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Stay safe and feel safe with our COVID secure standards. Read More

The meetings and events industry has now been given a clear pathway back to doing what we do best. Now it’s incumbent on us, and our own ‘March-on-March’ campaign, to look at what meetings and events will look like as we all get back to the (relative) normality of organising and hosting business events.

 

To do this we need to take a step back and look at re-organising ourselves as the responsible and ethical industry we have rightly won plaudits for in the past.

Historically, if we were to characterise the key motivations for booking events, and venues, in the past, it would go a little like this; Price, Location, Accessibility. These three would be the consistent leading motivations with the first, second and third placings rotating dependent on either economic factors or the supply and demand equilibrium of the industry.

Over recent years, health and safety has risen up this list but, until the pandemic, not broken it. Before Covid-19, there was a growing need for organisers to look after their delegates in a more managed way; global security threats and even environmental disasters did raise this is as an issue and corporates, living in an increasingly litigious world, needed to have a closer eye on who was looking after their staff, and how well they were doing this.

The pandemic has blown this into a whole new area and we’re now looking at an industry that is all about safety first and foremost. Budget will also be a major factor as we go through the year and with the economy looking to get back on its feet over the next 36 months. But its safety first, at least for the very immediate future.

But health, safety and responsibility is not as simple in a post-pandemic world, and how we handle this changing landscape will say a lot about how we, as an industry, are able to #BuildbackBetter.

So, how to manage this? As ever, the question of responsibility comes up. Whose responsibility is it to look after delegates health; the organiser, the corporate client, the venue? How can we, as a venue group, both support our customers and mitigate this liability, offering more confidence to both the delegate themselves and those that employ them and have them in their care.

For us, it’s simple. As a brand, we’re taking on as much responsibility as possible. The reality is that, while people are in our venues, we need to look after them, and we understand how to do that more than anyone. Our venues have stringent risk assessments, safety protocols and standard operational procedures that are designed with the sole purpose of keeping people safe as well as entertained. It’s a duty our venues are happy to take on, and one that we’re capable of honouring.

However, when it comes to viruses, things are very different. In the same way as we cannot mitigate against someone catching a cold, it is incredibly difficult to promise a delegate 100% security from all viruses. We can do everything possible to sanitize, clean and distance people, but healthcare professionals are preparing us for the fact that viruses are now a part of daily life, and we’ll always be one step behind. So, does this mean we can’t have our meetings and events? Let’s hope not and try and reimagine something a little more realistic.

Maybe now is the time to pass some of the risk back to the delegates themselves. Maybe now is the time to trust the people we work with, and welcome to our meetings, to make the best decisions for them and those around them. This can be done collaboratively. Lime Venue Portfolio have already developed resources that inform both delegates and organisers of the protocols in place and what is required of them. In many of our venues we’re even asking them to sign a charter that commits them to follow certain behaviours. With this comes empowerment and trust. It also means open lines of communication that everyone commits to.

If any delegate feels they shouldn’t or cannot attend a meeting, that is fine. There is nothing wrong with that; the hybrid technologies that we, and many other venue groups like us, have invested in mean that delegates can still access content from their homes, offices or home offices. This could be the end of #FOMO, and the beginning of events with freedom for delegates to choose. We just need to put that choice in their hands.

It’s risky business we know. That litigious world we referenced above, it still exists and corporates are under extreme pressure to protect their staff, not just in their place of work, but as they travel on business, to conferences, even their journeys to their place of work are considered. It’s something they take seriously and rightly so. However, in the face of something as all-encompassing as this pandemic, it’s important that we are humble, but also realistic in terms of what we can promise, as well as expect, from our delegations.

We need to be responsible enough to admit what we can and cannot promise, and to then look at ways of addressing the gaps there will be.

As an industry we also need to be confident in what we do. Just because the equations around risk have changed, it doesn’t mean that every corporate will no longer want to host a meeting. Business events are critical for companies; from training to incentive, they need them. If not, business will be facing a different sort of risk. Can they continue to operate a company without any face-to-face interaction?