As the UK tiptoes around the latest COVID-19 conundrums, Robin Purslow, MD of Eclipse, highlights the power and potential in versatile thinking and delivery.
‘If we don’t do it now, when will we do it?’ isn’t the kind of green flag ‘freedom day’ the events industry was hoping for. A return to physical shows, certainly those set inside, while nominally ‘legal’ from July 19 has been subject to understandable hesitation.
“The warning light on the NHS dashboard is not flashing amber, it’s flashing red,” according to Health and Social Care Committee chair Jeremy Hunt and, amid the national cacophony of test and trace ‘pings’, any business is walking a brittle line in terms of its staff numbers – as countless hospitality outlets bear testament.
Suppliers are the key to putting on an event of any size and pre-pandemic there was always time to address issues anywhere along the chain to ensure delivery. Now though, even an alert from the NHS App can mean one of those crucial links can be lost to isolation at the buzz of a smartphone.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the door, a question published in The Times about audience attitudes to live entertainment, asking ‘How comfortable would you feel doing the following in the next few weeks?’ was pretty damning across all categories. Just 27% of respondents indicated they would be happy to physically attend a business event.
While it’s hard to tell if that opinion would change were masks/social distancing mandates to be reintroduced, lockdowns have highlighted how resourceful the events industry has had to be. It has looked around wholly new corners to develop and deliver solutions to questions hard to imagine some 17 months ago.
It is not a simple either/or situation between virtual and physical of course. With many events reaching far greater numbers nationally and internationally in their virtual incarnation, hybrid events, which were in practice in some shape or form long before COVID-19 – think Premiership football matches or the Brit Awards by way of profile example – are sure to be the popular choice. But balancing that equation, in terms of who is the priority audience, varies from event to event.
Ideally, events will want to provide for everyone equally – and the tech is there to feed live content across the world with the capacity for interaction and engagement everywhere. Eclipse, for one, has its own in-house virtual event studio in Beckenham together with comprehensive facilities across London and the globe, all of which are supported by a dedicated team of in-house creatives and GFX designers.
Networking ‘from home’ though, without the technology and the expertise on tap, is more than a struggle to deliver and harder still to sell, which is well worth bearing in mind for the sales and marketing pitch.
Nevertheless, while we can’t predict exactly where the pandemic will take us next, the steps the live events world has taken to adapt has no doubt kicked even the biggest doubter’s doors off its hinges. Come what may, the show can and will always go on… and in spectacular fashion.