In The Spotlight: Chris Parnham

Susie HarwoodBlog

A newcomer to the SITE GB Board in 2020, Chris Parnham is owner and director of Absolute Corporate Events, which he bought in 2013, and founder and director of recently launched sister company Absolute Digital Communications focused on virtual and digital event solutions. Passionate about the power of incentives to motivate and drive performance, Chris believes they will make a comeback after the Covid crisis has passed…

How long have you been involved with SITE GB and what’s your role on the board?

This is my first year on the board and my second year as a SITE member. Our role as board members is to support Elliott as president. I have mostly been working on the events side and have taken the lead on our upcoming Christmas event. The SITE GB Christmas lunch is usually a pretty big deal and must-attend event in the calendar, so we want to retain that.

We’re working on a virtual party, which will include a charity element as we normally fundraise for Meeting Needs, plus some fun activities and entertainment. We’re still ironing out all the details, but this will be the virtual event of the festive season to attend if you want to celebrate with industry colleagues and friends. More details to follow soon.

What are the benefits you get out of being involved with SITE and how does it differ to the other associations you have been involved with?

It’s the pure incentives focus that makes SITE so appealing. All the other associations have a very broad membership and approach to events and meetings. SITE is very clearly focused on incentives, which has been a particular growth area for ACE in recent years. Obviously that has all changed this year with the pandemic, which has hit incentives hard. But that in itself provides an opportunity for SITE to lead the way. As we come out of the pandemic, there are potentially going to be issues around perception, which we faced after the financial crisis. We have a challenge in promoting the value of incentives, and SITE GB can play a key role in that.

What’s new at Absolute Corporate Events?

Our new business, Absolute Digital Communications, is the most active at the moment. That is doing really well. We don’t deliver just virtual events we try and deliver real events in a virtual world. Being virtually as good as live is not good enough for us. We call them digital events with a real feel. For us, it’s about making it feel as good as or better than face to face. The creativity you can employ is massive compared to an in-person event, because there are no boundaries. We are trying to use that new freedom to be creative and deliver amazing experiences. I also have another exciting new venture landing in December so watch this space.

It’s been a tough year for the events industry, are there any positives that have come out of the pandemic?

It’s not so much of a positive to come out of the pandemic, but I believe that true creativity always survives these kinds of challenges. Those companies that have acted quickly, looked at different ways of doing things and adapted will thrive. That doesn’t mean applying blind positivity to a situation, there is no point pretending things aren’t that bad and saying that everything is going to be fine, because it’s not right now. But you can’t just sit and wait for things to go back to normal, you can control how you handle it, and decide to rewrite the rule book. I think creativity is the winner in these times, and those who have employed it will thrive.

How do you think the pandemic will impact the incentive travel sector in short to medium term?

I think incentive travel will mostly come back as it was in time. It’s a tried and tested solution for motivating large groups of sales’ people, and it’s been proven to work by many studies.

But there is a large void between now and when it does come back. We are launching a personalised incentive programme, that will see sales staff go through a complex questionnaire that I developed with South Bank University London, and based on their answers, an algorithm will determine what their personal key motivators are. We can then tailor a reward that suits each person based on what motivates them the most. We are testing it with 500 people.

This will give companies looking at next year’s incentive programme an alternative to a group trip. Arguably we’ll be able to incentivise their sales teams better because we will know exactly what is important to them – is it travel because if so they can still travel individually, or is it health and wellbeing related or about quality of life? We can present them with two or three tailored rewards that most suit them.

As a business owner, what’s your core focus right now?

Innovation. I am not accepting that any of my businesses will be the same as we recover from this pandemic. I need to make sure I have several plans in place for Absolute Corporate Events, Absolute Digital Communications, and the new business which will serve a completely new niche, when that comes. I like to have a plan a, b and c so that whatever happens, we are able to react quickly. We are focused on surviving and thriving and we will come back better and different.

If you could get on a plane right now, where would you go and why?

I would go to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic purely because at a SITE charity auction a couple of months ago, I successfully bid for and won a stay at the Club Med property there and I would really like to use it.

Your most important travel accessory?

Six pairs of sunglasses. I have a bit of a sunglasses habit!

Dream incentive?

It would be at least 10 hours away from the UK, somewhere hot and sunny. I’d love to fly a group by private jet to a millionaire’s island with butler service, five-star treatment, no wi-fi and no 5G.

And finally, what are you most looking forward to once the threat of COVID has finally passed?

Getting the team back together again!