Who knew a virus could teach us so much about ourselves?
We are learning so much about ourselves.
In the last few weeks, everything has changed. Our events are online. Our conference centres are field hospitals. Meeting and travelling are forbidden. The sheer pace of the total up-ending of our industry has been bewildering to witness.
And out of that change have come unforeseen revelations. We are seeing different sides of people. I’ve been speaking to event professionals non-stop – and the range of reaction to the unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus outbreak has been incredible.
Employers are letting people go, but they’re also giving staff paid leave to adjust to the new circumstances. Suppliers are charging for cancelled events, but they’re also stepping in to make sure food from cancelled events can be redistributed to those that need it most. You will have your own stories about the ones that let you down – and the ones that went the extra mile. And you won’t forget who was who.
It’s in the daft things as well. One agency owner I spoke to was laughing about doing Zoom chats with high-powered clients who would usually be suited and booted in the boardroom – and seeing them in their boxer shorts.
We are learning so much. We have taken our entire industry online almost overnight – and we are hosting webinars, panel discussions, entire conferences from our homes. With our children in the next room, doing the Joe Wicks morning workout.
One key message that keeps coming through is about sustainability. The crash-bang-wallop of coronavirus has pole-axed us for the present, but it will be over at some point, we know there is another side. The same cannot be said for climate change, which will happen in slow motion compared to our current crisis – and who knows what the other side of climate change looks like? The memory of now will hopefully reshape a lot of attitudes towards our planet.
We are learning about ourselves – but we also need the rest of the world to learn about us and our £70bn events sector. It’s hard work, but we have to keep banging that drum. The public knows ExCeL London is a hospital – we need to remind them what it was designed to be used as – and the massive benefits the events it holds bring to the UK. Events will help kickstart the economy in the second half of this year – we need to make sure the government gives us the recognition we deserve.
When we plan our future events – and we will plan events again, I promise! – we must not forget what it feels like to be an event professional right now. The anxiety – and the community. We are hurting, but we are here for each other. We may be apart now, but we are all a part of something much bigger.
We are learning so much about ourselves – and we will learn so much more before this is over. Let’s make sure we learn together.