Piecing together
your perfect event

Health information commitment

Health is one of the main demands and concerns of citizens.  The best response to this demand is to provide more and better health information to a public audience that is becoming increasingly more informed and educated on these matters.

To communicate to society all that is related to their quality of life and health demands excellence, professionalism, devotion, passion and responsibility as society itself demands accurate, rigorous and accessible information.

Regarding health issues, the media perform two main functions; it can interpret for the public the scientific information and government policies and, at the same time, reflect the concerns of society.

Journalists increasingly demand deep, specialised and precise knowledge of issues that form part of everyday life in terms of health and care, and, to this end, health institutions (companies, healthcare institutions or organisations working in the health sector) must provide the media with this information so that it may be deciphered, disseminated and made accessible to society as a whole.

As an organisation, the added value we bring to communications when we talk about health is significant, because we talk about issues such as science, innovation and the value of medicine.  It is imperative to transmit this value beyond the business level, and help to develop and preserve the image of the sector.  It is necessary to work not only individually but also as a sector and in partnership with the institutions encompassed within this field.

It is along these lines that we must trace a path for health and medicine to not just become integrated into current affairs, but for this to be done with greater specialisation and generation of information.

Particular characteristics of the pharmaceutical industry

Specifically within the environment of the pharmaceutical industry communication is also subject to regulatory and legal framework governing its reporting activity.

On a basic level, there is the Spanish Code of Practice for the Promotion of Pharmaceutical Industry Medicines, a code for self-regulation of the relations of the pharmaceutical companies with healthcare professionals and patient associations, in accordance with which any information or action aimed at raising awareness amongst the general population requires strict controls for approval.  Amongst these regulations, it is not permitted to use drug trademarks in communications addressed to the general population.

On a secondary level, own Internal Deontological Codes, such as the Code of Conduct, in our case, Novartis, a benchmark for appropriate behaviour and set rules to deal with our employees, customers, suppliers, authorities and the general public. To establish attractive working conditions and to protect the assets and interests of Novartis.

Corporate communications in health

In a corporate environment, communication is based on the image, on the identity of the company that defines the essence of what it is and the communication processes established to project that image.  The identity of the company, its culture, relational system and communication are key components of the new management.

In the specific case of the Novartis Group, communication is a medium to convey the objectives of the organisation; it is used to develop and implement the information policy and reporting for internal and external audiences; it coordinates, strengthens and supports the implementation of policies concerning reputation, social responsibility and transparency.

The Communications Department is responsible for the detection and channelling of informational opportunities and maintains relationships with stakeholders, as well as handling management of all activities related to communication, media and information channels.

In order to carry out effective and professional communication within an organisation, it is necessary to provide added value through innovation and trust; to carry out 360° multi-channel communication (without thinking only in terms of the written word); maintain commitment and collaboration with the sources of information (scientific associations, academic organisations, journals of renowned prestige, patient associations, hospital managers and health professionals).  All this with the support of the media, adapting communications to different types of media with differential strategies based on audiences and the needs of each channel.

It was during one of those typical 90s events of the last century when I first experienced the communicative potential of sport applied to business management. As a new sales team leader I had to give a presentation to a large group that included, besides the national sales team, managers from other departments and overseas guests, not least the director of EMEA who did not look favourably upon the “youngster” who had started in Finance and was now dealing with Sales. It occurred to me to combine a traditional presentation with images of judo taken during the Barcelona Olympics, in which I had participated as head of the Competition Secretariat. I found it very easy to convey the message, and most importantly, I managed to surprise and motivate the audience. As a result I was able to dispel the doubts of the European director and my colleagues within the experienced sales team. Today I still remember the presentation that inspired me to develop years later the method of Judo Management.

The event should amaze and inspire. The format is specially created to provide information and the ultimate goal is to create long-term memory. So how did judo help me to achieve these aims?

Judo, which is Japanese for “the way of flexibility”, was founded by Jigoro Kano at the end of the 19th century with eminently training purposes. To combat his physical weaknesses, Kano began practising ju-jitsu, a martial art without weapons developed by and for samurais, discovering through his practice that he was not only become stronger physically but also intellectually and therefore could apply it to his life experiences. That is why judo embodies, as well as the citius altius fortius (faster, higher, stronger) of the Olympic programme, which it has been part of since 1964, an additional intellectual and moral dimension, in the words of Jigoro Kano: “The main goal of Judo is to instil in the soul of man a spirit of respect for the principles of maximum efficiency, and prosperity and mutual aid to be applied to your life.

Judo is not just storytelling, a tale to accompany the principles, tools and tasks of management, it is management in itself. It is learning to use resources effectively and efficiently. Using it as input and associating it with the appropriate input can achieve the desired effect. The key is to correctly associate the verbal message and the visual stimulus. The design of the event with a multi-sensory integration of information contributes to strengthen the message and enhances the learning experience.

Currently the judo management method, in addition to verbal and visual presentation, also combines performing judo exercises for non-judo practitioners, and in this way the participant focuses better and absorbs more content for which the event has been organised.

This is an innovative format that updates and provides training for professionals in a world that is constantly changing and becoming increasingly faster. There is no doubt that it is necessary to find proposals that break with rigid frameworks and events that resemble each other. The goal is that attendees will be inspired and leave with a unique souvenir, just like Nelson Mandela in Barcelona ’92.

Ferran Agúndez

Founder of Judo Management


Beauty and the Beast

I have been in this blessed events industry for 13 years and never cease to be amazed by the event as a nearly perfect communication tool … but the frequent misuse of this format still drives me crazy.

“Beauty” is a tool that, in times when capturing attention is increasingly complicated, not only draws the interest of people but their expectation, their dedication to experience what you want them to experience, their commitment. When other tools have to fight against the volatility of an increasingly difficult target, the advantage of the event is of utmost importance.

“Beauty”, because when companies have let go of the idea of merely introducing a product, the event allows them to stage a brand experience. When companies have let go of communicating with mere logos or promotional messages, the event provides a way of interaction with the five senses. When Unilever creates “Unilever home “, when Axe creates “Space Jump”, when Red Bull creates its “Soapbox Race car”, they communicate a complete experience; differentiated brand positioning that is memorable and even newsworthy. Without limiting ourselves to the consumer goods sector, when SAP presents the Sapphire event, it brings customers and developers in contact with its entire ecosystem and all its added values, unlike any other marketing tool.

“Beauty”, because companies need to connect, and it is clearer than ever that the real connection is the physical connection. The act of seeing causes chemical reactions that cannot be achieved online.  In the way that we react we are still animals: there is nothing better than seeing, touching, talking. Whilst the online world is wonderful, and the social networks are here to stay and remain a fundamental part of any communication, it is clear that true loyalty and the ability to build strong relationships require face-to-face interaction.

But events can also be” the Beast”, and the dangers that threaten the proper use of events are harmful indeed:

– “Hospitality”. Some still see events as part of the “hospitality industry”. As if the aim of the event was to organise a nice dinner. Yes, good food and pleasant venues are necessary but events are a communication tool, full stop. Our industry cannot devote 80% of available time and budget to logistics, food and entertainment, and almost no communication. What Maarten Vanneste denounced in his book ‘ Meeting Architecture ‘ is still a problem in our industry, logistics and hospitality take up far too much time.

Not looking for ROI. This old debate rages on. No one yet knows if the ROI on events is measurable or not. But no matter, we still have to look for it. Looking for ROI means defining what we want to happen after the event, what we want attendees to do, to say, to buy. The point of the event is not what happens during, but what will happen next. Our industry is too focused on what happens in the event, the experience offered, the smiles harvested. No: an event serves to make things happen afterwards, and if we cannot define this the event will not be useful.

– Not having a clear brief.  “I want to motivate employees and to introduce new products” is not even the beginning of a brief. Steve Harrison in his book “How to do better creative work ” explains: one of the hardest parts of writing a creative brief is to capture the brief well , ask good questions, understand the situation and the objectives of the company. An event cannot exist without a briefing. A one-page fax is unlikely to result in a successful event. The brief should be a process, a diagnosis, which is cruelly lacking in this sector.

– “I cook it, I eat it.” A corporate events manager told me recently: “any product manager in my company thinks they are an events expert, and tells me what to do”.  And it does look really simple. But until we respect the event as a delicate medium of communication, which requires knowledge of psychology, neuroscience, sociology, space management, use of symbols, group psychology … it will continue to be classified as hospitality.

In short, events are the way forward but too often are seen as a dinner at home rather than as a strategic communication tool. Let’s extol the beauty of the event and all come together to solve the “beast” aspects.

When everything is on the move, it’s time for marketing to stop and think

These are not good times for the corporate world, mired in the depression of the domestic market and internationalisation plans full of paradoxes and unknowns to be cleared up. The changing trend in consumption-forced by the economic downturn and the evolution of new paradigms created by the continuous development of technology -generates uncertainty and, therefore, a revival, sometimes hysterical, of the natural tension between sales and marketing departments.

A few days ago I met a businessman who was forced to declare his business bankrupt at the beginning of the economic downturn in Spain, in 2007, but who discovered how to redirect his talent- ultimately reinventing himself-by exploiting the value of his contacts and knowledge acquired during his former professional life.

Now he is dedicated to helping Spanish companies to set up in the United Kingdom, with a very high rate of success and satisfaction.

Whilst providing me with some information on his new job, one thing-above all others-caught my attention. This businessman, having changed to a profession that for decades has been called an “intermediary” and that we now know as “broker”, “adviser” or even “influencer”-due to our penchant throughout the ages to define, in the most sophisticated way, each and every role in life-heartily lamented the inferiority complex invading Spanish companies when they go into foreign markets, their inability to recognise their own merits, their difficulties in communicating their products or business models, and because of this, their lack of prestige and inability to create added value.

The result is that the Spanish product, despite its quality, is bought only “by price”. And if the consumer can pay a little more, preference goes to an Italian or French product, even though it may be of inferior quality.

Surely, by now, the sales and marketing departments of companies in the process of internationalisation that are reading this article have already entered into in depth discussions and also, how could they not?, in conflict. It is to be expected. Because despite the interpretation of the theoretical rivalry in office meetings between “marketing” and “sales” as a positive and stimulating factor, the fact is that the usual way, especially in times of economic downturn, is to invest too much energy, resources and time blaming each other for mistakes that revile business results and impede attainment of the objective, which is simply to generate value for the company.

However, it seems that both “marketing” and “sales” departments suffer an onset of vertigo when faced with the prospect of an absolute revolution in consumption patterns. What to do when markets and trends are changing so drastically that strategies expire before the expected result is achieved?

Maybe seeking help in “group” knowledge and observing the international strategies of the “big” corporations is now a more effective way to try to be creative and original. It’s a question of optimising resources. Large companies invest astronomical budgets into sophisticated market research to intuit new trends before they are consolidated, so it may not be a bad idea to follow their lead.

In this regard, it is worth mentioning the study by Bain & Company 2013

Luxury Goods Worldwide Market, which insists, for example, on data of transcendence such as that which asserts “the growth of the luxury market in America has surpassed that of China, for the first time in decades”.

“The hyper-growth of recent years was destined to ease off”, says Claudia D’Arpizio, shareholder in Bain & Company and author of the study. She adds “The upside for luxury brands is that they can now change their pvious strategy, which was very attached to maintaining the present frantic pace, to shift focus to planning for the future”. Main message. Slow down and reflect, because a strategy based on outdated truths leads, inexorably, to failure.

And of what use are these data for a medium-size company that wants to internationalise?

Let’s see. According to Claudia D’Arpizio, the future strategies of “big” companies are aimed at promoting “online” sales; they are immersed in this whilst calmly “rethinking” their future on the new international scene.

Many changes, too much information and high risk place marketing experts on the edge of a precipice, leading them often to blindly “try” or to do nothing at all out of fear. This is without the pressure from the company and sales department, which have the responsibility and obsession to sell at all costs.

The 3rd International Neuroscience, Media and Economics Conference was held in Madrid on 17th October. PortAventura Business & Events, a sponsor for the event, interviewed one of the speakers, Mónica Deza.

Mónica Deza is Vice President of Innovation at McCann Worldgroup Iberia, the leading media group and most awarded in our country, and she runs the Communication Neuroscience Unit there. She is an expert in marketing communications and forerunner of the incorporation of these communication technologies: two-dimensional codes and augmented reality.

She specialises in achieving results with innovation and creativity in the new digital paradigm. She is also President of the Ibero-American Association of Neuroscience Applied to Communication and Economics (AINACE) and Chairwoman in Spain of the Neuromarketing Science & Business Association (NMBSA).

What does cognitive neuroscience bring to the world of communications?

Bringing the world of science together with the business world in general, and within the framework of communications in particular, already implies a major change in our profession.

In the case of cognitive neuroscience, it allows us to better understand the decision-making processes of an individual, it allows us to fill in the information “gap”, which still exists with traditional research methods, between the declarations of intent to purchase and the measurement of actual purchases.

To what do we owe the current interest in neuroscience applied to communications?

First of all I must say that we are still at an experimental level in some projects, whereas others have been proven. Technology, as in many other fields, allows us to identify and measure variables that were unthinkable just five years ago. The work to disseminate knowledge on the possible applications of these scientific disciplines has also been very important. At AINCE we try to bring together those professional organisations and institutions that are ready to make serious and dedicated progress in this area.

Why is it such a great discovery to have detected the human brain’s capacity for subconscious perception?

The great find is not so much subconscious detection, which we have known about since last century, but the important role it has in the decision-making process of the human being and the decisive influence of our “emotional backpack” on who we are, what we do and how we think as a society and as individuals.

What was the overriding impression of the 3rd International Neuroscience, Media and Economics Conference  held in Madrid?

The effort involved in holding a conference of this nature and level in Spain is absolutely incredible. It is made possible by companies like PortAventura. I’m especially happy with the successful attendance (in person and by streaming for the first time this year to Latin America) as well as the number of compliments we have received and the huge degree of interest aroused.

Can feelings and emotions come into event organisation?

Not just ‘can’, they should! The level of success of an event is closely related to its fun, positive and emotional intensity.

What is the future of neuromarketing in Spain?

I hope that the development of neuroscience advances greatly over the coming years not only in the area of communications, but in many other areas and that Spain achieves status as a country  of reference for research in this area.

I have been in the profession for many years, too many to count. I think I was born with this vocation and life gave me the ability to devote myself to it. Today I thank my nerves, my suffering endured to achieve the perfect event, because we now know that is an essential discipline for brands that want to make the transition from being famous brands to loved brands. In this equation, the brands at the forefront are those chosen by consumers.

Communication today is very mixed. There are many different buttons to push in order to build up a reputation, a word that is increasing in value all the time and is already part of our jargon. Friends and family say that we speak like doctors, that we have our own language. And it’s true! I laugh because we use words such as metrics, front row, perfect delivery, flow, rundown, photo call, press kits, save the date and others that they do not understand. Those of you reading this blog know very well what I mean.

I have been invited to write for this blog and this is an honour because it is a literature that does not exist anywhere else. It is an information box, a documented gift from others like us who are in this land full of minefields…. and we want to alleviate them…

This is an extremely demanding profession. With zero tolerance for error.  We cannot go wrong. There are no second chances here. You go to a bookstore to look for the definitive book, to tell us how to create a perfect event and it turns out that it doesn’t exist. Is it because there are no formulas? Is it because it is a discipline that is wholly dependent on people? And where is that written? Right here in the Business & Events blog.  A tool that I will follow as a disciple, because here you will find professionals of the highest calibre who want to share, to nourish us all so that we become more expert. Generous people who share their successes and things that you should never do.

When a company approaches me for an event it is always an exciting moment.  It provides a stage for the brand. Everything has to be perfect and success is measured in many ways. For me the only one that is valid, although there are many, and the most appropriate is yet to be defined, is the final customer satisfaction. The thank you e-mail that gives you goose bumps and makes you realise that this profession is worthwhile.

But … what determines its success? One way to begin is to have a full briefing. Validate the event objective together with the company. I always tell my team to do this first exercise. If a client asks you for a dog, ask what kind of dog. A golden retriever pops into my mind but perhaps the client is thinking of a Yorkshire terrier. That tells you everything you need to know. Define each objective in the mind of the client hiring the service.

Minimum and maximum number of guests, catering, room temperature, Wi-Fi, number of waiting staff, ambient or live music, decoration, hostesses, audiovisual, branding, public address system, accommodation… a perfect rundown to be able to share the same KPI that the client has in  mind for their “perfect event”. And always add an extra ingredient, which for me is the most important…. Make it memorable; make it a memory that lasts forever.

I work in an international company with presence in 166 countries, and far from being impersonal, and having the best creative and senior executives that an agency possibly could have, we believe that emotions are above ideas. And that is what I do, even if it doesn’t sound very technical. My job is to stir up emotions. There is not a more powerful weapon.

To do that, I need a good team, aligned with my strategic guidelines. But to create an event with these added values we need partners that are highly professional and with great human qualities.

Location is something of a drama. Everything is invented. Except creativity, this is infinite. Referring back to the beginning of this piece, you need people who will work with you throughout the process and have a sense of vocation and responsibility. Just like all of you I have had a thousand experiences of great places where the contact person does not bother to accompany you. Or less ambitious places where the management team put their soul into it. I always choose the latter. When you find a place that has it all, it is a true Eureka! moment.

For reasons of confidentiality I cannot say the brand name, but I had one recent experience in Business and Events where everything ran smoothly. Smoothly means that as always we had to improvise but it was NOT noticed.

A place where there are many locations in one. From a shareholders’ meeting of 10 superestablishments to a convention of 3000 people. And it always seems a different place. A building with not only a perfect architecture, but also a sustainable and eco-friendly one, two words that carry great weight nowadays. And a team of hundreds of people, who I obviously have not seen, because I’ve been able to centralise everything in one contact who created a task force, an extension of my team.

An event with many people where meat is served all at the same time and at the same temperature. Where they smile at each unforeseen incident and remain calm when you ask them to make room for 50 people because we had a great response rate. A place where the team building starts with them. And of course…we all finish looping around on a ride (subject to advance notice and booking).

I go with the best looping….the satisfaction of my client who has sent me an e-mail from the heart because friends and fellow sufferers… behind a great company is a team of professionals. Always search for a suitable location, but interview anyone who will help to make everything a success, because at stake is YOUR OWN REPUTATION.

Thank you Business & Events for your skill to be able to turn an event into an unforgettable experience that you always want to go back to. We will return again!

I end by making a request to all who are dedicated to this field to add your posts and secrets to this vessel of wisdom; perhaps between us we can write the book that still doesn’t exist…

With a smile and an eagerness to continue learning

M. Escobar

Communications Director for GREY GROUP SPAIN


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