Do you watch TV and wonder what's wrong? Then there's the gradual realisation that the actors aren't socially distancing nor wearing masks and they're doing things like sitting in a pub or restaurant. Doing things that we used to do without thinking looks very strange, don't you think? And then you think about life now and wonder if we'll ever get back to things like exhibitions or networking. It's really difficult being an organiser for an in-person event at the moment because of the uncertainty despite the roadmap for the resumption of in-person events.
A recent post from a conference organiser on social media requested early registration and not leave it until the last 2 weeks. The event professional will know that these large events take time to be organised to have the right level of staffing, refreshments and security and all of these things have a cost. There are two uncertainties; whether events can actaully go ahead and are the audience confident enough to attend and these doubts are putting the event industry at risk. The early sign up to give organisers the registration and attendance data is crucial, though it is understandable that the delegates would delay their registration. Equally as understandable is the request to sign up if you know you'll attend.
Event organisers will have to ensure that the venue and event is as safe as possible to alleviate any of these concerns. To help attendees feel comfortable, any safety precautions should be advertised to reassure staff and delegates. Include in your advertising, timed entry, temperature monitoring, advice for staying away if Covid symptoms appear, one way system, social distancing, masks and hand sanitiser to reassure your guests. Feeding and watering your delegates will come under the responsibility of your catering concessions and liaise with them to make sure guidelines are followed and their staff feel comfortable working in your venue.
Public transport and your delegates' perception will affect attendance. Transport is getting back to normal, with useage in April 2021 at 32% of pre-pandemic levels compared with 5% in April 2020. Confidence is returning. Public transport operators are taking steps to make travelling safer, although car useage has increased back to May 2020 levels when the first lockdown was eased. I think that people feel safer in their own vehicle rather than risk being with other people in a small, closed environment. Include clear directions and parking information for cars and cycles if you think that your delegates would prefer to use their own transport to your event, just to give them more reassurance. If your delegates think they can travel safely to your event, it will be one less hurdle to overcome attendance at your event.
However, despite all the hesitency, there is a demand for in-person events. One creative agency has seen a 200% increase in enquiries for 2021 and one venue has had an 88% increase in searches. With event organisers showing how delegate safety is a top priority, in-person events will come back stronger and better than ever. This confidence is apparent by the selection of Cornish locations for the G7. No one would want to risk the health of world leaders and their support teams and having the summit in the UK shows that we have the venues, security, technical know-how and staffing capable of hosting such a prestigious in-person event.
At the end of April, a small step was taken towards hosting large events like the G7 with an experiment in Liverpool which may help us back to in-person events. The Government's Events Research Programme (ERP) set up the Good Business Festival in Liverpool because of it's response to an outbreak of Covid-19 in one of its districts, managing to squash transmission down in under 2 1/2 weeks. Four hundred people took part in the Festival, without face masks nor social distancing. Networking as we knew it, was back! The Events Research Programme has different types of events planned in April and May, with a variety of venues and activities, with the test results and research findings feeding into the Prime Minister's decision to reopen events in Step 4.
Two event related exhibitions! The next few months, the Event Production Show in Farnborough in May and International Confex, Excel Centre, in June. The Farnborough event is to be held outside to make delegates feel that bit safer and Confex will be taking all necessary precautions to ensure participant safety. These are baby steps which perhaps we need to feel safe after being on Zoom for so long. If we, as delegates, can take small steps to getting back to being in closed spaces with lots of people, like meeting others in pubs or restaurants, we'll feel more confident about getting back to networking in larger exhibition spaces.
In-person events have so many advantages over virtual ones that it's great to see them being organised and advertised again. Impromptu discussions, meetings and networking that occur with in-person events are what makes them stand out from virtual ones. As we provide registration for in-person and virtual events, it's easy to start setting up your in-person event again. I think that in-person events will return if the current vaccines prove themselves against the Delta Variant, allowing for events to get back to normal in Q3 and 4. In the meantime, lets have our fingers crossed that the Government's plans do go to plan and we're back on the road for a full event programme soon.