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Open for business means being open for business

By Carrie Larwood, managing director of Function Fixers (venue finders)

There is a lot of work being done to get meetings and events moving again. From government lobbying to in-venue changes that make events safer and more hygienic. However, after many months in lock down, it feels to me that many parts of the industry still have some waking up to do.

Live events are coming back and the noise is out there that we’re ready and waiting. But at the same time, we’re seeing the very slow return of many businesses, be they venue finders like us, event organisers or venues. This is of course understandable, the wheels are turning slowly and the advice from government is far from consistent. But to be open as an industry, surely we have to be open for our clients and businesses.

At Function Fixers, we have spent the last few months working proactively - contacting clients, keeping in touch, improving our websites and working on new enquiries. And yes, that is new enquiries, they are out there. Through lockdown, venue enquiries may have been very low, and almost exclusively for much smaller events; but they certainly were not non-existent. Many of the venues that we work with were closed, but those that were open had an advantage to build a new relationship and get their businesses moving.

We are currently handling venue enquiries for events this month, and next and beyond. I can confirm that the appetite is there – our clients are fed up of Zoom, they are desperate to see their colleagues, to meet face to face, to mingle (at a safe distance of course) and to experience the camaraderie they feel when they actually meet in person. Teams work better when they are connected and those connections only happen face to face.

It really is not a case of ‘build it and they will come’; venues cannot expect to simply open their doors in the spring, to stand back and expect enquiries to flood in. Too many agency staff are still furloughed and too many venues are still closed, but we will not attract business if we are not actually open for business. It’s not a confident message from our industry to corporate event planners.

It’s been really heartening to see the number of eventprofs on LinkedIn sharing photos of themselves on the way to their first event in months. Something that we all once took for granted is now being celebrated as such a fantastic beacon of hope to us all.  As they say, ‘Like attracts like’, if we are meeting and sharing these images then it becomes the norm and more and more people will feel comfortable enough to follow suit.

I’d also like to see more companies, agencies and venues sharing case studies of the events that have been going ahead. They may not be the huge, lavish or complex events of old, but events are happening and we should be sharing these and ensuring that our clients see these and see what is possible and that it is hugely beneficial to hold events again – no matter how small.

It’s amazing how normal some of these events are. It’s sometimes easy to think of events as PPE covered, overly sanitized experiences that feel medical and distant. This really isn’t the case. Venues and organisers are learning every day that events can be run responsibly, but with little visible infringement on the experience. It’s important to share that the events are not just the ones that have to happen, they are also the events that the business is choosing to have.

As a business we’re feeling the momentum coming back, but we’re also feeling that others are still waiting on the side lines and that isn’t good for the industry. We all owe it to our clients to be there for them, to speak to them, to nurture them and to help them to feel confident about starting to re-build their event strategies to pre-Covid dimensions.

What can we do? Be loud and proud, tell the world that you are open, support as many of the industry initiatives that you are able to, join the industry wide WeMakeEvents red light campaign happening on the 30 September, donate to the WeCreateExperiences PR campaign and be proactive and contact your clients. Be there for them, share your successes, share your news and case studies. But most importantly, when all of this has created demand, we have to be ready to supply our goods and services.

Consumer faith needs to be bolstered and we are the ones to do it now.