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Safer Events

The Impact of “Freedom Day”: Discussion with Safer Events Consultation Group

The Safer Events Consultation Group comprises 35 senior event planners at corporates across the UK. The group helped to shape the Safer Events - A Framework for Action white paper - followed by 3000+ events business as a practical blueprint for the return of live events - and continues to advise on post-pandemic event design for the Safer Events initiative.

The objective of this call was to establish how event planners were interpreting government guidelines since “Freedom Day” on 19th July, and the impact it was having on their own event programs.

Findings below summarise the call itself, held on 21st July, and individual conversations held with group members in the week beginning 19th July.

For a summary of current government guidelines, see the So, Can We Hold Events Now blog post.

Key Findings

In-person Events

  • c. 40% of businesses have in-person events booked in 2021.
  • Things looking much more positive than 3 months ago. Although clearly, national and global coronavirus events and news coverage have a significant impact on corporate confidence in booking in-person events. The rising infection rate after 19th July didn't help.
  • There is a divergence of approach in how companies review their events policy, with some large corporates reviewing restrictions on a weekly basis, and others enforcing blanket bans until 2022.
  • Uncertainty has seen planning for 2022 event programs delayed. Ordinarily many venues and suppliers for H2 2022 will already have been booked by now, but this year a number of companies are delaying forward planning until Q4 2021.
  • Additionally, many are postponing event format decisions to as late as possible. This was typically 12-6 weeks out, depending on the event. There's limited incentive for anyone to 100% commit to anything further in advance. Too many companies have been burnt by previous event decisions on event format.
  • Uncertainty remains over how to interpret government guidelines, especially concerning on-site testing and Covid-19 certification. Nearly all businesses planning in-person events intend to conduct some form or testing or certification on site. That said, there remains a sense that penalising those not yet vaccinated - either for practical or personal reasons - is problematic. More guidance required from gov on this.
  • A feeling from many that social distancing will be impractical in many settings, even if introduced as a way to assuage attendee concerns
  • Further uncertainty exists around self-isolation (the “pingdemic” effect) and the impact on event attendance. Guests may be reluctant to attend if potential exposure to Covid-19 may impact their ability to attend important near-future events (weddings, visiting family, work commitments). Additionally, there is concern around contingency planning for the cases where numerous staff are forced to isolate on the event day. What do you do if 20% of the staff go down?
  • The networking element of in-person events prompts caution, particularly where alcohol is concerned. No consensus on how much alcohol is the right amount.
  • Awards Ceremonies were identified as particularly difficult to navigate currently. Clearer clarification on this from the government is required. Planners hedging bets and and “half planning” contingency virtual events in the background, but feel that they are too overworked to do this properly.
  • Frequently changing travel guidance makes planning international events extremely challenging. Virtual first for these, generally.

Virtual events

  • Virtual events will continue to play a significant role in the majority of events programs in 2022.
  • A limited number of companies have a fixed exclusive virtual provider. More frequently, the technology chosen depends on the specific event requirements, and on client profile and preference. Staying up to date with new technology is challenging - there is lots of it.
  • Event managers have had to throw out the rule book and become event producers. Internal processes have become more difficult due to this, as planners must navigate and communicate with different company departments, all of which have different understandings. For example, legal departments have a final say on what can go ahead, and there is still difficulty around finalising Ts&Cs.

Hybrid events

  • The only way to make highly impactful hybrid events work was to allocate two event budgets (one for virtual one for in-person) for it, and it is unproven that this would give a sustainable ROI. The consensus is that a compromise is needed here.

Planning Christmas

  • A very small percentage of companies have plans for Christmas in 2021. In-person events are preferred, but virtual events remain a real possibility.
  • The only companies 100% sure of their plans were those doing virtual.
  • A number of companies have rolled over 2020’s booked venue to 2021, which they will be reviewing closer to the time.
  • Christmas parties are unlikely to be a priority for many, with other Covid-19 and business related stresses for Q3 and Q4.
  • Some companies will be hosting their Christmas parties at the beginning of December, to limit the impact of potential self-isolation over the holidays.

Communication with venues

  • Some venues have not yet updated terms and conditions to reflect the new guidance, which makes planning harder.
  • Flexibility on cancellation terms is widely appreciated. Most venues have been accommodating.
  • Location is currently key, with attendees less inclined to use public transport. Venues should clearly communicate logistics around travelling to the venue, and provide options such as car parking and cycle storage if possible
  • Venues used to be able to ask attendees to abide by Covid-19 restrictions, but it will be harder now that they have been lifted. That notwithstanding, assertiveness and clear communication from venues on their own policy is valued.
  • Venues need to be able to answer questions on hybrid. Have the right relationships in place if you don't have the capability and technology in house.

Next Steps

The Safer Events consultation will meet again in a months’ time, and a summary will appear on this blog. To receive updates in real time, follow us on social media through the links below. If you need a helping hand planning virtual, in-person or hybrid events, check out our full-service offering, Hire Space 360.





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Catie Owen

From gala dinners to virtual conferences, Catie uses her experience in the hospitality sector and love for writing to highlight the world’s most outstanding venues and virtual events.

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