As Covid restrictions across the UK slowly begin to ease, we are witnessing an increase in venue enquiries from many clients keen to return to holding live meetings and events as soon as possible with contracts for smaller events from early May.
While this is encouraging to see, our industry’s challenges are far from over as there is much work to be done in terms of rebuilding client confidence around the contracting of hotels and venues and the realities of returning to live events.
We have been collaborating with our clients throughout the pandemic advising on their ever-evolving event policies. From recent experience, I would like to share three key trends which will affect the venue sourcing and event planning landscape as live events return.
The Race for Availability
Pent-up demand, coupled with a year of event postponements, is going to have an immense effect on venue availability.
With the timeline for the return of international travel still uncertain, the increased demand within the staycation market in the UK this summer will undoubtedly impact availability further for corporates desperate to start holding domestic face to face meetings and events from 21 June.
Our hotel partners have shared with us that they are - understandably - having to prioritise previously postponed events that have accumulated over the past year. Therefore there is limited space for new events to be added in 2021 but more so in 2022, which is when most larger events have currently been placed.
Therefore, clients planning a large-scale conference or event within the next 18-24 months may wish to consider moving forward swiftly in order to ensure a good choice of venues and date options.
While we envisage a long road ahead, we could be pleasantly surprised by the speed in which the market recovers as it gathers momentum, particularly within the domestic market - subject to there being no further waves or new strains, of course.
Given these pressing demands on availability and the possibility of a more rapid recovery than anticipated, we
are advising clients that they need to plan as far in advance as possible. This is not only to ensure first or second choice of venue but also to ensure that the most favourable terms are achieved.
The New Fit for Purpose
For all events, be they hybrid or fully live, a venue must be ‘fit’ to run a Covid-secure event. From the outset we need to be fully aware of the latest legal requirements and guidance on what needs to be in place and how this impacts the venue and location chosen, within the parameters of the client’s specific objectives.
Considering the delegate journey within the context of a Covid-secure event is going to be paramount when finding a suitable venue. This will include, but not be limited to, considerations around delegate movement, catering and ventilation.
Hotels and venues have worked tirelessly during this time to make their facilities fully compliant and as safe as possible for guests; however, every event is unique and as such an individual risk assessment has never been more important. What is becoming increasingly important is that the process of doing a risk assessment starts from the beginning of the event journey and therefore helps inform the venue sourcing process.
The demand for hybrid events will also expand the definition of ‘fit for purpose’ as far as event venues are concerned, because the purpose has changed. It is no longer only to service the people that are physically in the room. An audience could be on-site, in the next town, or halfway across the world, and venues need to act as a hub for bringing people together wherever they are.
Hybrid events can also bring dual live audiences in separate venues together. One of our clients is planning an
event that will involve two venue buy-outs in different locations in the UK to keep the group size to an agreed number that the company is comfortable with from a safety standpoint.
The dual venue event will also ensure that the event achieves the exclusive retreat feel they would like for this executive level group, while using technology to bridge the gap and deliver a seamless and interactive experience throughout the programme between not only the two locations but also other offices/colleagues and possibly further similar sized groups at venues across the world.
Sourcing the right venue for these types of hybrid events is a completely different process to venue sourcing for a pure face-to-face event. Location and cost will of course remain key factors, but technical infrastructure, AV support and superfast internet speeds are now also considered to be top priorities.
Moving forward, the expectation is that clients will have increasingly complex requirements, and hotels and venues will need to find ways to adapt their event spaces to facilitate the highly technical aspects involved with hybrid event production.
Our value to clients over the past year has been starkly evident as we have renegotiated venue contracts on their
behalf due to multiple and often repeat postponements of the same event, resulting in considerable savings and
cost avoidance in the process.
Although enquiries have increased, the focus is now on facilitating clients in terms of moving to contract stage.
Understandably many of our clients have anxieties around formally committing and signing contracts due to the perceived potential financial liability should the event not be able to take place as a result of further pandemic-related restrictions.
Reassuringly, many hotels and venues are offering flexibility in their terms and conditions as we move into a post-pandemic environment, which should encourage clients to start planning with more confidence than fear of the financial implications.
Attrition has never been more important than when it comes to events with attendees from multiple countries; as organisers we may be faced with certain countries not being able to travel and attend due to restrictions in their home country.
We remain committed to working collaboratively with hotels and venues in order to offer clients assurances that there will be flexibility to cancel, reduce numbers or postpone their events should they be forced to do so.
We also understand the precarious position that many venues find themselves in and remain committed to supporting these longstanding partners in rebuilding their business and ensuring a return to a robust pipeline of future corporate events.
M&IT Expert: Caroline Lumgair Wiseman
With two decades of experience as founder of Eventful, a global venue sourcing and event management agency, Caroline Lumgair Wiseman is a respected leader in the events industry.
Recognising the importance of working collaboratively with both clients and suppliers, Eventful has maintained a loyal client base and an excellent reputation within the industry.
Eventful was acquired by Aeorema Communications Plc in March 2020 and Caroline remains as managing director of the agency which now offers a broader spectrum of strategic communications and event solutions in collaboration with its award-winning sister agency Cheerful Twentyfirst.