1. Anna, you had an unusually international upbringing. Can you tell us about it, and how it informs your role as CEO of RX UK, Russia, Middle East, Turkey and India?
I grew up and studied in multiple countries and cultures, where I was immersed in different languages and environments: Sri Lanka, India, Guyana, Singapore, Malaysia and more. What I was most anxious and unhappy about as a child (constantly moving and changing schools) became one of my most important assets. It made me more nimble, more authentic when talking with people, and able to quickly adjust to new environments. It gave me the flexibility to embrace new cultures ‒ to understand different people and what motivates them, how they communicate, and how to relate to them. In my role with my team, we constantly adjust the way we do things in different countries, always being respectful to the business culture of a particular place. We build bridges between corporate, local and business cultures in order to drive customer connections.
2. The past 16 months have been incredibly challenging for the events industry. What positives do you take from it?
I’ve never considered these months to be a crisis – rather, this was our chance to show how strong, agile and talented our team is. We have experimented with different digital and hybrid formats, not just to keep our show brands visible but also to give our customers the opportunity to maintain vital industry connections and supply-chains, which has been especially important during the pandemic. Prior to Covid-19, our business comprised a portfolio of market-leading events with supportive digital tools. Today, we are proud to have a global portfolio of market eco-systems for the dozens of industries we serve. Through digital innovation and data analysis we have been able to reshape what we do for the benefit of our customers. The only thing we have lost during these times is our fear of change.
3. RX says it’s ‘in the business of building businesses’. How are you changing the way we work to bring this proposition to life?
Growing a business is changing, and so are we. We are using our experience in creating face to face markets and building online communities to open more doors for our customers, in more places, than ever before. I believe that our approach is no longer akin to producing a single blockbuster movie every year, but more like producing a highly-rated series with multiple seasons and episodes. Every episode is a different but indispensable part of our product (live events, online marketplaces, exclusive webinars etc.), each one highly anticipated by our audience. Our talented teams are moving beyond annual event delivery, to helping our customers build their businesses on a year-round basis, something which I find incredibly inspiring.
4. Russia, Turkey and the Middle East have all now reopened for live events. How have your customers responded?
Although audiences and their business needs and challenges are different throughout our portfolio in Russia, Turkey and the Middle East, our reopened events are highly valued by our clients. The first events to reopen in our region last September were a huge inspiration for our teams and our customers. It was an exhilarating experience to hear the buzz of live events after long months of lockdown. In a constantly changing environment our customers can always rely on our flagship events. Our customer insight research demonstrated an extremely high “need” for live shows (up to 95%) that confirms the high demand for our events. It is a joy to receive feedback from our exhibitors and visitor on how grateful they are that we have given the opportunity to come together and do business once again. Our purpose first and foremost remains in-person events. Nothing can replace the power of face to face business.
5. What opportunities can RX offer people looking to progress their career in face to face and digital events?
I admire the RX team – our multinational, multicultural and inclusive community is unstoppable, and I’m proud to be a part of this community. This is a place where you can innovate, make a direct contribution to global and local economies, be at the cutting-edge of offline and online sales and marketing, and lead whole industries. Our organisational structures have become flatter as a result of the pandemic and I believe that this gives more opportunity for our people to be heard and seen. We offer a platform for passionate young people as well as experienced professionals to build their careers and contribute in ways that are both meaningful and enjoyable.
6. What are your hopes for your region for the next two years? What upcoming events can customers look forward to?
I believe that we can come back to active double digit growth in the span of a couple of years. Yes, the exit from the pandemic will be asynchronous for different countries and industries but Covid-19 has presented not only challenges but also opportunities for our clients. We want to help them grasp those opportunities. At the same time, the mental health of the team is very important, so we will continue to support our talent across the geographies. We can’t wait to return to our regular calendar of events, something we are doing step by step, as local conditions allow. First up are Imbibe and Railtex in September in the UK, and Ecwatech and Wastech in Russia!