The Reality of Event Management During Covid-19
The Covid-19 pandemic has had an irreversible impact on the way we do business. While some industries have quickly adapted to virtual work environments, others struggle to find solutions to working within the ‘new normal.’ This is particularly true for the events industry, whose business relied almost entirely on in-person events prior to the pandemic. In fact, according to Events Industry Ireland’s April 2020 report, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic saw 64% of events firms announce short-term closure.
When challenges to the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic arise, businesses that fail to find innovative solutions to meet the needs of the evolving landscape ultimately get left behind, while those who pivot their business bear the burden of the risks required to reimagine offerings. I recently spoke with Jenny O’Flynn of Event Plan, who shared with me that the key to their business’ success during the pandemic comes down to risk-taking.
“Last year, we couldn’t see our business surviving. All of our employees were let go and we were working out the costs of staying in business. We still had to pay rent, overheads, insurance and general fees. We had to come up with a new solution,” she said “Our biggest achievement this year is putting the VE Studio together. When you’re a business owner, you have to have a little bit of a gamblers gene in you. You have to take a chance. We’re very proud of it.”
A traditional events management agency, the onset of Covid-19 saw Event Plan partner with CAVS to develop the VE Studio. VE Studio is a virtual event space designed to meet the communications challenges of the changing world. The studio allows virtual and hybrid events to take place in a safe, controlled and socially-distanced environment, and can be adapted to meet the needs of all virtual events, including virtual town halls summits, online conferences, webinars, product launches and television production.
“In any week, we could have ten queries about events, and on a busy day we run three events in the studio, in the morning, after lunch and in the evening. That’s what we were doing from October to the middle of December. By the middle of October, there was a waiting list to get through!”
“We help bring an organisation’s vision to life. That’s what we’ve been doing for 15 years. At the moment, the majority of our clients have no idea how to convert an event which they would have normally held in person, like a conference or an awards ceremony, into an online event, so we hold their hands from start to finish.”
As organisations continue to adapt to the post-Covid-19 climate, the process of organising and hosting events has never been more challenging, while stakeholder expectations remain constant. Simplifying the process, Jenny and the team have adopted a straightforward approach to event planning.
“We talk our clients through their preferences and send video examples of similar events and a questionnaire. Once they’ve chosen what they want their event to look like, we build it. Our business has gone from event management, which we’re still doing, to TV production for events. It’s been a learning process for all of us. We’ve had to learn about new platforms, streaming uploads and downloads, and it’s certainly new for lots of our clients. We’re looking for better platforms and options all the time, but we’re there now.”
While working from home means that many of us have more time to plan our days, for the events industry, lead times are shorter than ever, and teams have to work hard to deliver impactful events.
“The difference between online events and real events is that real events sometimes can be 15 months in the planning, if it’s a big event on a specific date. Whereas now we’ve created huge events online for clients that we’ve organised within four days. The lead time for online events is really short. Last week we had a call on Tuesday for an event happening that Friday!”
The abrupt change to the lead time for events means that sustained effort and impeccable organisation is key to creating an impactful event. Creating a successful event today no longer requires months of planning, and instead can be done in a short space of time.
“What we tell our clients is that you get out of an event what you put into it. The more videos, real life elements, pitches and thought the better. If organisations are prepared, and lots of people can be, the event can be put together quite quickly.”
As for the future of Event Plan and VE studios, while the industry is constantly evolving, it’s likely that a Covid-19 free world would allow the company to continue operating its virtual or hybrid events while returning to its original offerings, in-person event planning.
“I do think that in the future, everyone will not only be looking for the option to attend events online, but they’ll expect it. We would love to see VE Studios continue post-Covid, but we don’t know what everything will look like in two years’ time. We already have companies coming to us to book events post-Covid. I do think the events industry, when it does open fully, is going to be huge.”
In the meantime, the VE Studio continues to bring events to life across the country from its Cork base. When an industry faces irreversible change, organisations must find new ways to adapt to their environment. In the case of Event Plan, taking a risk and finding new offerings to meet the needs of their clients played an important role in business continuity and success.