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Conversations in Isolation: Why pre-lockdown concerns should still be a key priority for events professionals

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Here, Warwick Conferences’ Gail Tomlinson Short sits down with Mark Cooper, CEO of IACC, Denis Flanagan, Hotel Manager at Golden Jubilee Conference Hotel and Simon McMahon, General Manager at Willows Training Centre and Woodlands Event Centre, to discuss how venues can prepare to re-open.

Supporting the industry

For Mark Cooper, IACC is a family. To support its members, IACC has hosted a number of webinars and seminars during the lockdown period. “Bringing members together will always be important to us,” he says. “We initially thought the last thing that our members would want is to attend more webinars, but we were mistaken. We have seen attendances in their hundreds at a number of our webinars, showing just how important it has been during this strange time.”

And these webinars have been greatly received by its members. Gail comments: “It helped us focus and confirmed we had indeed put the right steps in place when it came to adapting. On a personal level, these networks and webinars energised and inspired me.”

Denis adds: “From our point of view, the webinars confirmed showed how we could think about moving forward.” Simon agrees, and says the webinars helped the industry catch its breath and understand different ways of thinking about the future.

While the first half of lockdown was about ‘the new normal’ and adapting to home-office life, attention now turns to implementing return strategies and announcing new policies and procedures. So, what changes are needed and what does the industry need to think about?

What can we learn?

Over the last 10 weeks, the term ‘the new normal’ has become a staple in most vocabularies. With many expecting the industry to have been changed forever, it’s important for businesses to be careful not to implement every suggested change. Mark says: “As it stands, we are still in the scenario-planning phase and it is recommended that you list out the possible changes that might need to happen. The emphasis should be on the ‘might,’ and the industry should wait to see how people behave before disregarding a former staple to an event.”

Hybrid and virtual meetings have become a top priority for many venues, including Warwick Conferences. Gail says: “Knowledge is power and we have always taken a partnership approach. We have worked with customers to develop conferences and meetings – which would usually include international delegates – into virtual meetings. We are also launching our policies to customers in the coming weeks, ahead of re-opening. Being clear in your communication is so important, and learning from our experiences will stand us in good stead.”

Keeping perspectives

It is clear that the industry will change and have to adapt. However, it is also important to ensure that issues faced by event organisers before the pandemic are still seriously considered. Simon comments: “I expect that sustainability and mental health will remain high on the agenda. These issues have really come to the fore during lockdown and so it is important that the industry keeps these in mind when relaunching.”

Mark adds: “Inclusivity, dietary requirements and mindfulness are all still going to be important considerations when we return. It won’t be easy, but these issues should still be a key focus for anyone in the industry moving forward.”

As part of Warwick Conferences’ relaunch, its unique outdoor spaces and adaptable catering services will still be available. The impact of fresh air on wellbeing is well documented and offering delegates with unique dietary requirements can help ease any anxiety caused before attending.

The events and hospitality industry has a unique challenge. Adapting appropriately to the COVID-19 pandemic must be handled with care and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of delegates, organisers and staff is critical.

If you or a colleague would like to speak to someone about the topics covered in this blog, please get in touch with a member of the team today.

Business Development Managers

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