Imagine a forum in which top executives get to network with their peers. CFOs and CEOs all coming together in one place to discuss the challenges of running a business and meet up with solution providers who can help them solve their problems. All of them carefully vetted beforehand to ensure that they match perfectly. This is the basic idea behind Management Events’ own successful business strategy.
“We provide the conditions for business networks to flourish,” says CEO Jenni Tolonen, who joined Management Events in 2004. Her arrival coincided with the company’s first forays into foreign markets, initiating a period of expansion that now sees it stage more than 130 events in 13 countries each year.
Management Events was founded in 1994 by Olli Muurainen, who still heads up the company as Chairman of the Board. For the first ten years, its focus was very much on the Finnish market.
“We Finns live in a sparsely populated, densely forested country so that when two Finns meet it is always a special occasion,” Ms. Tolonen jokes. “Joking aside, it was this idea of bringing people face-toface who would otherwise never meet that formed the basis for Management Events’ successful model. By focusing on the quality of the contacts that can be made, we have made a name for ourselves.”
The company headquarters are in Helsinki but it now also has branch offices in Stockholm, Amsterdam, Zurich, Berlin, Oslo, Copenhagen, Vienna, Prague, Munich and Istanbul to serve the European and Middle Eastern markets and Manila and Singapore in the key Asian market.
The latest office was opened early last year in Kuala Lumpur. “This latest expansion has also seen us change our model slightly to embrace a more traditional format for this market,” explains Ms. Tolonen. “There, we have been organizing traditional conferences and seminars with expert speakers to which delegates can buy tickets to attend.”
By contrast, Management Events’ European gatherings are by invitation only, which gives the event a far greater sense of exclusivity and allows Management Events to tailor the guest list. “We build our invitation-only events around a particular industry such as retail or banking, or around a title such as CEO or CFO,” says Ms. Tolonen. “These are sponsored events with the sponsors being solution providers and the invited guests their potential clients.”
Where Management Events differs from a standard event management company is the amount of research and networking that precedes the event. “We interview potential attendees beforehand to find out what are the issues and problems they have to cope with and what they need. On that basis we look for sponsors who can give them the answers,” adds Ms. Tolonen. “Once they are there, we facilitate one-to-one meetings during the events as a form of business speed-dating. We have even invested in matching algorithms to determine who should meet whom at the event.”
This latest development reflects the growing importance of artificial intelligence not just in the company’s work but also as a conference topic. Nevertheless, Management Events still places its faith firmly in human interactions. “We have a team of around 90 project managers who prepare and build the events,” says Ms. Tolonen. “They maintain personal contacts with clients and conduct the interviews. There can be as many as 200 interviews for a single event.”
Events are held worldwide on a range of topics. The company is constantly looking at upcoming trends to take as the focus for its next event. Technology is changing fast and there is also potential for cross-market development, which these events try to facilitate.
“We assemble the top movers and shakers in a particular sector and provide the conditions for business magic to happen,” says Ms. Tolonen. “Thanks to the work that goes on behind the scenes by our talented team of interviewers, organizers and networkers, the event is often the most effective working day the delegates will have all year.”