By: Rachel Parker, AEV Director
For the first time in months, it’s possible to lift our eyes from the floor and look up at the horizon again. The vaccine rollout underway in the UK is reaching hundreds of thousands of people every day, and this astonishing achievement gives us much cause for optimism. A gradual release of lockdown measures and a return to business is now a plausible reality, and the rate of vaccination means we may be among the first countries in the world to be functionally immune to Covid-19.
We could use a little optimism. Given the carnage that has been wrought on the event industry, it’s understandable that many of us are feeling exhausted, but this is the moment to plan our way out of this. As an association we’ve been collaborating with our sister associations through the Event Industry Alliance (EIA), lobbying the government and informing and advising members. Whilst we’ve met with some success lobbying the government, the real result so far has been made in member communication. AEV and cross-association working groups have grown in size, now that attending digitally is the norm, and have met over 150 times since face to face halted. All three associations have increased the frequency of their member communications, and an increasing number of members are contacting them for advice and guidance. Our industry is now more closely-knit and transparent than it has ever been.
It’s now time to rebuild the industry, mend the supply chains, and set our sights on a full return to events as soon as possible. There are a vast number of factors to address, from building in covid security and testing for the earliest starting events to strengthening attendee confidence that events are safe. The industry has lost a great deal of talent and expertise, and so many businesses have closed their doors, that collaboration and cooperation are essential.
There are obstacles, of course. The international picture for events is still uncertain, which is one of many issues that will be further complicated by Brexit. I know some event industry businesses have already opened European branches to deliver services to the continent, whilst others face uncertain business conditions if they need to take work there. We’re still hammering on the door of the government, and the DCMS in particular, for financial support for the sector to include a government-backed insurance scheme for events which would unlock huge possibilities for restarting events in the UK.
Last year the industry successfully delivered the All-Secure Expo pilot in a feat of peerless organisation and hard work, and we are ready to do that all again. Technology will play a vital part in all this too – the lockdown has ramped up the demand for digital meeting, sharing, and collaboration – and event tech business are going to be busier than ever. Audiences have been changed by this pandemic too, and one positive is perhaps that they are much more accustomed to appearing on video, and have become more technologically literate. The opportunities for innovation will be plentiful.
It may be difficult to see how you can make a difference, but lending your voice to a trade association like ours is a great place to start. Whether it’s advice or guidance you need, or whether you want to contribute to the planning through the working groups, your engagement powers our efforts.
The willingness of the entire community of UK event professionals to openly share ideas, experiences, successes, and failures, has been central to the wider acknowledgement of our sector by the government and other bodies. With this much-improved recognition and communication, the whole industry is in a position to grasp the future of events in a way that wasn’t possible before.
We are completely focused on recovery and we’ve created new working groups including the AEV Venue Reopen Operations Group, to help. Our Technology working group continues to explore the emergence of hybrid solutions, and the Event Industry HR group is finding ways to ‘rescue’ talent, plus some essential work on mental health and wellbeing. Other groups are all directing their energies to how we build back better. We need expertise, ideas, and talent to make this happen on all fronts, so please – you have a voice, now really is the time to use it!