Think back to New Year’s Eve 2019 as the clocks struck 12, champagne was popped and you mulled with your friends and family about what 2020 and this new decade might have in store for us. Well, I am guessing that not a single person on earth would have thought that just a few months later life would look anything like it does now.
One of the major impacts on our lives is that of ‘social distancing’ – the idea that you need to keep at least 2m away from another person that you do not live with in order to reduce the risk of the virus spreading between people. Good advice but as a company who exists to bring large groups of people to close proximity of each other, it puts a bit of a downer on our business and on our industry as a whole.
So, what does the future hold?
The events industry covers a wide range of gatherings, from corporate conferences to weddings to sporting events and festivals. Each type of event looked very different before the lockdown so each type of event will also look very different after the lockdown and what works to keep people safe in our ‘new normal’ will also vary between them.
As we work across a wide range of events, I receive a number of industry newsletters from publications and websites all of which contain a number of interesting articles, advice and information to keep event planners like me entertained during our enforced ‘quiet time’.
I do not think I have received a newsletter in the last 2 weeks which did not include an article about ‘the future of the events industry’. I have read some of them, eager like the rest of the country to soak up any new information about when our lives may get a bit easier.
What are the options?
Some of the wedding newsletters talked about ‘Minimoneys’ or ‘Cereminis’ followed by a Zoom party. Although I obviously love an awkwardly crow-bared play on words, I think that the ‘experts’ who suggest this may not have actually ever been to a wedding or have a good understanding about the reason people want to get married. Some have talked about utilising outdoor wedding venues (see our other blog post about the pros and cons of this) to increase the space within a venue and spread guests further apart although unless everyone is wearing a Tudor-style hooped skirt farthingale I am not sure how this would work on the dance floor or at the bar plus food service would be an interesting experience.
Some of the corporate newsletters talked about putting chairs further apart in the plenary room and reducing capacity although I am not sure how that would work in the coffee breaks, self-serve buffet or shared toileting facilities. Some have talked about everyone wearing masks although I am not sure how the AV guys would cope with miking up the speakers. Some have talked about banning handshakes which we actually introduced at the last event we delivered just a couple of weeks before the full lockdown and we laughed about how ridiculous it all seemed.
What do I think?
I would like to start this section by explaining that I am not an epidemiology expert in my spare time. Nor am I any kind of medical professional. I also do not have a hotline to the Prime Minister, or any members of the Cabinet, who can feed me information about what their plans are before the announce them to the pack of journalists at the daily briefings who are constantly asking when the restrictions will be released like children in a car asking if we are nearly there. Finally, I am not psychic, I have no crystal ball or magic wand (despite what some of my clients think) or portal to the future to see what is going to happen.
With that in mind, I would like to propose that no one knows what the future of events look like. They have no started happening on any kind of reasonable scale anywhere in the post Covid-19 world. We do not know how things will develop, what the government responses will be to that and how it will affect all aspects of our lives including events.
What I do know is this…
As organisers, it is our job to have plans A through to Z whirring away in our mind at all times, so this just adds an extra level. We may need to ask suppliers to be more flexible on their terms, we may need to reassure our clients a little more and we may need to put things in place at short notice depending on what the guidelines are saying at the time but that is not insurmountable.
One thing this lockdown has taught us is that people want to meet in person. They want to gather together and share stories and drinks, meet new people, have face to face conversations. Events will happen again and when they do, they’re going to be epic.