I’ve listened to and read a lot of commentary and concerns from within the event industry over the past year or so and I want to sum up the key points.
NB I’m using “event industry” to describe business events (B2B), consumer events (B2C) and festivals.
The event industry is always in the first round of shutdowns and the last to reopen. Next in line is travel and tourism. Meanwhile many industries may have been inconvenienced but have not had their income affected by lockdowns at all – supermarkets, accounting, legal, politics, government, etc. While others, while still fully employed, have done an amazing job to protect us, often going above and beyond – doctors, nurses, pharmacists, police, cleaners, etc.
Uncertainty is the biggest issue confronting the restart of events. Events are not being cancelled or postponed for the duration of the announced lockdown, but for weeks and months following. The lead time to mount or remount an event contributes to the cost, the delay and the uncertainty.
From my observations the industry calling for three main things.
#1 Cancellation insurance – business owners cannot insure against an event being cancelled or postponed on the orders of government (eg Bluesfest). So government must be prepared to provide that insurance.
This is now an issue that is gaining momentum in the music industry – ‘Too risky’: Performers call for insurance to cover COVID-19 losses
#2 Financial support for businesses that cannot reopen immediately lockdowns are lifted. Usually because of lead times or venue restrictions (eg 4 sqm). The current support packages will end when lockdowns are lifted (not when everts kick in again). JobKeeper was a good model because it compared turnover to a comparable period when trading was normal.
#3 More decisive lockdowns – epidemiologists are estimating that the current Sydney lockdown will continue until September (or later), yet Gladys is still holding out hope that it will end this week.
What to do about it
Many in the event industry feel they do not have a voice that is being heard by government. From my discussions with industry associations I understand that they are doing what they can at the federal level in particular (because they are all national organisations).
However not all lobbying needs to be done at a ministerial level to be effective. All politicians are sensitive to the concerns of their constituents – they need your vote to get elected. Remember “political masters” only exist in a dictatorship, in a democracy they are servants of the people (or should be). I raised these issues with my local state member who then made representation on my behalf to the NSW Treasurer.
I encourage you to contact your local MPs, state and federal, and let them know how your business has been affected – don’t try doing the big picture, make it a personal story about how your business and your employees have been affected. Here are some points you can include in your own words.
As part of the event industry my business is always in the first round of shutdowns and the last to reopen.
Uncertainty is the biggest issue confronting the restart of events. Events are not being cancelled or postponed for the duration of the announced lockdown but for weeks and months following.
The lead time to mount or remount an event contributes to the cost, the delay and the uncertainty.
Talk about how JobKeeper kept your business alive and your employees on the books and if you cannot keep them employed now they could leave the industry and then when business picks up again you will have to find and train new staff. Or if you are employed in the industry, how your employer was able to keep you employed thanks to JobKeeper and now your employment is uncertain.
Talk about the emotional strain on you as a business owner, or freelancer, or as an employee with an uncertain future.
Give them a case study from your experience that they can understand – weddings make an excellent case study because everyone has been to one.
The elements involved in a wedding that is postponed due to lockdown include finding a new available date at the venue or searching for a new venue; rebooking cars, photographer, video, streaming, catering, flowers, celebrant, accommodation, entertainment, marquees, new invitations, etc. These are all services provided by the event industry.
Don’t leave it to someone else – speak up for your industry, your business and yourself.
Feel free to share any feedback you get, especially on social media.