Here we discuss what the events industry will look like post COVID-19 and what we can do as an events agency to help shape the landscape of live events and meetings in the future.
An adaptable industry
Though it may feel like a very long time away still, there will come a point in the not so distant future, when the world slowly, safely and surely starts to return to some semblance of normality. Realistically, and we have to be realistic at this point, it’s still many months away, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be looking ahead and planning for bigger and better things to come.
There’s been a lot of talk within the events industry about how we can diversify our offering during the crisis, but so far, little has been said about gearing our industry up to return to full strength once the risks have passed. At the moment, video conferences, webinars and virtual discussions are doing an invaluable job of keeping the world connected and allowing for a more personalised style of communication (rather than emails and newsletters); but looking ahead, people are going to want real human face to face connections again and we as an industry need to plan for these mass events.
The worldwide lockdown and subsequent shutting down of the global events industry meant most of our live events work in 2020 has come to a complete standstill – with most large-scale events being cancelled or postponed. But now is truly the time to take stock and prepare and plan how we can adapt to create more impactful, impressive events in the coming years.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail – the moto of any good events agency
In order to ensure we can return to business as usual as quickly as possible in the future, we can’t just sit back and wait until the virus has passed in order to plan and restart the events industry. We know that for many, returning to work is going to be an issue in itself. So, motivation and engagement should be a key focus from the very beginning. Its likely employees will have reservations over their future, so don’t address these too late and be impersonal when you do. Consider how best to once again connect with people – whether that be through a kick-off conferences, annual meetings or still through webinars, we need to consider our approach in the immediate, to benefit the long run.
At the moment, because the hospitality industry has a lot of uncertainty around it, there’s a great deal of flexibility when it comes to planning ahead. Many hotels and conferences centres are offering flexibility with bookings for 2021. Many venues are building in caveats around booking dates, with tentative contracts being available to suit requirements. Some are also offering the option for companies to cancel without penalty or to change dates should Covid-19 impact on the date of their events.
This approach is unique, and offers companies confidence in planning for their next event. They’re also offering great reductions on price, so premium bookings and add-ons are much more cost-effective at the moment. When you consider these bookings could be 12 months down the line, the prospect becomes even more attractive to the client and the events agency.
We understand that over the next 12 months your sales strategy might change exponentially, but the fundamentals of your business will remain the same. You’ll still need to communicate your message to staff and stakeholders, and if anything, you’ll likely be needing to boost confidence; so, giving people something to look forward to in the long-term could go a long way in helping morale.
Whilst conferences and annual meetings should be planned for 9-12 months in advance, exhibitions will be more challenging as they’re governed by the organisers. At present, exhibitions that were scheduled to take place in spring and summer of 2020 have been moved to later in the year or the spring of 2021 however, this date might still be unattainable.
It is also important to remember, that whilst sales incentives might not seem like a priority at the moment, with many sales staff furloughed across the country, they can still be planned for. And with the government’s phased approach to work becoming clearer each day, utilising an online platform to activate an incentive programme could help increase positive perceptions of your brand internally. Big reward trips can of course still be planned for too; especially as we know hotels are currently offering such adaptable and cost-effective options.
Now is the time for action
Restarting the events industry in 2021 is going to require expert planning and a great deal of flexibility as an events agency, but also faith that people will want to connect once again when the virus has passed.
Whilst an online conference or webinar is cost effective for the present climate it doesn’t guarantee long term loyalty; and that’s what we need to consider when looking to the future. Investing in events for 2021 may seem daunting at the moment, but from my years of experience working in this industry, it’s the only route that will engage and inspire people once again.
Dave Ball, Events Director FMI Events Agency