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Event Industry Trends, Event Marketing
25 September 2023 

Webinar Recap: How the Financial Times event team drives growth at scale

Chaviva Gordon-Bennett

More than three-quarters of event marketers agree that in-person events will become increasingly important to business success in the coming years, according to our new report, The state of in-person B2B conferences. Despite this, many events teams struggle to achieve event ROI and have difficulty aligning their event strategy with marketing and business strategy to drive growth at scale.

To learn more about how organizations can make their events team a driver of revenue, Bizzabo’s Oren Berkovich recently sat down with Orson Francescone, managing director of FT Live — the events arm of the Financial Times — for a webinar that examined what his team has done to effectively scale its event strategy. 

How To Build an Efficient Event Strategy

Francescone and his team put on upwards of 200 events each year, and those events take many different formats. For the most part, the team caters to marketers within blue-chip organizations who are most interested in top-of-funnel activation and lead generation. Additionally, FT Live attracts tech companies interested in sponsorship opportunities, hot leads, and positive brand association.

Making the most of your event strategy starts with ensuring you have the right processes and procedures in place. Otherwise, things can get tricky as you scale your event footprint.  

“As organizations become bigger, you’ve got to constantly fine-tune processes,” Francescone said. “If you don’t have the processes, the wheels fall off very quickly.” 

How To Scale Highly Profitable Events

Although planning and executing a successful, brand-new event isn’t easy, once word gets out that your event is the place to be, things can start snowballing.

“There’s a network effect on the way up,” Francescone explained. “As an event grows, it gets bigger faster. And as you get bigger faster, you get bigger faster again.” 

Over the last few years, the FT Live team has seen five events grow 300%. The secret to this success? Pouring more money into successful events to make them even bigger.

“As we grow, we double down,” Francescone said.

On the flip side, as a team that oversees more than 200 events, it follows that not every conference or workshop proves successful. Each year, the FT Live event team reviews its event portfolio to cull 10% of poor-performing events so they can launch the same amount of new events to see if any of those will gain long-term traction.

I love killing events. It’s a very satisfying feeling. Sometimes, you get attached to an event, and in your heart, you know it’s declining. I only like doing great things. Killing an event is one of the most satisfying experiences because deep down you know you did the right thing and can focus elsewhere.”
Orson Francescone
Managing Director, FT Live

How To Measure Event Success

How exactly does FT Live make sure they’re culling the right events? It’s all rooted in data.

“We’re very self-critical,” Francescone said, adding that the team is “constantly looking” at things like event margins, NPS scores, and event ROI to determine which events are working and which might need to fall by the wayside. “Ultimately, we need to be quite honest with ourselves.”

Although Francescone is undoubtedly interested in driving profitability during events, the FT Live team delivers more than that. Thanks to his “amazing analytics team,” for example, FT has proven that subscribers who attend events have a higher propensity to renew — a key metric for the FT team.

In large part, that’s because Francescone ensures that his team prioritizes content; when your event is jam-packed with exciting and engaging content attendees can’t find anywhere else, it’s easier to convince folks to sign up.

“Our event business is highly content-led,” Francescone said. “Content is crucial. A lot of the growth we have started from the content.”

How To Think About Your Next Event

Event success is much easier to achieve when you’re determined to get the best results possible. To this end, Francescone encourages his team to set ambitious goals.

I always say to my team: ‘Think big’ — especially when they want to launch an event. If they say, ‘We can get 500 people at this event,’ I say, ‘If it’s good, why not 5,000 or 50,000 people?’
Orson Fracnescone
Managing Director, FT Live

How do you go about attracting so many people to a new event? For Francescone, it’s easy: Spend money on marketing.

“I love spending money on marketing; there’s a place in hell for marketers who don’t use their budget,” Francescone said with a laugh. “If you’re behind, you need to spend more. If you’re doing well, you must double down and spend more.”

At the end of the day, numbers, details, and metrics matter most.

“Be on top of your numbers — be constantly looking at your margins,” he concluded. “Small incremental adjustments to cost and revenues can make a big difference.” 
To learn more about how you can ride the wave of event success and help your business soar to new heights, check out the webinar on-demand: How the Financial Times event team drives growth at scale.

How the Financial Times event team drives growth at scale

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