It sounds like Groundhog Day. The threat of covid spreading faster than a brush fire and again creating uncertainty and lack of confidence around events. This has certainly been emphasised by the diminished attendance at Christmas and New Year Events. Even the crowds at the post-Christmas sales were down considerably.
Has the pent up demand waned or is everyone just being super cautious?
It is clear that governments, both State and Federal, are hoping herd immunity will control the Omicron variant as it continues to spread. And with the exception of Emperor MacGowan, all premiers seem to except no more border closures, and based on reports out of South Africa, where it was first detected, maybe it is on its way down and maybe the premiers are making the right decision, but will it set the event industry back another six months?
In my view there are some important messages in this post and like my last one some may feel uncomfortable as I am calling out what the many are talking about behind closed doors.
But first a first-hand report re covid!
Ironically we ran two events in December attracting just under 40,000 people and not a single covid case to be seen, so I guess what goes around comes around and no good deed or efforts go without rewards.
And my December 25th gift was a dose of covid!
At first I was mortified as it stuffed our Christmas plans, but in hindsight timing is everything and importantly it happened at a time when we had no events on, therefore no impact, and that is definitely the positive side.
So what it was like? I am sure different people are having different reactions. I am double vaxed and over the last few days I have heard how many others have also caught it, the concern is the difference between Delta and Omicron with Delta creating a bigger impact on most people.
- Hot Fever first 24 hours
- 72 hours of the biggest headache I have ever had
- Not very hungry for around five days (great for weight loss)
- Loss of taste
- Fatigued and just wanted to sleep
- after 5 plus days you just want to get going but your body’s energy doesn’t match the desire
Is there a silver lining? Well the experts say it’s unlikely I will get it again, so that at least creates some confidence for me personally, however on reflection there are many things racing through my mind and in the spirit of my previous posts I thought I would share them because while some may be still on a summer break the events race for 2022 is on.
1. Staff – How do we as an industry manage staff returning to the office or events in early 2022? Under the current health orders whole teams could be taken out the day before an event opens? And what happens if someone on staff comes out with covid mid-event?
2. Exhibitors – How flexible do we need to be? Can we keep refunding or transferring space costs, furniture hire, stand builds, and how are venues going to treat rental? Already calls and emails are being received for shows in February and March with people saying they have covid and need to cancel their booking. Their contagious periodis over in seven -10 days so how does this affect next month or later?
3. Visitors – Given that various events over Christmas and New Year were poorly attended, lack of visitor or attendee confidence will be a major issue.
All three aspects have something in common and that is something I have raised for two years, CONFIDENCE.
To address the above issues we need an industry approach. But are the industry associations up to taking a leadership role?
I observed that in the lead up to Christmas the associations all came out of their cupboard and claimed how much they had achieved and what they had been working on, some saying they were releasing a number of reports and new initiatives, so far NONE have materialised and at least one website is months out of date with any useful information (I am sure they will have excuses a mile long but doing is what can only be judged, not talking)
Being a cynic and someone who has spent a lot of money lobbying the media and government, and one of the few to actually put money up and ran a show, its interesting the announcements seem to align with member renewals and even more interesting to see who thinks we need a club to belong to or do we need bodies who act proactively for who they represent?
And it would be remiss if I didn’t comment on how two peak associations thought it would be a great idea to run a Christmas function at a per head cost of just under $100. I note very little coverage, not to mention crowd shots, maybe due to fact it was probably just the administration and board members who attended.
Now for those who say there should have been something to see the year out here is a formula that would have made it possible for more to attend. A $25 fee which included your first drink and finger food then you buy drinks on consumption, I am not convinced anyone would have drank another $75 worth of drinks and if it was truly sponsored by the venue the above could have been achieved.
Back to the main issue.
It’s time for the industry bodies to wake up, stop living in a fantasy land, tackle the issue and stand for something.
It has been suggested on a number of occasions that we need a national campaign underwritten by Government and supported by the industry extolling the benefits of LIVE events to build the story and confidence for businesses to exhibit or sponsor and for buyers to attend… learn from what we have just witnessed over the past few weeks and the last two years, it’s scary.
Even if it starts at a grass roots level a bit like the #expoready campaign which received wide support, but whilst funding is requested let’s have a campaign that sends the combined message. Just like the Chinese zodiac signs we need to create the year of Events.
The following quote maybe should be scribbled on associations and the industry’s walls “The first step toward success is taken when you refuse to be a captive of the environment in which you find yourself”
We need to stop reacting and listening to just the major companies who seem to dominate the press and group discussions, they have done little to support the broader industry and have not presented a voice for the industry when it was needed. A lot has changed in two years and their power base isn’t what it was. We need to be good shepherds and look at how we ALL get through, and this starts with an understanding of what they need help with as per the above points covering staff, exhibitors and visitors. And then what we put in place to rebuild, as 2022 is currently looking more shaky than we all had hoped for.
If companies struggled last year with staff overlay, this year covid could be taking more of the workforce out. There are currently discussions about shows being pushed back to later in the year and it’s not even through week one of 2022. We need to have learnt something from the past two years, it’s time to dig deep, it’s not over, so step up or step out – has the industry got the fortitude, energy, fight and depth to do it. The clock is ticking and even post covid I for one won’t be throwing the last two years away as to do so would be admitting defeat.
If you need something to focus on here’s a quote to fall back on to but talk is cheap we need action NOW
“Opportunities don’t just happen, you create them”