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News & Press: Events 2013

Industry Leaders at the ALTO London event

22 September 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Reka Lenart
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John Knell- The 80 minute MBAVictoria Power, Sarah Gallagher, Odile Migieu and Maeve EganChema Pascual and Mauro Biondi

"Never cancel a Christmas party", advised John Knell, corporate strategist and latest speaker at the ALTO seminar that took place in London in early September. The energetic business expert delivered a compelling presentation to a high number of ALTO members as part of the whole day event on Monday between the Alphe London and StudyWorld Workshops.

During his seminar - The 80 minute MBA - he peeled back the layers of business speak and success mantras that he himself has absorbed to produce pithy succinct strategies for success that all members found tangible and lively.

Building a strong, loyal team is key to building business, and therefore cancelling the Christmas party was the ultimate sin, he advised, explaining that employees remain with a company if it enhances sociability among work colleagues. They also tend to leave if they don't see eye-to-eye with their line manager.

Harnessing solidarity, energy and autonomy in the workplace fostered a sense of ownership across all employees that should be the aim of all companies, said Knell. "Set your employees free" from boring, unstructured meetings and solid, static rules, he said.

Leadership and marketing were other topics Knell had insight on. As marketing dialogue becomes "many to many" as opposed to "one to many", the new imperatives in marketing are Conversation; Customisation; Community and Co-creation.

"You have to be in exchange, where your consumers can tell you what they think about you", he said.

He also delivered reflections on the study travel sector; which was an "under-the-radar" industry, he said. Trends he foresaw included gamification of content; the rise of MOOCs and blended learning. Innovation was imperative to foster progress but companies should be efficient and innovative at the same time. Companies should be "porous" and thinking about the future of education, inviting employees and customers to contribute to a conversation about innovation.

Then in the afternoon of the day-long event, an industry panel presented their thoughts on topical discussion points such as "Are commissions getting too high” and "Is dynamic pricing inevitable”. Panel members comprised independent consultant, Susan Goldstein, David Anderson of ELS Language Centers in the USA, Torsten Pankok of TravelPlus Group agency Germany and Barbara Jaeschke, owner of GLS Language School and Education Agency in Germany. Panel moderator was ALTO Board member, Andrew Mangion of EC Language Centres.

One of the debates that drew the most contributions from the floor was on the need to better position the study travel sector globally and with governments by eliciting better data about the scale and financial importance of the industry.

Susan Goldstein questioned the industry’s commitment to this venture. "Data is not something you get but something you give,” she counseled, while Ignacio Mas De Xaxas de Spanish agency British Summer backed up a concern about an appetite for data that translates into action, citing fruitless efforts of Spanish agency association to capture Spanish market data.

Sue Blundell of English Australia, representing the federation of language school associations, GAELA, then told delegates that this international body was also considering investing in extensive and reputable data analysis to fully capture the study travel sector. 

A commitment from many ALTO members to contribute resources towards building data for the sector was clearly underlined.

Commission payments, and the question of whether rising commission payments are sustainable, also attracted much input from delegates.

Anderson, representing a chain of English language teaching centres across 11 countries (most in the US), said his organization was not one of those that might push commission payments to agencies up to 40 to 50%. "Commissions only move in one direction,” he said.

Nevertheless, there has clearly been a push upwards from some agencies, and with some schools responding accordingly, "it’s getting hot out there”, observed Hauke Tallon of The London School of English.

Jaeschke, understanding well both sides of the business, rejected the point that agencies were losing business to clients using their services and then booking directly; impacting on the commission squeeze.

"Agents need to understand they offer clear added value, and market this,” she counseled.

And another delegate pointed out that if schools could afford to offer 40 or 50% commission, there was clearly no margin for re-investing in a quality product; reminding other ALTO members why it was a dangerous game.

Whether printed brochures might become extinct or not was also discussed, with some ALTO members saying that printed brochures for adults had been phased out, but most members agreeing that younger clients, and their parents, find reassurance from a printed brochure. Said Anderson, "A lot of counseling in many countries still happens across a table".



The event received a very positive feedback from participants, 86% of respondent rating the take-home value very good or good and 96% finding the afternoon Panel discussion useful. Please watch John Knell’s presentation online by logging into the members’ area.

Stay tuned as footage on the Industry Panel will soon be available on the same page under "Document Store” menu item – only visible to members.

You can read further details about our upcoming ALTO Day Berlin 2013 event held on the opening day of the ICEF Berlin Workshop. The programme includes Annual General Meeting of the association in the morning, a formal networking lunch and professional development seminar "Delivering Improved Financial Performance” by Andrew Needham in the afternoon. Book early to avoid disappointment!




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