‘The gloves are off’: fighting talk from DRPG’s Dale Parmenter

We caught up with Dale Parmenter, CEO of DRPG, as part of our Changing Times series of industry views on the unfolding coronavirus outbreak…

I’ve been through quite a few recessions. They were bad enough, but this is way beyond.

The big thing is not being able to rely on resource, we can’t move resource around. Other recessions we’ve been able to do that.

We started to see jobs postponed and cancelled for most of March. We just got some incentives in at the end of February, from Thailand, Iceland and Northern Italy, funnily enough. They were all tested and found to be fine.

Our next live event isn’t until September. Everything’s been wiped out or moved. We’ve got 310 people working from home. The studio is still open, but our two London offices and global offices are closed. There’s 15 of us in the office, I cooked breakfast for us the other day. It’s a bit weird, but social distancing is quite easy with just 15 of us in such a big office.

The gloves are off

We’ve been communicating a lot with the teams virtually, we need to keep spirits up. We’ve set up a bar out of here for virtual drinks on Fridays, we’re getting stories in from the team, funny clips, coffee mornings, a lot of broadcasting.

What we’ve noticed is the innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit. The gloves are off. Processes are out of the window. You operate how you can operate. It’s amazing, the team spirit. We’ve got 52 virtual meetings we’re working on at the moment, that side is coming to the fore. Some pretty big events are converting to virtual exhibitions, team building, workshops and plenaries. Because of our heritage in video, that has helped us.

The whole industry is going to find that the events side is going to be tough – getting it going again, getting the resource back up and running. In past recessions we sort of knew where we were in the timeline and we had more control. With this, we have no idea where the timeline’s going. How many weeks are we going to be working like this? It’s incredibly difficult to predict, but we need to know when we’re going to start back up.

A new normal

We’re all hoping that in September we can start to get back to normal, but I think this is going to be a bit longer, maybe until 2021. It makes trading very difficult – we’re making it up as we go along. We’ve never seen anything like this before. We’ll keep the teams motivated, working as much as possible and protecting them so that the resource is there when it’s all go again.

We have a new normal – and our industry will need to embrace virtual. We’ve done four or five virtual events a year in the past – we’re now looking at four or five a day. It’s crazy! You’ll never beat face to face as a communications tool, but people are seeing we can do one-hour workshops virtually and also build onto that the sustainability message.

I see a growth in hybrid events. We can have these events in one central place and virtualise it out to the other side of the world. There’s a chance to monetise that – people can log on for a fee.

Working practices will change. I used to jump on a train for client meetings – why do I need to do that any more? We will see a rise in productivity and efficiency, as travelling is not as necessary as it used to be.

If we didn’t have the internet, how would we be doing this? Tech has really come on and we are developing new ways of using it. We’re going to take some learnings from this. We’re hanging in there keeping the team motivated and poised and hopefully we’ll be off out of the starting gate sooner rather than later.

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Read the rest of the series:

Changing Times: Optimism the keyword for TEN6 Creative

Changing Times: ‘When this blows over we’ll have one hell of a party!’

Changing Times: IMEX America ‘full steam ahead,’ says Bauer

Changing Times: We are all in this together, says ABPCO

Changing Times: “I’m four months pregnant and I’ve been let go”

Changing Times: “It’s not just back to normal after this”