We've been interviewing expert event professionals in our industry, and sharing their insights, advice, and unique experiences. This week, we share insights from Trevor Foley, founder and managing director of tfconnect—an event organiser and global talent network for the events industry. With more than two decades of experience in events, leading both industry associations and his own agency, Trevor has a unique perspective on this segment.
What one or two aspects of the events space have changed the most since you started out?
Globalisation and digitalisation have been the two major changes over the last two decades. Together, they have led to wealth creation and huge investment from outside the industry, and both have made the fast world of events even faster!
What concepts or characteristics, if any, have remained constant?
What hasn’t changed is the model of selling square meters (or square feet for our friends "across the pond"’) and all sorts of irritating add-ons. And I am always saddened at what seems like the never-ending "average" content at conferences.
With the rise in experiential events, I think it’s interesting to note that in the same way organisers are recognising that the audience wants a more memorable experience, attracting talent into the industry also demands that what we offer as an industry is exciting and enticing. Engagement is everything.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I am a networker, which means my day is consumed by the daily deluge of emails, calls and meetings. I also spend a lot of time talking about and looking for ideas and ways to add value for our clients’ businesses. I’m lucky that I have a team of amazingly talented people around me who take care of the bits that I’m not good at!
We just opened an office in Singapore this month to support our clients on a wider range of roles in the region. It’s an exciting development in the tfconnect journey, and we have plans for other offices globally in the coming year.
Because tfconnect specialises in connecting hard-to-find senior and international events talent with the right businesses across the industry, I can be travelling the globe in a day because we need to network across different time zones.
So, the pace of my day is as fast as the world of events! And at the end of it, I have a wonderful family and close friends behind me, too. Many of my clients have become long-time friends and my day wouldn’t be the same without them.
What's the biggest challenge you face in your work?
Without a doubt, we live in such a fast paced world and with so many demands on my time, that is an ongoing challenge. I think the other challenge that goes alongside that is, of course, pace. We work with high profile clients within the events industry who are looking to recruit the best of the best, and sometimes within short timescales. Talented people, in high demand, don’t stay available for long, so if we snooze we lose (and so would our clients).
Having my finger on the pulse globally, which means being able to attend various industry events around the world, is a constant challenge and yet is critical to the success of tfconnect because the bottom line is that networking SO works. Let’s not forget that face-to-face is the wonderful antidote to our increasingly digital world.
What types of technology do you use or interact with most regularly?
I have to confess that I am not the most tech savvy person, as those who know me will confirm, but I am delighted that we have successfully implemented a new video interview technology into our recruitment process—and our clients love it!
Our consultants are able to evaluate a candidate’s communication skills, strengths, and motivation, and also assess chemistry and cultural fit for a particular client better than ever. It’s as good as you can get to networking via IT.
The best matches for a role are delivered to our clients in a central, collaborative environment and can be shared with anyone involved in the hiring process. Think of it as "first stage" interviews at your convenience; clients can review a number of candidates’ recordings when it suits them and cherry pick the best for second interviews directly through the platform. This dramatically cuts down time to hire and also allows us to deliver a personal approach; connecting clients and candidates who might be on separate sides of the globe—back to pace, again!
Also, I’ve started using native video to communicate over social media. I am very much a visual person; I can’t sell over the phone and I’m not a fan of trying to sell by email. Nor the other way around can I best assess something or someone without a visual. I find video is a great way to engage with someone and develop a personal connection ahead of a real-world chat.
What do you see as the biggest trend(s) in events this year?
Understanding the volume of merger and acquisition activity in our industry and the impact the resultant consolidation and integration will come to have on industry players throughout the year. At tfconnect we see it as our mission to help as may people affected by this as possible.
If you could give event planners and marketers one piece of advice, what would that be?
Focusing on the experience gives event planners enormous opportunities to impress. Every event should have that three ingredient cocktail for success: great content, good networking, and FUN. If you dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s—and then go the extra mile on top of that—you can’t fail!