Conference News June 2022 | Page 20

20 Interview


Martin Fullard chats to Spencer Green , chairman of GDS Group , about virtual events ’ place in the wider industry
pencer Green is the chairman of GDS Group , a Bristol-based agency with an interesting story . Green founded GDS in January 1994 , borrowing from the bank to launch the business into the world of B2B technology magazines .
The business ’ s first year yielded a turnover of £ 1m , which set a course on a remarkable journey . Before the pandemic struck , GDS was posting revenue figures of £ 30m , employing 250 staff , and had expanded beyond Bristol to open offices in New York and Miami .
But along came the pandemic , and when many businesses struggled or experimented , GDS Group threw itself into digital . The numbers speak for themselves : the business has grown 170 % in the past 18 months , and now employs 650 people .
What about the future ? Green ’ s – and GDS Group ’ s – expertise in the wider technology sector , married with the clear success
story of its ‘ pandemic journey ’, makes him an ideal interviewee to scope out how event buying and delivery habits will change . We spoke over Zoom .
Martin Fullard : Tell me about the beginnings of GDS . What has your journey been like and can you provide a picture of your financial growth ? Spencer Green : I founded GDS in January 1994 . I borrowed £ 15,000 from the bank and we went into industry B2B technology magazines . We were quite successful and turned over £ 1m in revenue in the first year and then grew from there . Pre-pandemic , we got to £ 30m revenue , 250 staff , and had head offices in Bristol , New York and Miami .
Over the past 10 years , we have moved from our technology magazines , which were mainly for the US market , all about technology implementation in certain sectors , to what we call Summits , which are mainly based on technology transformation in given sectors . We were moving along happily and then Covid-19 hit . MF : Did the pandemic necessitate a switch to virtual events for you or the wider industry ? Were we already going in that direction ?
Spencer Green
“ I think there ’ s disparity in consistency of delivery over the past two years , certainly in a virtual and digital event environment . That trust must be earned to a degree .”
SG : We already had a digital offering , which was contributing about 25 % of our resources . We were working with our big enterprise partners . They were really engaged in what our digital offering was , a Meet the Boss product . Approximately 75 % of our revenues were physical .
I think every business must deal with legacies and be able to innovate and move forward . That ’ s not always easy to do . There are two different views : what the business wants to do , and what ’ s good for the market . The pandemic has accelerated the requirement of what ’ s good for the market .
We already had a vision about what digital could be . To us , live and digital both play a huge role . But in a world that needs to be connected , Covid-19 just accelerated that . When Covid-19 hit , we thought much less about product , and much
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