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The events industry: Will it ever be the same again?

We asked our event sales consultant Jennie for her thoughts on how the private hire and events industry has been, and will be, impacted by Covid-19.

What has been your opinion and personal experience of the impact of Covid-19 on events and hires?

Many venues are facing a dramatic loss in private hire revenue in what is normally their busiest quarter. Not only are we at the beginning of Wedding season (and the lucrative hen and stag parties that come with it); we are fast approaching the summer months where a significant amount of companies’ social budgets are allocated; second only to the Christmas period.

Personal hires such as birthdays, Christenings and anniversaries been cancelled, put on hold indefinitely or moved online to group video calls. Venue-based conferences and networking events have come to a halt, with many future bookings being cancelled outright.

Wedding venues, at least, have some degree of security. Hitched did a really insightful survey recently that said 86% of weddings are postponing their day rather than cancelling it. I had 20 weddings booked to take place between April to September; two of which had to cancel due to financial concerns, but the remaining 18 are postponing, with most hoping to fit into a slot next year.

I’ve gone from receiving around 30-50 enquires a week to just three or four. This survey of 137 event professionals conducted by Elevate Mentoring has indicated that I’m not alone, with just 8.1% of people working on a maximum of 4-6 enquiries a week. I’d normally be spending most of my time slotting in meetings and site visits for summer parties and weddings at this time of the year, but instead, I’m dealing with the admin around events that can no longer go ahead.   

What steps could venues take to secure new bookings when everything is so uncertain?

There’s no getting away from the fact it’s been pretty bleak so far, but it’s not all doom and gloom! I believe that as soon as the sanctions are loosened, we’ll start seeing a slow but steady upturn in enquiry levels straight away.

Bums on Seats place a big emphasis on how important it is for businesses to meet the emotional wants and needs of the customer. It forms the basis of everything we do with our clients, from developing the offer to how the event is delivered on the day. Applying this customer-focused perspective to sales will be especially crucial when it comes to securing future bookings.

For example – many people will want to host a private celebration at their favourite venue, but far more important than that want right now is their need to feel safe and secure in doing so.

So, I think the question is, what can venues do to show customers they’re acknowledging their wants and needs, and that the health of their friends and family (as well as their deposit) is in safe hands with them? Here are a few ideas:

Review and adjust the offer for this year – and continually review it.

• If capacity restrictions are in place for the foreseeable future, how would that venue make the most of what they’re able to host?

• Could the venue deliver events by hosting some or all of the experience online? For example, can their brand and/or offer stretch outside of the venue’s four walls and into people’s homes? Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box!

• Could this then form the basis of a contingency plan in the event of lifted restrictions being reintroduced at a later stage?

• Is the price point sensitive?

• Does the offer clearly and fully address the health and safety concerns people have? This needs to be considered from the first point of contact with the customer all the way up to the event delivery itself.

Offer flexible payment and cancellation terms.

• The standard terms for event payments, cancellations and postponements should be revised; with flexibility for the customer wherever possible being the priority. As soon as the market stabilises and demand increases, venues can put stricter terms back into place.

• Reduce loss of revenue and keep deposits in the business by encouraging customers to postpone hires that can’t go ahead, rather than cancelling them outright. Suggest pencilling in a later date under flexible terms. I would offer an incentive on this if necessary, such as a reduction in the minimum spend requirement or waiving/reducing hire fees.

Marketing & Communication.

• Digital marketing is obviously key at a time like this – all output should be consistent, but sensitive in terms of both content and timing.

• B2B marketing should be absolutely minimal at the moment, if anything. Use this database wisely (and again, sensitively) – only reach out when offices are settled back and there is a well-considered offer to launch to market.

• Venues need to paint a clear picture for new enquiries straight away. Gather the photography and videography that really showcases the venue; create mood boards, ensure websites are full of visually appealing images. Keep a list of people to contact for a show-around when it’s allowed – check first that they feel comfortable with it. Invest in virtual tour technology as a priority.

• All marketing will of course need to communicate very clearly how the business is complying with (or going above and beyond) government guidelines related to health and safety.

Being consistently adaptable and ready to hit the ground running once restrictions start easing will give venues a massive advantage. This is obviously quite tricky for many, with their sales and marketing teams being furloughed. A way around this is to outsource your enquiries and re-opening plans to another furloughed or freelance event professional.

What do you think the events industry will look like post Covid-19?

I think a lot depends on what sanctions are lifted and when, and what the nature of the event is.

Here are some of the trends I think we’ll see until we move out of the lockdown altogether:

Corporate parties and networking events

• A focus on smaller parties – no more merging departments to create big numbers.

• A higher value will be placed on hosting events, but the frequency of them is likely to reduce for some time.

• Companies will want events to be more controlled and impactful, with value for money and a tangible return on the investment being even more important.

• Companies will likely host “official” after-work drinks at the office rather than at their local

• Proof of due diligence around hygiene standards will be vital.

• Companies will want to see flexible cancellation terms.

Weddings

• Generally long lead, so enquiries will be more confident about enquiring and putting a deposit down.

• Again, terms of hire will be crucial as couples will want to know what happens if their wedding has to be cancelled.

• We may see a shift to more intimate weddings as couples err on the side of caution.

Personal hires.

• We expect a big increase on short-term rentals such as Air B&Bs to host such occasions.

• Online celebrations will become more socially acceptable and frequent.

• Even more value will be placed on getting together with the overall spend per head increasing quite significantly – but they will be less frequent.

Meetings, conferences & training.

• I think this side of the industry will be impacted the most, and the face of it will change perhaps indefinitely. Smaller training courses, meetings and conferences are more likely to be moved online as the work from home culture is embraced.

• Budgets will be tighter, so this option will be more appealing given the fact there are no overheads such as catering costs or venue hire fees to consider.

One thing I think is for sure – longer term, when these sanctions are lifted and a vaccine or a cure is found, people will cherish and want to get together in their favourite venues more than ever before – both personally and professionally speaking. The joy and sense of occasion and belonging people feel by physically getting together is definitely not something that any amount of technology can replace. I genuinely can’t wait to see the brides and grooms I’ve looked after for well over a year finally get to have their big day after all this stress and uncertainty – my guess is that their special day will feel even more special for them.

Jennie Roe

Jennie has worked in the hospitality and events industry for 18 years. Her roles have spanned Event Management to Head of Sales for companies such as Proud and Mothership Group; as well as Business Development and Project Management for Whiting & Hammond and more recently, Company of Cooks. On top of being a Senior Events Consultant for Bums on Seats; Jennie oversees private events for a venue and manages a large Air B&B complex in Brighton.

1 Comment
  • Zahra Mirza
    Posted at 03:39h, 01 May Reply

    Great insight from what sounds like a very talented industry professional.

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