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BETTER DAYS FOR THE EVENT INDUSTRY?

With a healthy dose of anxiety, the world sits mostly in lockdown, observing the latest developments and threats associated with COVID-19. We all face a very serious and unprecedented challenge, which in business terms has affected almost all industries, including the events industry. As a member of the meetings industry, we face an increasingly unpredictable future as we fight through complicated scenarios of what it means to organize events in such a global epidemic. How do we best juggle crisis mode decisions across multiple considerations such as postponing or cancelling events, changing legal conditions and restrictions, re-planning events at the last minute, meeting new health requirements, changing staffing requirements, managing financial outcomes, the list goes on. As regulations continue to fluctuate and we float in and out of different force majeure or contract situations, we must remain extremely vigilant to act in the best interest of so many parties involved. There is a real irony to how the event industry manages to continue to organize mass gatherings around the world, whilst many are working alone from home, separated from our colleagues and office normality. The situation could easily be compared to the worst nightmare for any event management company, but determination keeps us moving forward.

One example of these challenges is exemplified with one of our larger conferences, the 59th Annual Conference of the Particle Therapy Co-operative Group (PTCOG 59). The conference was planned to be held in Taiwan in May 2020, for over 1,200 people. Especially for an international conference in the current pandemic situation, a major part of the challenge has been to consider not only the situation in the conference destination but also the different regions around the world from which key participants travel to be involved. The pandemic is not being managed on a global basis and as individual nations implement changing laws and restrictions, each have their own effect on the conference success. It becomes a fine line between managing participant health and safety, against moving forward with the best opportunity to complete a successful meeting. In order to prevent event cancellation in 2020, we postponed to a later date in September.

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However, changing the date of such a large-scale event is much easier said than done. There are many factors to consider to successfully move an event back by four months whilst keeping hold of original plans, program and objectives. Even when dates became available and all required venues, suppliers, speakers, social events, hotels and all contracted conditions magically aligned, we then found out that 2 key sponsors simply couldn’t attend. We were forced to go back to the drawing board and repeat the process in full once again. With the dedication of many and negotiations with other events, PTCOG 59 was successfully postponed to September 2020 in its original destination and venues.

Now the dust is settling on a manic couple of months seeing spring and summer events postponed or cancelled, as an industry, we now face a new set of challenges due to increased Autumn demand. If indeed the situation improves and approximately 80% of the year’s events are forced into one autumn season, this requires a new level of planning and logistics. We must ensure the same level of quality is realized at each event whilst best reassigning our labour force across many overlapping events in multiple countries. It also brings new competition for organizers as likeminded events now land in the same season and compete for the time of delegates and industry sponsors vital to their success.

Whilst this is only one of so many examples within our industry, C-IN firmly believes that the epidemic will soon run its course and the events industry will survive to see brighter days. Indeed, we are part of an industry that is so well placed to revitalize economies as we are so multidisciplinary by nature. Whilst we are sure the surprises are not yet over and challenges still remain, with every hardship or unprecedented situation, there are valuable lesson learnt and new opportunities as an outcome. We must all continuously monitor developments adding flexible strings to our bow, being ever ready to succeed whether it’s using plan B, C, D or even E. The events industry we all hold dearly has too much to offer. We may well be infected but we certainly will survive!