When will I SEE you again?: Gill Wood
30th September 2020
We are where we are. Following Boris’ guidance last week on the further delay of events from 1st October onwards to some unknown date (somewhere in the next 6 months), the events industry is no exception to the challenges we’re facing right now – in fact it is one of the industries being hardest hit. The ESCRS (European Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgeons) is fully digital this weekend. The United Kingdom & Ireland Society of Cataract & Refractive Surgeons (UKISCRS) has now cancelled its annual meeting in November (a very difficult decision), 100% Optical has moved from January 2021 to May 21, but we remain positive and hopeful that the RCOphth and Oxford Congress in May & July 2021 retrospectively will go ahead as planned.
I’ve been in the Ophthalmic industry for 20 years and creating events for over 10 years. I’ve experienced difficult times with the last recession affecting Daily Delegate Rates (DDRs) and venues practically giving space away to gain business and grow trust. And now, after a few years of recovery, COVID-19 storms in.
Those that survived historical challenges know that trust, positive action, strong decision-making and effective planning are crucial for the world of events and congresses.
Who is affected?
Of course, I look at this a little selfishly, with my ‘Ophthalmic’ eyes on. Our valued and skilled industry sales teams can’t directly sell or demo. The device companies are desperate to ‘get back on the road’. Our surgeons, optometrists and Allied Health Professionals are desperate for face-to-face engagement. In addition to this, the Societies, Charities and Associations are at threat from a whole year of zero income.
Outside of the Eye World, the smallest of meetings to the largest of events have been cancelled in every sector, and it is having a negative effect on continuing education, the ability to try and test equipment, sales, and therefore the economy. And not only the economy but also on social interaction, mental-well-being, and our natural & instinctive requirement for freedom of movement.
A positive – Digital Marketing
A positive aspect is that this is a key time to grow your digital marketing campaign, promoting communication and exposure. Remaining on-target and trying to add value by providing as much content as possible will ensure you remain interactive and engaged with your audience. Behaviour breeds behaviour, and if we stay positive, so will our audiences. Development of trust and rapport can continue during the lack of face-to-face interaction, and using digital marketing opportunities will impact positively on income. The global audience has the need and desire for knowledge, learning and networking. This is not only a chance to embrace digital & social media to promote your business (future events, special offers etc) by sharing content to your audience, but also to maintain that personal touch with all of your stakeholders. LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram have been crucial to my business and roles where engagement and communication has been not only successful, in terms of exposure, but has kept the reader feeling involved and engaged. Ensuring when we can event (sell/prospect face-to-face) again, our audience is waiting with open arms!
My natural instinct is to remain positive and continue with a fighting resolve not to cancel and not to immediately cut and run. Every event is different and every event, at risk of being cancelled or moved, needs to be assessed independently. Ask yourself;
- Can this event run digitally?
- Will it attract an audience?
- Will it attract funding support from the industry?
- Can it still provide value?
- Should this event be moved?
- Where in the calendar can it be moved to?
- Will the content still be relevant in the first or second half (H1 or H2) of the year?
As I have faced this dilemma several times this year, and most recently with UKISCRS, I have found and referred to the ‘Decision Process Chart’ below for assistance.
All of us event and project managers know that cancelling or postponing an event is a logistical challenge to be avoided where at all possible. Particularly when your delegates, exhibitors and teams are so looking forward to it. It is also a financial pain and mentally draining. A strong and positive mindset is needed, as is the usual ‘eye for detail’. And so if we don’t have to cancel, or move, or transfer to a hybrid, or go fully digital… then that is the best result!
Safer Events Accreditation by HireSpace
Another helpful tool, in this ever-changing climate, is the information & testing set by the Safer Events Accreditation team. Change is constantly upon us and this is a fantastic way of remaining on track, aware and current with event and meeting guidelines. Of course, the guidelines can be different in different regions and Cities and this is something to take into consideration. The guidelines can often be a little ‘muddy’ too – yet the team at HireSpace deliver them concisely and promptly ensuring that we, as a team of planners, can act and react accordingly.
So; what is the next event for me to consider?
I do have one event that I am still hanging on to in my diary. The AOS Summit, set for November at the beautiful Celtic Manor resort, is a meeting that I am not yet cancelling or moving. There are many factors to this – and the sensible side of my brain (the head part) tells me to look at changing the dates:
- International visitors and travel
- Localised lockdowns
- Internal rules at the venue
- Changing rules from the government
My emotional side of my brain (the heart part) tells me to hang on, however.
AOS are a vivacious and innovating company to work with. They are striving to be a company people want to work for – and to this end are planning a motivational, team-building, fun and wholly educational Summit for their global team. The planning has taken collective man hours (led internally by CEO Karl Jeebaun) – a Jedi of the business world – and a leader who repeatedly inspires.
So, in this respect I am not looking at my Decision Process Chart – and it just couldn’t go ahead as a virtual meeting … so I am just hanging on just a little more… in the hope that (and in the words of the Three Degrees) “when we will share precious moments” becomes clearer and sooner!
Hasta Pronto! Gill.
Commercial Project Manager – AOS
Project Director – gmProjects Ltd.
Safer Events at HireSpace
Celtic Manor Resorts