By Craig McGee, Panoptic Events

2020, the supposed year of the vision. It started so well, Panoptic Events had press on the BBC, Sky Sports News and more for events we had upcoming. Personally, I had 6 weeks of travelling around Europe building contacts across various countries. This led to event enquiries in three different continents, taking in the UK, Romania, Brazil and Thailand, we were in the process of looking to hire new team members and were on course for our biggest ever year.

Then the great pause…

You may remember, back in April and May, I wrote a couple of articles about what was happening across the world in Events. The articles were:

Lessons from Across the Globe. and A New Hope.

Who would have believed then that nine months later we would still be in a Pandemic? It has been heartbreaking at times not being able to see colleagues, not being able to enjoy events, and worst of all, watching many friends leave my beloved industry.

At the same time, an industry that is resilient at the best of times, has rallied together, to ensure we come back strong. Campaigns such as #WeMakeEvents had an impact on raising awareness of the plight many were facing. New technology and ways of working have become buzzwords through 2020. Hybrid events are becoming more and more interactive and online events are all around us.

Whilst the industry is in dire need of financial help and a clear road map from the government is desperately needed, solutions are starting to come from within. There are so many facets to the Events world. With the U.K. being a world leader, could the companies in it write their own map?

In 1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt became president of the United States of America. His campaign was all about business recovery. America was in a depression and Roosevelt’s vision pulled together churches, businesses, leaders, and the public for the one cause. To find solutions and for the country to recover.

Looking through the VisitScotland manifesto, they are not too dissimilar to the 32nd president,

“We need to bring the events industry together to create a thriving and unified sector.”

Pulling the events industry together in one direction will lead to knowledge sharing, ideas and collaborations. It is great they have a task force set up to tackle big questions for the major players, though smaller innovative companies and themes around green recovery should have a seat and a voice at this table too.

I sat at a round table with a cross-section of the events industry last week organised by the Circular Glasgow, an initiative of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce and partnered by Zero Waste Scotland. We had representation across events, music, venues, media, production, DMCs, MICE, and more. We discussed the support businesses need right now and how we see the industry recovering and ‘building back better.’ It was the first time such a diverse section of our industry were together and ideas were flowing.

Three themes I am picking up are communication, collaboration and confidence – all essential in addressing the industry’s concerns.

At a time when working from anywhere are become the new norm, speaking with our peers, collaboration and installing market confidence is now more prevalent and more important than ever…

It is time for action.

Ramy Salameh of EventPoint International talks about:

“thinking externally not just internally, not to focus totally on how to reap benefit for your business but see the bigger picture of helping the industry do the best it can, from person-by-person, network to network and by helping one you help all.”

He continues, “I know that might sound like some Churchillian call to arms, to foster hope in dark times – but we learn from the past and integrate it within a modern context. So, if each one of us tries to help just one other, the industry grows.” A call to arms is precisely what we need right now. In our own ecosystem, we have the people, knowledge and technology to make things work.  Why reinvent the wheel if it’s freely available to use? I have heard of companies securing funding to buy new equipment for a one-off event and then, due to terms of the funder, having to place perfectly good kit in storage rather than being able to hire it out to others. As an events industry we need to explore more sustainable use of resources. Sharing assets, equipment and knowledge will allow us to open new revenue streams while ensuring goods and resources are used to their full potential, minimising our carbon footprint.

It is time to get with the programme and change these terms. Everything that went before has passed.

There is such a diverse ecosystem of event businesses in Scotland, with so many possible collaborations and teamwork. Now is the time to speak to our peers and share what knowledge we have. It is no longer a case of ‘it’s my ball and I am going home.” It is time we create the field on which we play.

COMMUNICATION

Regular round tables with businesses in the sector will not only bring the sector together, it will allow growth from within.

In talking to charities at the start of this pandemic, I was hearing about brand new technology available for care. Individual chartities had invented amazing ideas with tech, though from conversations I had with seperate groups, these ideas hadn’t been shared with others in the sector. Other charities facing similar issues, had ideas that could be offered elsewhere. Communication across the sector would allow for many solutions to be freely available.

You only need to look at the recent Burger King adverts encouraging people to eat at McDonalds, to show how an industry comes together for the collective good. Regular conversations with our competitors in the events industry would allow for a sharing economy, of which we all benefit from.

From speaking to many across the world in events and across social media groups like Delegate Wranglers, and at conferences such as IMEX, M&I, Venues & Events Live and The Meetings Show, many companies are adapting to their new surroundings. The Events industry generally moves quite fast and has been able to switch over to online events. Very quickly ideas are being shared and being used in all types of hybrid events. Speaking to companies, there is certainly a case for working more closely with your suppliers to make your offering stronger.

A centralised knowledge share platform, would allow businesses to find suppliers quickly who can offer what is required. This will allow you to diversify your offering, yet maintain industry standard quality. Current requirements are in H&S, Crowd Management and Hybrid Solutions. This will allow us to work with talent and infrastructure in Scotland, or indeed your own country/area.

COLLABORATION

Our industry has had to be more creative and is becoming a leaner machine. Bringing back Ramy into the conversation,

“Another important ingredient to ‘building back better’ is ‘time’ and ‘patience’, one thing which is beyond the control of every one of us is the economic cost of the global pandemic and the realisation that businesses will be in survival mode with consolidation as their buzz word not growth.”

In a world where survival of the fittest is the theme plus a fight or flight mindset, it is no wonder many have looked internally. However right now we could do with safety in numbers. There is room for hope, Ramy continues…

“There will of course be exceptions to the rule and let’s hope that there will be many exceptions, but generally most countries will be living with debt for the long term. Therefore, it should be the time where ‘innovation hubs’ and associations representing the voice of many, need to steer and support businesses to get the most the from the infrastructure they currently have.”

Innovation has thrived through hard times before. Ideas will win the day now.

There is a space in the market for multi sector event recovery conferencess, which will allow discussions around knowledge share, industry best practice, round table discussion, health and safety, technology, green recovery and what is required. Though it is key we focus on the solutions.

Many people have lost jobs and we are at risk of losing experienced and talented professionals from our industry for good. What can we do to keep them? Bringing freelancers on roles will keep people in events. This could hopefully lead to full time positions again as business picks up. It will give them an income and also allow companies to bring in great talent. The benefits to companies go further according to Moulden:

“There will be less headcount on the payroll – A good solution to bring people in from being out of work and less risk to companies.  There will surely be a trend for senior freelancers to be offered work by agencies or companies who don’t wish to have more headcount on their payroll in the adjustment period.”

Losing experience is a big blow to the events industry, as we all know people who can see things others can’t. We also need to look at training for people entering our industry for the first time. Graduate training, on the job, having experienced people becoming mentors. New blood will come with new ideas. We need to ensure they become experienced quickly.

Training is also required for online and hybrid technology. With so many companies now opting for that option, it has to be considered for all events you are planning. Hybrid Events are here to stay. Though we can make them fun and engaging by sending attendees hampers, food or make at home kits. This will allow for new skills to be learned by our attendees. Green screen technology is also so good now, it looks real. Think TV show, rather than an online event.

Déborah Chicote at Catalunya Convention Bureau agrees.

“Support we need includes specific education in some areas as technology and sustainability…”

The events industry cannot return to a pre-covid landscape because of new skills, new platforms, new innovations that have moved the industry forward. Deborah continues:

Covid has meant hitting the fast-forward button, in terms of a technology driven MICE industry, during the pandemic. We are now fully integrating virtual technology into our daily lives and this transition cannot and will not want to revert back to pre-Covid ways based on cost-savings and efficiencies identified by companies now. The new-normal will be a hybrid version of the MICE industry, where much more takes place online to enhance a face-to-face meeting or event.”

CONFIDENCE

Once events are allowed, it will be great to get back out. Though not everyone will be jumping through the gates of the venues. That will come when sports stadiums and concert venues open. There is going to be a bit of time building back confidence in the market. This is where we need to push to build it. Ideas can come through FAM trips, through ensuring media are reporting about how safe things are, as well as the quality of events. Certifications to ensure cleanliness and Health and Safety in place. We need to talk about best practice and ensure everyone is compliant. Constant training to make sure teams are up to speed. Also communicating with clients that measures are in place.

The Thailand Convention Bureau is pushing on with destination trips just now, the findings of these trips will add to consumer confidence. Any trips I have attended Worldwide have allowed me to experience the destination first hand. Showing media and buyers event safety, technology & innovation as well as the city, will breed confidence in the marker. Lets be allowed to showcase our great country too. Pulling together the whole industry, will allow us to create great practice in events, technology, internet capabilities, safety and more. We can become world leaders, most of what we need is already here.

Presenting all our findings to Chambers of Commerce and Government bodies will show them exactly what we need. This information comes from a collective voice.

This in turn building confidence in the market.

Overall a RESILIENT industry is becoming leaner and more creative. Communication, collaboration and confidence are key to us all getting over our concerns. It is time to rally round together, talk with our competitors and all move forward together.

It is time for action.

Onwards.

Thank you.

Craig McGee.

(With thanks as always to Sabine Edwards for editing and input from Rebecca Ricketts.)

The Meetings Show