On Wednesday 1st and Thursday 2nd September 2021, hundreds of eventprofs descended on ExCeL London for this year's much-anticipated International Confex. Over 150 exhibitors took to the show floor, whilst 5 stages delivered fascinating content with some of our industry's most knowledgeable speakers.
This year, Hire Space partnered with International Confex to host the Let's Do London stage, delivering 9 sessions over 2 days on the most important topics in the industry right now. Below, we've laid out the key themes and takeaways we picked up across the sessions that took place.
Key Themes and Takeaways
1. Setting effective diversity and inclusion policies
2. Boundaries are essential to avoid burnout
3. Culture is the heart of London
4. Planners must be open and honest
5. The great industry shift
6. Sustainability must be taken more seriously
7. Starting a business during lockdown isn't easy!
8. Less is more when it comes to hybrid
9. Transparency drives better data
Setting effective diversity and inclusion policies
The most important thing for companies when setting D&I policies is that they need to truly commit to making changes: once you've committed to diversity and inclusion, this makes it achievable. Here are some top tips:
- Don’t try and take everything on. Set yourself or your organisation some goals in key areas, set benchmarks and work really hard to achieve those goals. You could also make a list of small things that you could do and work through them one by one. For example, for this panel session, Diversity Ally provided a sign language interpreter. A small gesture, but one that means a lot and can go a long way.
- Take the working lifespan of your employees into consideration and think about how you can support this process, i.e their journey from interview, to onboarding, to training, to promotions, to moving on.
- Start inside your business and discover where your company is at in terms of inclusivity and education. Then, look at where the industry is at and use this as a benchmark.
- Be bold, and ask for help! Look at other companies and use their diversity and inclusion policies to help shape your own.
- Learn to have uncomfortable conversations, and prioritise educating your employees on diversity and inclusion.
- Most of all, celebrate what you’ve achieved!
Resources: Diversity Ally
Boundaries are essential to avoid burnout
More than 46% of employed people feel more stressed than before the pandemic, with 1 in 5 feeling like they aren't able to manage that stress. This inevitably leads to burnout, which is a huge issue within the events industry.
Three commandments to manage burnout are:
- Practice boundaries without guilt. Create your own boundaries to enable you to manage workloads and stress, and don't feel guilty about it.
- Practice empathy for other peoples' boundaries. Workplace culture needs to normalise people taking time away from work, and employers and employees must respect individual preferences on what works best for different people in managing stress. Be human and check in on others!
- Encourage a healthy culture of communication. Effective communication of these boundaries is the only way they will work for you and the wider team.
Resources: Mind, Mental Health UK, Sanctus, and this Forbes article on talking to your boss about burnout
"Reframe your mindset so you think about what it is you’re saying yes to, rather than what you’re saying no to.” - Rhiannon Kirk, Senior Sales Manager, Delaware North UK, on managing guilt over choosing engagements or commitments over work, or indeed over each other.
Culture is the heart of London
The Let's Do London campaign was created by London & Partners to instil confidence in Londoners and tourists. Working with Transport For London, the campaign promotes safe travel to work, hospitality establishments and cultural offerings.
Aside from transport, across the city areas have been pedestrianised, pavements have been widened and cultural offerings such as theatrical performances, concerts and even art galleries have been brought outside to the streets and green spaces to encourage people to enjoy culture without needing to go inside. For example, the National Gallery partnered with the National Portrait Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts during lockdown to unveil an augmented reality experience, where visitors could follow a QR code trail to see art brought to life.
The focus on London's many cultural offerings will continue to be a driving force in helping Londoners and visitors to enjoy our capital again.
Planners must be open and honest
Expectations of events have changed massively, as have expectations of planners. Whilst we are generally seeing more flexibility and leeway towards planners coming out of the pandemic, the responsibility of setting expectations is on the planners themselves. Some key skills to be able to do this include:
- Communication. Have open and honest conversations with your team, venue, clients and stakeholders about expectations and make sure everyone is on the same page. Make sure to put everything into writing, explaining exactly what you mean, and have regular touch-points to ensure consistency and clarity at every stage.
- Being able to say no, or at least admitting when you're unsure. There's nothing more valuable than your network, so ask questions, read, learn and have the courage to admit when you're unsure on something. Focus more on what you can do, and do it really well, than on what you can't do.
- Contingency planning. Having a plan B (and knowing how to implement it!) is an essential element of event planning, now more than ever. Often, the virtual element of a hybrid event is the insurance policy, so ensure your knowledge of your tech is watertight. Check out our guide to contingency planning to see what this might look like.
The great industry shift
The events industry has been undeniably transformed in the last 18 months. Key lasting impacts include:
- The way we approach content has shifted. Due to the switch to virtual, attention spans are shorter and attendees are more demanding about the content they are willing to engage with. This means we need to continuously improve our content and how we deliver it.
- Compassion. People are being so much kinder to each other, we have forged more solidarity with one another and we have had to think of ourselves as humans first, event planners second. It's nice to be nice!
- We have recently observed 'The Great Resignation' because people have higher expectations in their roles now. They are looking for the flexibility of remote working among other things, but more importantly happiness in their careers, rather than just a high salary. This puts pressure on employers to improve their organisations in order to retain talent.
Sustainability must be taken more seriously
Whilst we are making great strides in the events industry to be more sustainable, we still have a long way to go. Many venues have implemented lots of great sustainability measures all across the board, from installing solar panels to using recycled flooring, but this must carry across the whole industry: there is little point in implementing all these measures if your suppliers don't deliver on them or try to make themselves greener too. There is so much we can do, so we must start small and focus on making a real difference to try and make our industry more environmentally-friendly.
We've written up all the top tips for venues from this session in a separate piece, so check it out and put them into practice at your own venues!
“For venues, if you’re not sure where to start, start with your staff. Make sure you’re empowering the people in your team to make the decisions that matter.” - Kate Simpson, Business Design Centre
Starting a business during a pandemic isn't easy!
Redundancy and furlough during the pandemic were a key driving factor for inspiring many eventprofs to launch their own businesses. Here are some top tips on how to launch your own business, in whatever form that may be:
- Find your niche. Use your past experience from your background and different roles you've had and harness this to address that niche, as this will give you an edge. Have the confidence to just go for it; you don't know what you can do until you try.
- Know your audience. Market research is key here. Clearly identify and understand your audience, what they need and how you can offer them something unique & valuable to them.
- Networking is everything. Meeting new people and spreading the word about your work will open up opportunities for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and surround yourself with a supportive network.
- Stay positive and look after yourself. There will be tough days, so try to stay positive and carry on. Equally, recognise when you need some time to yourself and allow yourself time away from your laptop without feeling guilty.
Less is more when it comes to hybrid
With the plethora of new technology all around us, it's common for event planners to try and take on too much for their hybrid events and end up hindering themselves. We need to keep it simple; focus on the content and how we can best deliver it to our audiences.
Similarly, when it comes to virtual networking, we shouldn't try to replicate the face-to-face experience, but instead utilise simple tech in a productive way to create a different, but still valuable, experience for these attendees. For example, a simple platform with a live polling or chat feature, such as Arena, will be really effective at bringing people together and won't break the bank or be too difficult for you as an organiser to use.
It's all about getting creative to provide work-arounds to issues, and keeping it simple so we can do it well. By all means, take advantage of the new tech we have at our fingertips, but keep the format simple and accessible.
Transparency drives better data
Data can be extremely useful when used efficiently. There are some key ways that the industry can be more transparent in order to make the booking process easier with data. These include:
- Analysing market segments and re-building data profiles. Data from last year is meaningless now, so instead focus on data from more recently, use this to shape the future, and create a richer data set from the very start in order to be able to predict and forecast better than ever.
- Encouraging venues to be more transparent with venue hire prices. This would also help build trust with organisers and demonstrate that venues are working for their benefit.
- Encouraging venues to adopt a more human approach. By giving venue staff more training, you can help them understand how best to deal with enquiries and data, and subsequently understand better the needs of the client.
- Similarly, providing training for corporate organisations in terms of their expectations of event planners could be really useful. For example, helping corporates to understand what they can get for their desired budget would make the planning process much smoother and avoid awkward miscommunication.
- Fostering openness from both sides. Ultimately, we're all working towards a common goal, so help each other work together and always go back to the data.
We hope you find these key themes and takeaways useful! We had a great time at Confex catching up with industry peers and listening to some fantastic content across the two days, and left feeling confident and reassured about where the industry is currently at.
If reading about Confex has inspired you to start planning your own events, get in touch below - we can't wait to hear from you!
Izzie brings a deep understanding of the events world to Hire Space, and keeps busy by writing lots of Hire Space and EventLAB content and managing the Hire Space social media presence.