week a lot of the discussion was around how virtual and hybrid events will eventually lead to greater numbers of people physically attending events as they will have the exposure on a virtual basis and therefore understand the value of the event and want to attend in person the following year.
Technology will enhance the event experience moving forward but will never completely the need for face to face events.
What do you think will be the key trends in events over the next year?
As we start to look at delivering more live events, safety and risk assessments will be essential. This will come to the forefront of the planning process and central to everything moving forward, as opposed to being an afterthought.
I think there will be a trend towards more local and in country events, which will provide opportunities for venues to market to their local audiences. There will also be a shift in the way venues work with planners with a strong focus on how they can attract clients and attendees via safety measures, virtual capabilities and contracting terms. Flexibility in contract terms in particular will be increasingly important.
One of the impacts of people attending more virtual events is that audiences have got used to a certain level of personalisation and being able to pick and choose what content they are interested in. That will translate across to live events when they come back, and delegates will have higher expectations when it comes to personalisation.
Longer term sustainability will be back in the forefront – this crisis has taught people that there are ways of running events that aren’t so damaging to the environment and so it is absolutely critical that we don’t forget these lessons and we build on them in the future. We look forward to revealing some collaborations in the coming months that will help support sustainable events.
What are your plans for the future?
We want to be a successful, creative event agency that clients and team members love and respect. It is also really important to us to stay true to our values. We have ambitions to grow to become a bigger UK agency, with global markets hopefully being an option in the future.
Are you confident the demand for live events will return?
I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t confident, I’d be sat on a beach in Australia! I think coming out of winter next year, if we haven’t seen a second wave, at that point confidence will start to return and we will start to see events trickling through. By mid to end next year, I hope business will pick up further, and that 2022 will be a stronger year. We have a couple of events signed up for 2022 already.
Hear from Lucy Francis at our micebook. ‘talks’ to industry voices event on 9th September. Register here.