Stay positive eventprofs! It’s not dawn yet, but it’s getting there

With the news that almost all of England is facing tough virus rules when the national lockdown ends, event professionals would be forgiven for feeling pretty bleak right now.

The whole of mainland England apart from Cornwall is set to be placed under Tier 2 or Tier 3 restrictions from Wednesday 2 December.

Vast swathes of the North and Midlands will be under the strictest Tier 3 measures, under which business events are not allowed to take place. London, Liverpool and Brighton are among the cities in Tier 2, where events are still able to take place, but venues are limited to either 50 per cent capacity or 1,000 indoors, whichever is lower, and subject to social distancing.

In reality, I suspect this will have little effect for meeting planners. Few organisers will have had much, if anything, in the way of live meetings and events booked in the next month. And everyone knows the importance of protecting public health and stopping the spread of the virus, no matter how desperate we may be to get back to live events.

Paul Thandi, CEO of Birmingham’s NEC Group, hit the nail on the head when he said: “It is vital that we continue to take the necessary precautions and adopt government guidance in order to beat this virus. Whilst the NEC Group venues will be unable to operate under the latest restrictions, it is pleasing to see that nationally, the road to reopening our industry is beginning.”

And this is the thing. The road to reopening is in sight. The news about Covid-19 vaccines means we can start planning for 2021 – and many planners are, judging by the immediate increase in meetings confirmations and bookings that accompanied the vaccine announcements.

Etc.venues reported a noticeable increase in bookings for meetings and events for both its UK and New York venues.

Adam Simpson, director of marketing and US sales, said: “The organisers of several major events provisionally booked for Q2 and Q3 2021 confirmed them while at the same time there was an influx of new enquiries and bookings for Q1 onwards.

“This clearly demonstrates that, given a reason to be more confident, event planners are ready to return to running live and hybrid events as soon as they feel safe to do so. It’s very encouraging.”

Meanwhile, Michael Begley, MD of reported a 29 per cent increase in bookings.

He said: “After a four week decline, we saw a 29 per cent increase in bookings for conferences and meetings in the week immediately after the positive news about a vaccine.”

In my own snap poll on LinkedIn, 82 per cent of respondents said they were more likely to book a meeting or event in the next six months because of the news about a vaccine.

Although we do not know yet when the vaccine will be rolled out, I am confident that it will be sooner rather than later. And while the vaccine is just the first stage of the road to recovery, at least then we will be on the road.

At the moment, everything is in place for the return of meetings and events. We have the secure standards, we have the green light from government, we have a set of rules we know we have to abide by.

But we also have to make it through the next month, with stricter lockdown, shorter days, colder weather and a muted, low-key Christmas.

It’s a hackneyed old saying that the darkest hour is just before the dawn. But sometimes the clichés are true.

Everything points to the New Year providing us with an entirely different landscape to what we are looking at now. So for the next month, it’s time to hang in there and keep positive. We can do it.