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Corporate confidence – how and when will it return?

Regaining corporate confidence in live events is essential for both the events industry and the wider economy, as TAG’s event director, Sam Robson explains… 

The live events tap was suddenly and firmly turned off in March last year and, whilst the appetite for face to face communication is gaining momentum, it’s clear the process of rebuilding the belief, value and safety of events is a longer‐term project.

But, as event managers, we love a project and are eager to design and implement our recovery plan.

In my plan, there are six crucial elements to generate the return of corporate events and make our clients feel confident once again.

Firstly, the UK Government will release a plan for the reopening of the economy shortly and the new APPG for Events and DCMS with the support of BVEP will, I hope, ensure there is a clear roadmap with detailed guidelines for our industry. We need clarity on the stages to reopen meetings, exhibitions, festivals, theatres as well as complex events, with many components including dining. The announcement of the G7 in Cornwall in June and COP26 in Glasgow in November shows the Government seems to be prepared to lead the way.

Secondly, the rollout of the vaccine and use of rapid testing for exhibitions, flights and events will create a more positive outlook for society and, I hope, fuel demand for face-to-face business contact. Government-backed quicker tests, which pick up the virus earlier, would help to make testing on arrival an event lifesaver. Longer-term, vaccination certificates may become an essential travel item for international travel.

The next step is restarting the test event programme to demonstrate and showcase our expertise in designing and delivering safe and secure events, which will produce evidence and procedures to support corporate planners. Recovery will be in small steps and our industry needs to be ready for smaller numbers, local, hybrid and exhibition style models, mobile product roadshows and UK incentives to restore the ROI and positive impact generated by events. Some bold early adopters to lead the way would help, but only when the time is right. The corporate events industry can demonstrate our ability to set and follow procedures to control attendance and socially distance more easily than hospitality or concerts. Event professionals need to lead by example too in supporting the UK, European and rest of the world industry events such as IMEX and The Meetings Space.

Hotels, venues, DMCs and suppliers can support the confidence journey by offering genuine contract flexibility, detailed Covid protocols and standardisation across the industry. Hilton EventReady leads the way in hotel standards and, having sampled it several times, I believe this type of initiative will help drive decision making towards live events. The Meeting Industry Association’s government approved guidance and other schemes for larger and outside events will, ultimately, help and support us all. Our industry has been decimated by the loss of many talented staff to other jobs and we can work together to create new opportunities for their return.

Penultimately, the landscape of the events has changed forever. Virtual and hybrid are here to stay, sustainability is more important than ever and the long‐term appetite for global business travel may be in decline. We need to embrace, adapt and lead the way once again. Fortunately, we’ve spent the last year diversifying and learning new skills, so are well placed to do it again.

And finally, we need to demonstrate the added benefits event companies can bring to the table to design and deliver both secure and appealing events to encourage corporates to see an experienced agency as integral to their event programme. There is a real opportunity for event agencies to lead clients through the Covid maze to the ultimate goal of safe, creative, engaging and diverse live events.

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Sam Robson heads up the events team and delivery across TAG’s global offices. With a background in PR and marketing, Sam moved into the incentive, conference and live communications industry more than 15 years ago and shares her expertise as an M&IT Expert on the subject of personal development and training.

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