When I first started hosting events it was from my position as an editor of a magazine. The material we generated at the event made for compelling content. Latterly, that also involved contributing original news to a daily news service in a fiercely competitive market for business information where the currency is originality and exclusivity.
Nowadays, the event tends to stand on its own as the event, not as a means of getting news or as a brand extension of anything. Also, my mindset has altered too. I’m no longer provoking a speaker or a panel member to say something in order to lead the next morning’s news. I’ve still got something of a nose for news and can sometimes find myself mentally noting what a comment would look like in 22 point type.
And so it was this morning at my first public event of 2013. In my capacity as chairman of Downtown Manchester I was in the Dimbleby role at a Forum for the Built Environment breakfast for 250 people at the Hilton Hotel. Billed as the Rally to Restore Confidence, it featured a panel of big hitters, including Sir Richard Leese, the leader of Manchester City Council, developers Ken Knott, John Atkins and Tom Bloxham, and Gerry Kelleher from MMU.
There is however an additional pressure when there are journalists present. In the audience on this occasion were the three top property writers in the region – Paul Unger, Simon Binns and Jill Burdett. It being a breakfast event none of them asked a question. My job wasn’t to feed them news hooks, but in conversation afterwards I was intrigued enough to know what they picked up. I was flattered too that Paul thought I’d asked Sir Richard Leese the question he would have asked about city region Mayors.
But I had to prioritise the needs of the audience – civil engineers, surveyors, contractors and architects need to know where the work is coming from. There aren’t too many headlines in procurement regulations, but it was the subject that seemed to stir the audience.
But while that pressure from peers is all mine, it’s interesting that people in such public forums are as comfortable as they are in sharing stories, anecdotes and insights. Such figures are constantly in the public eye and careful – yet the challenge is to find debating topics that are relevant, urgent and useful. Not necessarily news worthy.