memcom interactive: reinventing the bicycle, not just the wheel!

memcom interactive, born out of chaos and misery, and created by a large number of wonderful, talented and hardworking people. Julian Smith, one of memcom's Executive Directors lets you behind the scenes...

22 May 2020

memcom celebrates it’s 21st birthday this year, in lockdown, and like a lot of those in a similar position, it could have been rather flat. In human terms, the twenty-first birthday symbolises becoming an adult, and thanks to a certain well-known virus, memcom has had to grow up pretty quickly over the last few months.


It’s just 12 weeks since the ‘official’ first case of a UK national catching the disease in the UK and in the ensuing chaos (not to mention the human misery), whole industries, not just companies, have had to reimagine their businesses. In fact the words ‘unprecedented’, ‘reimagination’ and ‘new normal’ have been used so much that they now elicit groans when heard on Zoom calls – unless you’re playing ‘Covid Bingo’ where you might find yourself shouting ‘HOUSE!’


And memcom is no different. Prior to the Covid collapse, to celebrate memcom’s 21st birthday we had been planning the largest party yet; we’d booked the biggest, best and shiniest event space we could find in Central London; we’d planned and plotted with more than 100 speakers in 9 different streams; and we’d worked with wonderful headline partners such as the Pixl8 Group, Liquona and the FSCS, an exciting leading mobile app designer (RD Mobile) and talented communications agency Sequel Group to bring the party to life. In short, memcom’s 21st birthday was going to be a day and a night to remember.


And then disaster struck…


The last three months have been harrowing; the hardest times since Debbie Hockham and I joined forces together and set up the I am Group. Having invested financially, bodily, heart and soul in our small company for almost 9 years, we were suddenly confronted with the possibility that we needed to radically change and reinvent the business, or watch it go under. When I say radical, I mean radical – at least for us. And it really does feel like we’ve reinvented the bicycle, not just the wheel.


According to the memcom survey sent out to CEOs of membership organisations, 80% of the 120 organisations which responded had immediately started feeling the effects of Covid on their businesses. Within 2 weeks of lockdown, 40% of those organisations were already indicating “substantial losses” from cancelled events, and of course the number is now likely to be approaching 100%, given the fact that face-to-face events are unlikely to resume for a long time. And with an overnight plummet in income from recruitment and events, we were also among the 53% of companies surveyed who had immediately furloughed staff to cut costs.


From our various bedrooms, kitchen tables and dining rooms, the remaining memcom team who weren’t furloughed have worked incredibly hard to bring you the programme that we are delighted to announce as memcom interactive, the first time in its 21 years that memcom will appear in digital form.


Neither Debbie (my friend of almost 20 years, and business partner for the last 9) nor I could be more proud of the way that every single member of the team has responded to the crisis, and I want to thank them in writing for going way above and way beyond. It truly is the best team I have ever worked with in 30 years of working in teams (poverty forced me to start working very young, you see…).


You can stop reading now, but I hope anybody still reading on will allow me a few indulgences: at the risk of this blog turning into one of those interminable Oscar speeches, I genuinely do need to mention some people without whom memcom interactive simply wouldn’t be happening. Jack Bateman, Cathy Whitmore, Magali Ferron and Jenny Maybour – I wanted to mention you all by name, for your gargantuan efforts in turning memcom into a digital event in less than 8 weeks – and Dr Cliff Ferguson for you thoughtful insight and unswerving support. You’re family, and no family has stuck better together than this one!


Dark times always do bring out the best in people, and if it weren’t for the continuing support from our Headline partners (the afore mentioned Pixl8 Group, Liquona and the FSCS) and our platinum partners (RD Mobile, haysmacintyre, Wattle, Chrysalis Digital and the ICPD), and the generosity of our gold partners (Trillium, Latcham Direct, Sequel and Ready Membership, the powerhouse behind our new website), memcom interactive would not be happening despite the hard work of our team.


We’re also hugely grateful to our old friends and supporters, Adapta, Think, Redactive and CPL for their continued support, and to our new-won friends, such as Oxford Abstracts, Visit Belfast, Outsourced Events and Consort Strategy Ltd. Thank you for your belief in the new direction memcom has taken.


memcom interactive is truly a celebration of the very best of the membership sector. We have had phenomenal technical support from Alex Skinner, Luke Holderness and the entire Pixl8 team, as well as Russ Magnuson and Katie Atkinson, and their outstandingly patient and professional team at RD Mobile. The former have provided us with a shiny new website to showcase memcom interactive and the best CRM we’ve ever had, whilst the latter have blown us away with the intuitively brilliant memcom Engagefully app as well as arguably the part of this year’s memcom interactive I’m most looking forward to: our live Transatlantic link ups with our American cousins from the membership world, and a ‘fail fest’ brought to you by Reggie Henry from the American Society of Association Executives.


Finally, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to a whole range of individuals in the sector, too numerous to mention, including the memcom excellence award judges and the memcom steering groups. However, in particular we’d like to thank Lee Davies and David Blackburn in particular for their support and friendship, and Ann Francke OBE, Sue Percy CBE, Sean Tomkins, Peter Cheese, Paul Rees, Simon Blake OBE, Tony Manwaring, Dr Emma Wilcox and her team at SocEnv for your support in making the memcom interactive programme what it is. Rachel Dell, Diana Atkinson, Linda Asamoah, Pearl Mensah, Sinead Whelan, Fernando Caicedo, Caroline Page and Jo Winstanley have all had their brains picked by me on many occasion – and your support has made lockdown more tolerable!


memcom interactive is going to be fantastic. It’s a TOTALLY FREE resource for anyone working in the non-profit sector, and we’re delighted that we’re able to bring you so much content over 5 days. If you enjoy the event, please remember to thank our partners and sponsors without whom none of this would have been possible.


But why do I say “we’ve reinvented the bicycle, not just the wheel!”? All will be revealed in due course, after celebrating memcom’s 21st birthday with memcom interactive…

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