To Go Live or Not To Go Live?
How do you make decisions in times of such uncertainty?
On Thursday 8th October, Martin Fullard, Editorial Director, Mash Media chaired an incredibly important and insightful discussion with Raphael Sofoluke, CEO and Founder, UK Black Business Show; Michael Seaman, CEO, Racoon Events and Peter Jones, CEO, Nineteen Events as they discussed the possibility of another year of virtual events, how to lead their teams in times of such uncertainty, how to keep motivated and focused, along with having important and practical conversations with both venues and suppliers.
Since the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, uncertainty has dominated our lives. It is incredibly difficult to plan and make decisions on the return of live events as we do not know the restrictions and impacts we will be faced with today or tomorrow, let alone in five or six months time. Making these decisions is incredibly difficult yet, the event industry as a whole has worked exceptionally hard to adapt to these uncertain times and changing guidelines to be ready for the day that live events can happen safely.
The overriding message was placed on the importance of building strong relationships and clear communication between one another in the events industry - specifically between event organisers and suppliers. It is vitally important to ‘stay close’ to both your customers and clients, to keep everyone on board for when live events are ready to return. The need to strictly follow the government guidelines was reinforced along with working together with organisations, associations and networking groups to come out the other side stronger, and as one.
Raphael demonstrated the importance of clear communication, support and building interpersonal relationships by ringing every exhibitor and supplier to explain the need to postpone the UK Black Business Show. This was done in advance of the official postponement, and exhibitors were asked if they were happy to move their current package to 2021. This clearly led to the positive development of the client relationship along with gaining their utmost respect by keeping them informed of decisions made. In addition, speaking to the venue partners and sponsors is vitally important to make sure when the time is right, live events will be able to happen as these events cannot happen without them. All three panellists demonstrated the need to work harder than before to allow for increased collaboration, sharing of information and best practise with all clients and customers, to support one another during these uncertain times to make sure everyone is ‘on side’ so, when live events can happen, they are a great success.
Mike publicised that right now there is a need to make informed slower decisions as at present it is not the time to be ‘making rash decisions’. He spoke on the importance of remaining calm in stressful times such as these, as both the live events industry and market need to be protected whilst individuals need to be ‘bold and innovative’ as we adapt through this recession. Mike also demonstrated the importance of building client, exhibitor and attendee confidence through different approaches, including acts of goodwill he took during lockdown, for example: refunds and transfers, placing indirect COVID clauses into contracts, the digital running show, and a zoom indoor relay which have since provided commercial opportunities.
The discussion also explored the possibility of having hybrid events in the future and/or an increased reliance on the use of technology and digital integration into live events to allow those who are unable to attend in person to do so. Raphael believes the digital integration in the future will provide a revenue split of 70:30 live events and digital respectively. There is a clear aspiration to have face to face events yet, it is vitally important to keep the conversation going and everyone connected in the meantime, to continue to build relationships between one another.
The one thing which has remained clear during this time of uncertainty is the huge demand for individuals to attend live events. The event itself clearly needs to be both safe and add value for all of those involved. Lastly, but not least important, holding the event must be morally the right thing to do in regard to safety and faith of the clients. Raphael was faced with the decision of whether to hold the UK Black Business Show on the 10th October. This event during Black History Month has seen increased engagement and support in line with the Black Lives Matter Movement. However, he was faced with the moral decision knowing that research has shown Black individuals are more at risk of COVID than other individuals.
This is clearly an incredibly difficult time for everyone but specifically the live events industry. Live events will come back and they will come back stronger, if those involved focus on building strong relationships with one another along with clear lines of communication. It is vital to prepare for the worst, yet it remains equally important to prepare your strategy for the return of live events, as all three panellists believe they will come back faster than you think.