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11 May 2020

Angela Hodson: The future of the events industry

The events industry thrives on professionals coming together to share knowledge and expertise. It’s an industry of which its foundations are built on forging relationships, but when that industry is effectively paused due to a global pandemic, what are the implications?

While this period of isolation continues with many event professionals working from home, we’re looking at the impact coronavirus has had on the industry and the uncertain future that lies ahead.

We speak to Sales Director, Angela Hodson to find out her predictions and perspective on the crisis.

*10 minute read* ⬇️

If you said six months ago this is where we’d be today, I wouldn’t have believed it. We’re all in unchartered waters and in particular sporting venues are – we’ve got two strands of our business which are operating in no-man’s land. I know we’re not alone in saying that this pandemic has hit us as a venue financially.

However, we’re now at the stage where we can begin to look at how we can start up again and rebuild our industry. Mash Media has launched a fantastic campaign, #GetBritainMeeting – a campaign which we’re passionate about supporting – aimed at encouraging the Government to agree to organised meetings which venues can ensure are safe and meet healthcare guidelines and standards. We’re not planning for these to be mass gatherings, but a controlled number of delegates to kickstart rebuilding our economy. It’s time for us now to start putting this behind us and moving forwards, and by monitoring organised meetings closely, that’s exactly what we can start doing.

However much the struggle, it’s not all been a negative experience. This time has been a unique opportunity to reflect on the business and how we can best support our clients moving forwards. We’ve already showcased that we can adapt to a new lifestyle of working from home, encourage blue sky thinking and now is the time to put our new learnings and initiatives into action.

We can all talk about what we think will happen in the future, and it’s important for us to do so, but it’s also imperative that we start to think about the world returning to a new normal, because it will and that will all too soon jump on us. We need to be prepared because organisers and delegates will want to know that we are ready to stage events again.

When considering virtual events, there’s undoubtedly a place for them and they’ve been fantastic in allowing our community and industry to stay connected and continue to forge long lasting relationships. But, as critical as this technology has been in helping us to adapt to a new and unfamiliar situation, I think it’s important for us to remind ourselves that technology can never replace events. It can certainly enhance them, but our industry is one that thrives off face to face interaction, where we can share knowledge and network with one another. Technology just doesn’t have the capacity for it to work in the same way.

However, I think there will be an increase in the demand for hybrid events moving forwards, most certainly at the beginning of our ‘new normal’, while we adjust to new measures that will be in place. These will allow those who are nervous about attending events to do so in the comfort of their own home and will allow international delegates to attend from afar while travel restrictions are still in place. Not only that, but your event will be able to reach a wider demographic.

I keep touching on this ‘new normal’, but what is it? The truth is, we don’t yet know and it’s not something any of us will have the answer to until we are able to be back at our venues, jobs and with our colleagues. The only thing we can do is be ready to adapt and support our clients in their needs. After all, every brief is different – and I think that’s something every event prof can agree with!

There’s an optimism amongst our community that we will be able to have a calendar packed full of events for the last quarter of 2020, and whilst I hope that will be the case for us all, I think there will be a lot more movement with rescheduling events that have booked in for this last quarter. Realistically I think it will take a lot more than a busy period for us to rebuild the industry, and in turn, our economy.

There’s a lot of pressure on our Government at the moment to support this industry and until we have some specific guidance on how they will do this, we’re unable to define what that looks like. Whether it’s through continued social distancing measures, a restriction on the number of attendees at events or increased safety measures, such as temperature checking delegates upon arrival, or perhaps refreshments and food will be pre-packed – there needs to be some direction.

Charles Darwin once said a quote which I find so apt for this period that we’re experiencing. He said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” I think that’s relevant for us all at this time – none of us are sure what the future holds, but we have to be ready to face it together and adapt to be in line with Government advice and our clients’ needs.

There will be many nervous organisers and delegates about returning to organised events, but that’s where we come in. We’ve recently launched a campaign, aimed at showcasing our #SafeInOnePlace venue. We have everything you need on-site, accommodation, food, fantastic event facilities and technology, that means you don’t have to step outside once you’re here. We’re here to make you feel safe, whether that’s through our expert team providing you guidance every step of the way, our increased safety measures or just a friendly chat to put you at ease.

The world of events that we’re used to is never going to be the same again and it’s going to be interesting to see how we all adapt and learn to adopt new processes and strategies. Organisers will be looking for venues that are implementing these increased processes to ensure their event is safe. It’s something we’re already well underway with preparing for at Emirates Old Trafford, and we’re working closely with our Operations Team to ensure that every measure possible is met so your event is delivered safely. If you have any concerns though, or something you’d like to see us put in place – we want to hear from you, as we believe in working together to create a safe environment.

Together with the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board), we’re currently exploring the concept of playing cricket in a Bio Safe environment. Being an all-encompassing venue means that we’re able to achieve this and I think it positively positions us as a venue, as we will have already taken measures to really explore what “safe delivery of an event” actually means. This will result in us being ready from the get-go when organised events are given the green light.

One thing I am certain about is our industry’s desire to return to normal. We are a unique community, and I’ve never witnessed such a network of support in my career as I have these past few months. We’ve all come together to help one another, and I think that mindset will continue moving forwards. We know we’ll come back even more determined to succeed – after all, events are the hub of our economy.