This is a tough period for the events industry but together we'll come through it in a stronger position

Nick Gold 18 March 2020

There is no doubt the Coronavirus is affecting every part of the events industry. We have seen many events postponed until the Autumn and UK event organisers holding off making decisions until the situation becomes clearer.

Personally, I feel this period is going to change our lives forever. Perhaps the biggest event we can compare this to is 9/11. That tragedy, which not only left a huge wound on the world that we’re still trying to heal today, but also fundamentally changed how we went about our lives. Our personal security suddenly mattered greatly and for event organisers we were left with huge changes to make to keep us safe.

This period therefore is going to need to change our approach to events. However, the events industry is a fantastic group of the most creative people around and it’s a challenge we’re more than up to facing. So, we need to find solutions to the challenges we’re going to face forever more.

Firstly, public hygiene has never been so front and centre of our minds. And it will stay that way. Hand sanitisers are a good place to start, but organisers need to work with venues to consider if their hygiene policies are fit for purpose. How we handle and serve delegates food for instance may need to be revisited? Do we need to consider how we disinfect areas after each event? Is the good old-fashioned delegate buffet a thing of the past? Perhaps we’ll see hygiene ratings given to venues like what we have for restaurants, bars and cafes.

Events have brought people from all parts of the world since the dawn of time. But we need to be realistic that the situation has changed, and we live in a digitally connected world. This makes it easier for event organisers, at the point of registration, to understand where their delegates have been travelling to over the past 14 – 28 days. We may see the need for delegates to complete self-assessment medical forms before attendance is granted so we can manage the health of everyone.

These are all potential solutions and its key for organisers to consider the balance between their values and their attendees’ safety. What is critical is how organisers communicate their attendance policies to their delegates. The tone and voice need to be carefully considered to reassure attendees yet still drive the value of their attendance.

Missing out on a live experience can be devastating but providing those delegates who can’t attend with a means to gain some experience of the event itself is a quick win for any event organiser. The external speaker has an incredible message to deliver and the power will be felt by all who attend, but that same experience can still be delivered digitally, either by a live Q&A, a recorded video interview interspersed with highlights from the event or even by hosting the speech online behind a gated community where delegates can share their learnings together.

If we consider event numbers in contained spaces may need to be lower for an extended period, then the value of an external speaker to the audience exponentially increases.

Imagine the opportunities provided to 20, 40, 50 individuals seated close to the speaker as opposed to a large auditorium of 250. If you’re delivering events for senior leaders, key clients, VIPs for want of a better phrase, their live experience will be so much more powerful than it would otherwise be.

Of course, we do work with organisers to extract maximum value from a speaker. In these times it’s very much worth exploring the opportunity for the speaker to stay for lunch and undertake deep-dive sessions with a select group of delegates. Speakers can also facilitate workshops to draw parallels between the conversations they started in their speech and the desired outcomes the organizer wants to deliver.

This period is tough for all of us. The events industry is worth £40bn to our economy and will be a vital pathway to drive global business in post-Brexit Britain. Organisers, venues, suppliers, speakers, we all need to work together to deliver memorable events.

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