Craig Mathie is Managing Director of the multi-award-winning Bournemouth 7s Festival. Launched in 2008, the UK’s favourite sport and music festival welcomes 30,000 people and 400 sports teams to the South Coast each year.
In 2020, Craig founded the South Coast Events Forum, a group dedicated to supporting #eventprofs across Dorset, Hampshire and Wiltshire and is also a regular contributor to industry press, campaigns and a judge for some of the UK’s highest profile event awards.
Craig is Vice President of the National Outdoor Events Association; a Key Advisor to the Association of Festival Organisers, Trustee of sporting charity, The Steve Bernard Foundation; Ambassador for mental health charity, Dorset Mind and Vice Chair of the Destination Management Board for Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.
What experience can you draw upon to successfully judge the ETAs?
Since organising my first fundraising dinner at school, I’ve always loved planning and delivering events. Through voluntary positions at Cancer Research UK and the Bobby Moore Fund to organising camping villages at Formula 1 Tracks around Europe – I’ve spent a fair amount of time in fields.
I now lead the amazing team responsible for delivering the award winning Bournemouth 7s Festival having worked my way up since joining the team in 2011. I am Vice President of the National Outdoor Events Association, Chair of the South Coast Events Forum and a key advisor to the Association of Festival Organisers.
Alongside these roles, I work as a project manager for a few mass participation sporting events. This base of experience provides me with genuine context for understanding the impact great event technology can have on an event and the time you can waste with pointless systems which solve an issue which doesn’t need solving!
How long have you worked in the events industry and what keeps you interested in it?
I officially started working in the events industry in 2008 but have been organising events since school! For me, the joy of creating an environment or experience where other people are having a great time is the reason that I do my job each day. Seeing thousands of people streaming through the gates, excited for what their weekend holds is a great feeling and the reason to work in an industry you love.
Concurrently, working with an amazing team who share the same goals to constantly evolve and develop a successful event is extremely rewarding and something which ensures every day is different!
Best (and worst?) moments working in the events industry?
Obviously, my biggest achievements in the events industry have been related to Bournemouth 7s Festival. In particular, seeing the event grow to national acclaim has been extremely rewarding – collecting a UK Festival Award in 2017 stands out as a real highlight.
Like most people in the events industry, the past 12 months have been incredibly difficult. With our industry closed, we have literally all been coming up with ways to stay in business and keep our teams together. Whilst it has been incredibly difficult, things hopefully look a little more positive now and it’s great to see how the industry has come together over the past year!
Favourite piece of tech for work and personal life?
Personally, I love spending time on my bike. Staying fit and healthy makes work more enjoyable and allows me the opportunity to get away from the pressures of running events. Being an analytical person, I love the combination of my Garmin bike computer and Strava/Garmin apps. I really enjoy being able to monitor marginal improvements in performance and challenge myself to improve.
At work, it’s pretty obvious but I could not function without my Macbook (sorry to all developers out there).
What’s your go-to piece of tech when working on an event and why?
I love To-Do. It’s such a simple piece of software but the simplicity of it is almost the best bit. Creating centrally managed to-do-lists which all of your team can access, amend, add notes to and track.
What was the last event on which you worked?
Amazingly, the last event I worked on was RideLondon 2019, an amazing cycling event across London and Surrey which grew out of the London 2012 Olympics. It’s always great to spend a bit of time on other events and learn how other businesses approach things. You never know what you might take back to your main job and the benefits these could have on your principal project moving forwards.
From your experience, what’s the best way to utilise tech at an event?
At Bournemouth 7s Festival 2019, we worked alongside our friends at Festech to give out Multi-Agency Control room a significant upgrade. From this control room, we were able to see almost the entire event site and monitor crowd movements accordingly. Alongside this, we used various bits of risk and event management software to ensure the safety and security of everyone onsite.
As a privately owned company, we have to be sensible with budgets. We can’t afford tech for tech’s sake and I’m a big believer that technology has to add value to the event to be included – it can’t just be a ‘nice to have’. Finding good local partners who are willing to grow with the event has been crucial to our commercial success over the years and would be my number 1 tip for other event organisers.
We all learn from our mistakes! What was the biggest lesson you learned from a mistake since being in the industry?
The biggest thing I’ve learnt from my time in industry is that, you should never undervalue a simple system which works well and provides the results that you want or need. Overcomplicated solutions or systems should be avoided at all costs, particularly where a large number of people will be using that platform.
I learnt this from a piece of staff management software (which shall remain nameless) which we used in place of spread sheets and sign-in forms. The system struggled as a result of connectivity limitations and created a mountain of administrative headache both during the event and in the follow up.
Keep it simple and only invest in tech when the system is better than what you already have.
What are you most looking forward to at the ETAs?
Hopefully we will be able to meet up in person! However, whatever the format, the awards present a great opportunity to catch up with existing suppliers and meet new ones. I think it’s vitally important to break out of your comfort zone and try to take away one thing which will benefit your business in the long term – a new development from an existing supplier or a brand new piece of kit from an innovative new one.
What do events, such as the ETAs, mean to you? / Why is it important to recognise the achievements of tech companies?
Technology, like most back-end systems, is just expected to work. Suppliers, attendees and organisers are quick to moan on the odd occasion something goes wrong but very rarely spend time praising or celebrating successful implementation of technology.
The ETAs provide the opportunity to celebrate the thousands of shows where technology enhances the experience of the attendees and streamlines processes for the organisers.
If you could only use one piece of tech when working on an event, what would that be?
CCTV – Unbelievable useful in monitoring crowd movements and helping to ensure safety and security for everyone involved.
The Event Technology Awards celebrate excellence in event technology. Entries are open now, find out more info here