Match Fit to Meet?

It’s all about ‘flex’, bubbles and the open air says Andrew White as venues prepare to welcome back corporates later this year.

Toy blocks that read Chance/Change
Photo: Getty Images

While there’s still some way to go, there is a marked change in the outlook around events coming back. Buoyed by the vaccine and the realisation that we do actually want to work with our colleagues rather than from behind our computer screens, corporates are putting tentative feelers out for face-to-face events.

Are you ready for the new meeting landscape where flexibility and fresh air will win organisers over? It goes without saying that big numbers will take some time to return, not just because of government advice but a renewed vigour by corporates to show duty of care to their delegates.

Meetings have gone hybrid and it’s key for any venue to be up to speed. Not only in terms of events being streamed but with a robust IT network that can cope. Hybrid’s mix of face-to-face and streaming is here to stay and while it initially seems more expensive, it can save money on delegate flights and accommodation.

For delegates on site, social distancing and sanitisation are absolute musts and the event industry has worked hard to create minimum industry standards from the Meetings Industry Association (mia), AA’s Covid Confident scheme and many others.

Savvy operators are looking at how their buildings work and trying to create business bubbles – a separate entrance, toilets, meeting room and eating space with low or no chance of seeing another group. The gold-plated version of this is exclusive use of a venue and it’s something a corporate will pay more for as it secures the site and underlines their duty of care to bringing their team together. Whatever your scenario it’s important to outline your Covid procedural undertakings from the outset.

If you rely on a wider supply chain to service your events – caterers, AV suppliers, florist – ensure you are aware of and can readily share with your clients their protocols.

Embrace flex
For the last year the entire hospitality sector has had to power up at a moment’s notice and may well have to again in the future. Flex is the government’s ‘mot du jour’ and it’s a term that venues need to thoroughly embrace! Flexibility of terms and conditions will win business, but it’s important not to spend your entire time paying a member of staff simply to move the events diary two months ahead. It means deposits will be harder to secure as corporates won’t want to tie up money on a moving feast. It’s time to be creative and look at a way to bring money in and allow for flex. Perhaps private venues need to think of their 365-day capacity more like the established time-share model with corporates buying a day or two?

Lockdowns have underlined the nation’s appreciation of supporting the local and the regional supply chain. Capitalise upon this as it’s another USP that you will need for when the big chains and city centre hotels emerge and realise that every meeting left the city!

There is a significant appetite from everyone to enjoy the freedom of a weekend away – last year’s staycations proved this. A year of working remotely is making us hanker for office banter and seeing our colleagues again. All being well, by September this pent-up demand will be seen across the entire UK hospitality sector. Ensure that you are ready and match fit for the new chapter in meetings with your players lined up and your strategy in place.



Andrew White is MD of Triggerfish Communications, a specialist in helping heritage venues and leisure attractions build awareness and market share in the business of events.

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