Today, all eyes are focused on the trajectory of events and impacts associated with the COVID-19 outbreak and the devastating effects it has had on events worldwide. Centres have been impacted as much as – or in some cases, even more than – anyone else in the event creation and delivery chain, But as we look forward to re-assembling the industry schedule in the wake of immediate closures – and in the interim until that happens – there are many resources that centres have at their disposal to help clients deliver on their residual expectations.
Policies and resources
The first are the policies and resources to manage events safely in the face of existing and ongoing health and safety challenges. Most centres have anticipated the kinds of threats that may develop around an event and put them into effect in the context of their own facilities – and this has most certainly been enhanced through the lessons of the past few months. In fact, these experiences have now been imbedded in a comprehensive Guide to Best Practices for COVID-19 that has been distributed to all AIPC members in order to make sure we are able to learn from each other in such a challenging time.
These, in turn, are typically closely tied into other local resources that may have to be accessed but are not necessarily available or even known to organizers. As event re-instatement begins, that expertise will be critical to ensuring confidence in what may well be a delicate return to pre-COVID-19 comfort levels.
Secondly, venue managers know their facilities and their capabilities better than anyone – and have experienced many variations of use and spatial configurations through other clients. This means they can suggest new ideas, particularly in areas like social distancing and other protocols that are becoming more important in our current (and likely ongoing) situation. It also means they will have insights into how events may be reconfigured to better accommodate different event sizes and formats that may be part of a transition moving forward.
Third, we can pretty much guarantee that the supplier situation is going to be experiencing changes as many (particularly smaller) companies may find they need to consolidate or re-configure their offerings in the face of financial and resourcing challenges that accompany the global outbreak. Here again, centres are going to be in the best possible position to advise on local and regional resources, based on their ongoing experiences with other clients and events on their premises.
Even when and if it becomes evident that large face to face gatherings are simply not a practical option – as we are already finding in most parts of the world at the time of writing – centres still have capabilities that can support the needs of organizations and associations to interact with members. Remote meetings such as webinars and larger interactive online events still need considerable technology and expertise to be done professionally – and those are exactly the kinds of capabilities resident in many centres around the world. In many cases the same technologies that support large events can be applied to online variations, which will be desperately needed to fill the gap in the interim.
At this time all attention must be on health and safety – and the only certain thing is that uncertainty will be ongoing, even as things approach a return to normal. But as the eventual recovery process gets underway, centres will be in the best possible position to help organizers respond to the kinds of adaptations that will be needed to restore the industry to full strength. That’s our commitment – and a capability that organizers should be planning for right now.