Courtesy navigation

How I grew my events consultancy into an online knowledge hub

Alison McDougallAlison McDougall knows everything there is to know about managing risk when it comes to events. Now she is sharing her knowledge via a new online business, Relevant Risk. Rachel Miller reports 

One of the biggest challenges for any consultant is how to grow your business. If you are selling your own expertise on a face-to-face basis, it can feel like time is against you — there are only so many hours in the day.

That was the challenge facing event management expert Alison McDougall. Alison has run her own successful marketing and events agency, organising events for the likes of Honda. In particular, Alison advises on risk management in events — covering everything from issues like health and safety to data protection.

Expansion plans

In order to expand her client base, Alison has launched a new business, Relevant Risk and created an e-commerce website that offers specific guidelines on managing risk in events. It’s aimed at anyone involved in an event.

“It had become clear to me that not everyone could afford my services,” says Alison. “Now we are targeting anyone who runs events, including SMEs. The rules are the rules whether you do one event a year or 200. And the risks are the same too.”

While many companies are, in theory, aware of the relevant laws and have their own policies on issues like data and health and safety, events can pose their own challenges. In simple terms, a company may have a policy of not using ladders for safety reasons, yet at an event, their staff are left wondering how to put up posters and end up using chairs and tables. Or data protection rules could be flouted when a print-out of names and addresses is left lying around.

Risk assessment

“Understanding the risks involved is critical,” says Alison. “Companies holding events must protect themselves from potential law suits, financial loss, data or copyright infringement or even damage to their reputation.

“Event management is stressful and physically demanding,” she adds. “I’ve been involved in events for 20 years and what is clear is that some events teams don’t have the knowledge they need and that can put the business at risk.”

The solution is the Relevant Risk website which is aimed at anyone organising an event. At its core is the Knowledge Hub, providing detailed information about all the risks associated with putting on an event. Visitors that complete a simple sign up can then get access to more information, all of which is free.

And, for a fee, users can also assess their own knowledge via the Knowledge Audit — over 100 questions on legislation with yes/no answers. “This provides users with a report that highlights the gaps in their knowledge,” says Alison. Alison is also planning to offer online training courses and downloadable templates.

Expert help

Alison has worked with three key experts to build her website and launch her new business. Clear Thought Consulting in Bristol oversaw the whole project, sourcing and managing the web specialists that created the site — Design Bull, who tackled the look and feel of the site and Web Development Done Right who built it. Clear Thought also advised on branding, social networking and helped Alison come up with the business name. “Clear Thought has been critical in launching Relevant Risk,” says Alison.

Marketing the business is centred around social networking. Alison has learned a lot from a training course run by Clear Thought and is promoting Relevant Risk on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. Alison is also offering her services as a speaker. One recent event at the CIPR saw her talking to PR professionals about event management.

“Our strapline is ‘from knowledge to know-how’,” says Alison. It neatly sums up her approach. While many people may have access to event management knowledge, when it comes to managing risk, they don’t have the know-how. Now, thanks to Relevant Risk, that is changing.

This case study was first published in August 2010.

More on managing events: