Paul Murphy of Avcom has witnessed a transformation of his business since it was set up by his dad Tony 42 years ago. The company was established to provide audio and visual equipment for events and conferences, and that’s still the mainstay, but now there is an emphasis on high-tech innovation that delivers memorable event experiences.
Avcom says its annual turnover is currently around €5m and Murphy is planning increase revenue to €12m and expand headcount from 44 to 70 people in the coming years. The new roles will be in the areas of technology, design, production and logistics to cater for the growing demand for high-end corporate event management.
Paul Murphy, Managing Director, AVCOM“Covid and the pandemic accelerated our creativity and strategy as we had to reach our clients through enhanced screen connectivity and virtual reality engagement. Our motto is to ‘Experience More’. That means more than thinking only of large video screens, audio-visual content and providing sound systems. We wanted to add on extra options to make the occasion more interactive, and mixing virtual reality into a company’s presentations and conferences.”
“Events and people have changed. The aftermath of Covid has put a greater focus on work/life balance, and event organisers need to ensure that they are giving people something special in exchange for their time. Attendees want an immersive experience that will stay with them after the event has finished.
“At Avcom we recognised the need to cater to a new reality. We have invested significantly in our business to provide premium design-led production services that use technology to engage and excite audiences. We have established ourselves as an event production agency collaborating with event planners and helping them to produce events that they never could have imagined were possible.”
During the pandemic lockdowns, the Cherry Orchard firm had to re-imagine what could be achieved online. They answered the call by pushing the boat out with augmented reality concepts, and sensory as well as visual experiences.
This included ideas like corporate guests being issued with scanning codes for their mobile phones to access diverse pathways of interest within a virtual setting, as well as live-streaming guest and celebrity speakers.
Now these strategies of engagement are also recreated in physical venues. “We meet and collaborate with event managers to invent innovative ideas to suit our clients, whether that is a medical or pharma conference, large annual general meetings, or glamorous awards ceremonies in an artistically themed venue,” says Murphy
Avcom is events partner for all Croke Park events, and corporate clients include eBay, LinkedIn, Novartis and Opel. In 2002, a highlight was producing the Meitheal event which attracted 2,500 attendees and tourism buyers to Kerry in 2022 for Fáilte Ireland.
Murphy expects increased demand for immersive events as employers try to limit their carbon footprint by frowning on trips abroad. A company survey last year of 200 professionals who attend corporate events found that executives are becoming more selective about the events that they attend in-person. One in three survey respondents said they will only go in-person if they know they are going to have a very good experience.
Paul Murphy, Managing Director, AVCOM“This data reflects Avcom’s experience of the changing attitudes and expectations for events, which was central to influencing our new business direction,”
The pandemic was challenging for Avcom. The operating company’s accounts filing for 2020 noted that the business had to scale down costs while maintaining a limited level of services. Nevertheless, year-end cash improved to €1.3m from €290,000 in December 2019 as period-end outstanding debtors were reduced by €950,000.
Straitened circumstances were reflected in €8,000 company loans advanced to five company directors, including Murphy, “to help them with their strained personal cashflows resulting from them taking a considerably reduced salary to help the survival of the company”.
Those loans were repaid in instalments by June 2022, though still outstanding in December 2021 was the company’s €379,000 in warehoused tax debt.
Avcom’s trade through 2021 returned to normal, with the company booking a net profit of €270,000 and the cash pile increasing to €1.4m.
Budgets for the events that Avcom caters for start at €5,000 and stretch up to €200,000 for multi-day events where the design department gets to dream up amazing concepts that might include animators and motion graphics specialists.
So how does Paul Murphy keep up with the competition and stay ahead of the production posse? “I go to many global events and exhibitions and discover who are the brand thinkers making waves. Our children are growing up in a video and digital medium that blends learning and entertainment. They are used to shorter soundbites, and that is reflected in our audiences, who now prefer lighter speeches and presentations to one-hour lectures.
“Our clients are diverse and the medical industry is a huge part of it too. We stream operations in hospitals for medical students to view online, so we are often part of the operating room team wearing masks as we film surgeons at work. That is both fascinating and daunting at times.”
Being an agency that provides events kit must mean meeting some interesting characters? “I was privileged to meet Nelson Mandela, who was an incredible person, and I met BB King too. I also get to see many actors and singers from Arnold Schwarzenegger to Justin Timberlake to Brian Adams.”
Though multinationals are spending more on events as they cut back on overseas travel, and post-Covid event planners are thinking big to compensate for the fallow period, Paul Murphy says some things never change. “We are only as good as our last gig, and at every event we want our audience to experience more.”
Link to the original interview: businessplus.ie/interviews/avcom-pandemic/