Economic downturn driving competence in events management industry – Victor-Okigbo

Funmi Victor-Okigbo is the production designer & chief visionary officer at Events Architects Ltd, a design-led event production and management agency in Lagos, Nigeria. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE-KORIEOCHA, she speaks on the vision behind Events Architects Ltd, the prospects and challenges of events management in Nigeria and factors driving Post-Covid-19 recovery in the Events industry.

As an events management firm, how are the current costs of things in the market affecting your business?

I think the current costs of things have affected everyone! Prices have gone up and the clients are also affected; however, the whole situation has made clients more discerning and conscious in general. In the past, people perhaps did not pay as much attention to the service providers they engaged like now. Clients now want to really know the value they are getting, they want things spelled out, they have a lot more questions and want to see your past work and if you are a value driven organisation like ours, this works well for you so I will say we are in a good place in spite of it all.

We know that during the lockdown, events management businesses were affected, and people found alternate ways of doing things. How well have you recovered from COVID-19 considering that some people are stuck to alternatives they got during the lockdown?

Year 2020 hit everybody hard and so The Unofficial Christmas Party that was held annually didn’t hold in 2020 and 2021. Last year, a few people came out and had parties, but we were being very sensitive because people were still working remotely, and nobody was really sure about the true situation of things. We didn’t think that it would be great to risk people’s lives for a party. Now we feel things are almost back to normal and it’s a good time to celebrate the fact that we all ‘survived’.

The recovery from Covid is still a process and is one that will continue for a long time to come, so no one can truly say they have fully recovered. There will also be a lot of alternatives, there are lots of shows and concerts at the end of the year but there will always be that right fit for every organisation.

We have to see beyond what is posted and presented on social media, there is more to creating and producing events than a pretty picture

The Lagos State governor, Sanwo-Olu said the ‘Owambe’ (Party) business is huge and one of the biggest contributors to Lagos State internally generated revenues. This shows that despite the fact that Nigerians are going through tough times, people still want to party. Why is this so?

I saw something recently on the internet that Nigerians have a strong happy DNA and for me, this explains why we are all still here creating jokes and memes on social media. We find humour in everything and we are strong and highly motivated no matter what.

Look at what we have done on the global stage with the entertainment industry. It is tough here, but people are still able to succeed. We are fighters, we can’t stay down and cry all day about the economy, and we have to keep moving. I think what makes us special is that ‘can-do attitude’ and wanting to stand out no matter what.

I personally preach about gratitude, when you focus on the things you have instead of the things you don’t have, you realise how blessed you really are and it makes a lot of difference.

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Tell us about Events Architects Ltd, what is it that you do?

We are an experiential events agency. We have been creating and producing events since 2005. We help brands communicate to their target audience and their customers by creating unique experiences using events as a platform. We have worked with and for a lot of brands locally and internationally and they all have one thing in common; global standards and excellence.

We are not just Experience Designers but problem solvers so we approach everything from that mindset. We also have an academy called Events Architects Academy where we train event managers and service providers in the industry on how to position themselves to attract the clients. Clients are drawn to excellence and best practices so we teach that at the Academy.

Before you got into events planning, what were you doing?

I used to just be that person that fixed things, I have always been resourceful, creative and I love structure. I had helped my mom run her schools for years, pretty much like the head of operations. I have also tried my hands on some retail. I love creativity and strategy, but I’m also very interested and involved in the execution. I’m driven by creating solutions and not just dwelling on issues.

Tell us about your coming event

We have always seen ourselves as business partners to our clients. We approach every project with the mindset of solving problems.

While working with our clients, we identified a few issues so we came up with a solution. The Unofficial Christmas Party was created to help organisations elevate and scale their End of Year Party, help organisations reward their hard working employees, their loyal clients and even themselves at the end of the year and plan a worthy end of year party for corporates without them having to go through the stress of planning one. The event is also to help create an environment where people connect with one another and collaborate in a way that brings value to their businesses. So, we created The Unofficial Christmas Party in 2014! The idea of a shared/collaborative End of Year Party where corporates came together under one roof to party.

The event is carefully curated to include a 3-course meal, quality entertainment and to create an environment to promote meaningful connections and collaborations. People connect and reconnect business partnerships are created. These are some of the testimonials of some of our attendees.

How do you source people that attend?

The organisations who want to solve the problems stated earlier are the ones who participate in the party. Organisations who want to sign up buy tables for their guests. Some organisations have bought from one to even 10 tables sometimes. We put the word out and people engage based on their needs.

So far, how many organisations have shown interest?

It’s hard to tell because it’s an on-going process. Most of the organisations who have attended in the past are the first to show interest based on their past experiences of course which is a testament of how much of a good time they had!

You are doing this at a time when the cost of things has quadrupled. Do you think organisations will embrace the idea of having a party with the biting economic downturn?

Yes indeed costs have gone up however signing up for The UX Party is still a good deal as you get to share the cost of booking a hall, the food, entertainment etc. with other organisations that participate, let’s also not forget that they don’t have to go through the hard work of putting it all together themselves, so in the end it is still a lot of value and more cost effective.

We are taking the stress off by saying come plug and play, show up with your team/clients, party, and have a good time!

A lot of people have complained that a lot of people who are not professionals work in the events management space. What is the effect of this on the profession?

I think the fact that the entry barrier for events management is very low is a contributor to this. It’s easy for anyone to start an events management business and register a company. Like I mentioned earlier, I think when clients are more discerning, it will make it difficult for people who are not professionals to thrive. We have to see beyond what is posted and presented on social media, there is more to creating and producing events than a pretty picture. We are also contributing to training which is why we set up our academy.

As a woman with responsibilities in the home front, how do you juggle through all of these and strike a balance?

I think the way to balance things out is to set goals and be intentional about everything including the relationships in your life. Everything is connected however; you still have to create a priority list to know when to push something forward and when to put another at the bottom of the list. This is an art that must be learned by everyone. It’s not always easy but it can be achieved.

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