We can build it, but will they come?

We’ve all seen how Boris Johnson’s announcement last month has made such a positive impact on our industry. Venue enquiries and bookings are up and agencies are making positive noises about the increase in in-person events returning this year. The roadmap is optimistic but sensible and measured, and we are all eager and looking forward to seeing how each step will bring us closer to the magical 21st June.

Our venues have been open through the lockdowns, in line with Government guidelines, to serve critical training and events for key workers so we are now very well versed in the safe delivery of events. But we are conscious that there are some who may not be familiar with the restrictions or share our eagerness, due to concerns around Covid-safety. Our venues are working in partnership with the trainers, organisers and planners to help them to create amazing events, but we need to remember that the delegates are an essential part of the picture and recognise that they may be feeling tentative, worried or even scared about attending events again.

We can build it, but will they come?

Many people have been safely at home for what seems like an eternity; even the most confident of go-getters may feel hesitant about getting back on a train and heading into the city or being in a room with 100 of their colleagues. Many haven’t been on public transport or experienced a different working environment for months because we have been urged to stay home, work remotely and stay away from people. These ways of living and working have been ingrained in us and they won’t disappear overnight.

A company has a duty of care to their staff, and an organiser has a duty of care to their delegates and to stakeholders. They need to do all that they can to gently encourage delegates to attend events again. Everyone has their own ‘risk profile’ based on their own individual journey and personal experience of the last year. You won’t be able to predict delegate attitudes based on age or job description so an organiser will need to take a flexible and understanding approach with everyone.

The first step for any event organiser is to simply acknowledge that their delegates may have concerns. They need to be open and honest, to assure them that they aren’t being silly or over-cautious and that it is natural to be apprehensive about doing something that they haven’t done for a while.

The second step will be to work with the venue to create a checklist or plan that informs delegates about the steps taken, the procedures that are in place to ensure that the venue is following current government guidelines and focuses on the facts that will reassure them that their health and safety is of the utmost importance.

The third step will focus on two-way communication and interaction with delegates. Organisers need to be patient and kind, to share information and to be ready and available to answer specific questions. Regular checking in with delegates will help you to stay aware of their concerns and help avoid last-minute drop-outs. Neither the organiser nor the venue wants to see only 70 people attend an event that was booked for 100.

We are working with our clients and giving them the tools and information that they need to reassure their delegates that they are coming to a safe space, one that is Covid secure and that the organisers have been following the regulations when they have chosen their venue and the size of rooms. Booking our out-of-town venues with large car parks, one-way systems and thorough Covid procedures goes a long way to allay delegate fears.

I’m looking forward to the 21st June and the end of restrictions, but it won’t be a magic wand that gives us an instant return to ‘normality’. I think that certain Covid measures, such as hand sanitiser in venues will be in place for some time yet. The partnership between a venue and an organiser has never been so important – let’s make sure that we work together to safely bring events back.

Jo Austin, Sales Director, The Venues Collection and Lime Venue Portfolio

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