Patrick, Gareth and Steven reflect back on the start of Perception, technology and looking to the future.

Ten years is a long time, and especially in the world of events. Ten years ago, Facebook was still a fairly new site, Twitter had just launched, people were being introduced to a revolutionary gadget called the iPhone and we were still getting our heads around the concept of The Cloud.

Indeed, social media has become so instrumental in attracting people to events that it’s hard to imagine a time before Facebook events, Instagram and #hashtags. Technology as a whole has changed the landscape of events, with Projection Mapping now able to transform the blandest of spaces, and lighting displays that were just not possible years ago being more common place.


Ten years ago, at the same time as many were placing their orders for the final instalment of the Harry Potter book series, three seasoned #eventprofs- Patrick O’Donnell, Gareth Hawke and Steven Johnson – decided to face the odds and take the plunge with a new venture that would become a well-known name on the events landscape and in October 2007, Perception was launched.

When asked what the motivation was for starting up their own company, Gareth Hawke, Operations Director of Perception, said “We worked long hours, that were anti-social and not family orientated at all. We had all managed and led many highly-praised events but it was taking its toll. Over many conversations and many pints, Patrick lit the spark of the Perception idea that still burns bright to this day. I agreed to go into business with him, and then when we added Steven to the mix, we had a solid trio and each of us brought a unique strength that holds the triangle strong to this day.”

“To put it simply, everything in life is about Perception. What we perceive something to be is often radically different to what it is. The concept of Perception is fascinating to me, and sculpting people’s Perception is an art form all on its own.”

[Patrick O’Donnell | MD and Founder of Perception]


Steven Johnson, Perceptions Finance Director met Gareth when he first started in AV. “Gareth was a senior tech and I worked on the hire desk as an administrator. He was instantly likable and we have been friends ever since. My initial contact with Patrick was responding to an email from him, as having just landed on UK soil he was looking to freelance.  From the moment, we spoke on the phone I instantly recognised his hunger to achieve big things.”

Within a year of starting up Perception, the UK economy was dealt the blow of the worst recession on record in the UK since the war*. Businesses across the country took a huge hit as the economy groaned under the weight of debts, and bad banking decisions. Bankers became evil, the word ‘bonus’ became dirty and yet people were still putting on events. Throughout this, and against all conceivable odds, Perception was thriving, and profitable even in its first year.

Perception Managing Director, Patrick O’Donnell reflects back on this time, “Over the years we have had many factors that may have affected the event industry – global financial crisis, the recession in 2008, and even now with Brexit negotiations there is always a presumed looming disaster. However, in my experience, political and financial occurrences don’t seem to have a negative impact on our industry.”

“Terrorism, Social unrest and Brexit cast a shadow,” adds Gareth, “You have to prepare fully for anything (like producing an event). I have seen boom, bust, recession & market collapse in business and will learn and live with the next era.”

Based in the centre of London, with a head office in Vauxhall, a second office located at the Kia Oval, and an Integration base in Wales, Perception has continued its growth, taking on more stock, more people and more clients. It’s not all been plain sailing however with new companies popping up each year.

“London is a hustle.” says Patrick. “Someone is always looking to take your business but no one is a threat if you stay the course and continue offering a high level of service and value for money like we do. I keep an eye on what our competitors are doing but ultimately, we are the masters of our own destiny. I have found that most of our customers will stay loyal due to good value customer service. At the end of every successful event we don’t celebrate but rather revel in the fact that our very high standards have been maintained”

The events industry is an evolving one, on the cutting edge of trends and technology. The industry is vastly different to what it was a decade ago and the next ten years looks to be just as jam packed with innovation.

“I’m massively excited about driverless vehicles. I think it’s going to be HUGE and I am already thinking about being the first company to deliver equipment in this way.” says Steven.

We are in an industry that thrives on energy, a sense of drama and is always at its very best when leading from the front. “To date, Perception has produced over 11,500 events for our valued clients and has a proven track record of success in Event Production.” says Gareth.

At Perception, we will continue to do as we have always has done, and look to the future, while ensuring that old fashioned concepts such as valuing the customer don’t get lost in the advancement of technology.




*ONS-20th December 2013