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From bringing people together using the latest technology, to the trend towards smaller events, perfectly planned; event organisers have certainly had to flex and use their creativity over the past 12 months. According to Liz Taylor, an event planner of over thirty years, some of the changes brought about due to the pandemic are far from being detrimental and have added to the event experience. Here Liz, who is a luxury hospitality consultant with www.liz-taylor-consulting.co.uk and founder of the Taylor Lynn Corporation (www.tlc-ltd.co.uk), shares her thoughts on some of the adaptations we’ve seen, highlighting the lessons learnt and which, if any of the changes, she thinks will last for the long-term.
Of the transformations to events resulting from the pandemic, one of my favourites has been the move to more outdoor events.
The knock-on effect of the Government’s fresh air message has been that many venues have invested significantly in their open-air spaces. Some have installed fusion spaces – indoor/outdoor tipi tents and canopies. Others have created garden nooks and seated areas draped in fairy lights and festoon lights. Venues have cleverly repurposed barns and outdoor structures into rustic but stylish event spaces. And let’s not forget the vintage horse boxes, huts and food trucks that have popped up serving a wealth of simple, mouth-watering fayre all over the UK.
I’ve always been a fan of using the outdoors for events, whatever the weather. I do hope that in sampling al fresco dining and partying under the stars, guests will continue to step outside once it’s no longer compulsory and really make use of these gorgeous spaces. The challenge for event planners is to ensure they’re prepared for any eventuality. Keeping guests comfortable with heaters, sumptuous blankets and impeccably dressed shelter in the winter and shade, sunscreen, and plenty of iced cocktails in the summer!
I think like many, I have struggled to retain the correct work life balance now that my home is also my office. However, it has opened up my eyes to the benefits of home working. Allowing staff to work flexibly can reap big rewards. Increased productivity and higher levels of employee satisfaction to name a few. Then there are the environmental benefits too. Fewer cars on the road and the avoidance of the dreaded commute. For larger companies, investing in installing good technology to allow more home working is a small cost, when offset by the savings on office space. Call centres are shrinking their commercial spaces as more staff are home-based. Of course, some elements of the event planner’s role are best conducted in person, especially when we do return to live events. And you can’t beat the comradery of a team together in the lead up to a big party.
However, coronavirus has forced us to put greater trust in our workforce and shown that a mix of flexible home and office working could be the way forward in the future. Companies will need to invest to make this happen effectively. Invest in good technology. Ensure that the team spirit and motivation remain high. And importantly, creating a culture that means homeworker employees retain positive mental health by adopting a good work-life balance. Not confined to the events industry, this is a positive change that I hope we will see across industries.
For many years ‘bigger is not always better’ has been my mantra when it comes to events. Coronavirus has forced people to scale down their celebrations and really demonstrated that small events can be wonderful. In fact, it really challenges your event planner’s ability to create those magical moments in a smaller event, which I love. In a large ‘spectacular’ event, dramatic and theatrical elements create a real WOW factor, but this is more difficult to achieve with smaller occasions. But not impossible. An intimate dinner for six with every detail planned to perfection can be just as impactful as a huge party with 700 guests. More so, in my opinion. Smaller events allow you to really focus on the individual, personalising every stage with thoughtful, memorable touches. And the budget can be spent on making every element the best it can possibly be.
Perhaps the main and most enduring change within events has been the switch to virtual or hybrid audiences. The pandemic has proven that it is possible to connect with audiences virtually. More difficult, yes, but certainly possible.
There’s nothing new here. The technology is not new. Virtual elements have been a part of the event planner’s toolkit for many years. Just look at events like Sports Personality of the Year, which invariably includes a live link up to one or more of the winners, and has done for many years.
What the pandemic has done is to bring virtual events to the masses, hone the technology and make it socially acceptable to attend an event virtually. Now, it’s not just production crews that provide live links to participants – it’s everyone. Venues have invested in built-in streaming studios that have upgraded the virtual experience – buffering and pixelated screens are a thing of the past.
We’ve realised the cost-saving and environmental benefits to virtual events too – especially when it’s an international audience.
That said, I’m a real advocate of the live event experience. I will never make the switch to entirely virtual events. But now that we do have hope that live events can return, the virtual offering is something I will be taking forward. A venue’s size and capacity no longer present a limit on how many people can attend. And I can see businesses offering both live and virtual tickets alongside one another, not only bringing events to more people – but an effective way to maximise profits.
Re-emergence, Not Recovery
The Government’s roadmap has reignited the fierce desire for the return of the events industry. In my view, it is not a ‘recovery’, but a re-emergence. An opportunity from the most damaging year in our industry’s history, we can move forward with even more strings to our bow. A new mindset. Different ways of working. Technological evolution. And,12 months of pent-up passion, imagination and creativity just waiting to come out! I for one cannot wait to infuse events with what we’ve learnt throughout the pandemic – making them even more spectacular and memorable than before.