The events industry has been hit hard by the pandemic, with all live events cancelled for over a year, many businesses associated with it will have gone bust. The Events Industry Alliance (EIA) wrote an open letter to the government stating that 90,000 jobs could be lost in the event sector if further support isn’t provided by the government.  The events sector employs around 600,000 people in the UK, this would be a loss of over 15% of all jobs in this industry. Booking Agents Association (HBAA) go higher by saying 30% of those working in conferences and meetings will be gone by the end of 2020.

So when will conferences, trade shows and exhibition builds be able to restart?  On February 22nd 2021 the government announced the roadmap to lead us out of the latest (and hopefully final) lockdown.  All being well all events will be able to return on June 21st 2021.  As of May 17th 2021 controlled indoor events of up to 1,000 people, or 50% of the venue’s capacity, whichever is lower, will be permitted.

People at a exhibition hall

Business events may take longer to return, there don’t tend to be many held over the summer so it will probably be the autumn before they get up and running again.  Business events rely on commitment from exhibitors in both time and money, and the tough times businesses have experienced in the past year may make them a little more cautious than those at other events.  There is also likely to be a delay getting all the aspects of events fully organised until there is certainty of them going ahead. What does the future hold for Business Events?

But what will business events be like when they are allowed to restart?

Event Safety

Once in-person events are allowed to recommence how will organisers ensure that they are safe spaces for people to attend?  They may have to take the following steps:

busy trade show crowd

  • Screening of visitors – temperature checks could take place at the entrance to the exhibition using contactless thermometers. Those with a temperature above 37.8 degrees celsius may not attend.  All queues for any on-site screening must be outside the venue and clearly marked with 2m distances and protected from other foot traffic
  • Rapid testing – all delegates required to show proof of a negative coronavirus test with the previous 72 hours. Or testing on site.
  • Social distancing – delegates will be required to maintain a distance of 2 metres between each other.
  • Delegates and staff should be required to wear a face covering.
  • Venues must create and display by the entrance a coronavirus NHS QR code. Everyone attending must scan the code or have their details taken for track and trace purposes.
  • Potentially all delegates to be invited/pre-ticketed and no walk-ins permitted.
  • Exchange of business cards could be prohibited.
  • Hand shakes will not be permitted and signs displayed reminding people of this.
  • Hand sanitiser to be located at the entrance and several other locations in the building.
  • Seating in seminar rooms to be placed 1 metre apart and room capacities limited to allow for social distancing.
  • No cash to be accepted, only contactless payments.
  • Perspex barriers must be in place where attendees and security staff come into contact, or attendees need to stand closer than 1m, including at checking of tickets and bags, and at registration desks
  • A one-way flow of delegates should be in place with clear signage to indicate direction of travel.
  • Ailes should be wide enough to allow for social distancing between flows of traffic.
  • Doors should be propped open, excluding fire doors, to prevent needless contact with door handles
  • Ventilation within the hall and rooms should be maximised and windows opened where possible
  • Door handles, railings, lift buttons and bathrooms to be cleaned regularly and the venue deep-cleaned between events.
  • Table service in place for catered food, no buffets or shared equipment like water jugs.

This may seem like a lot of issues to deal with, but the threat of transmission at large events will remain high until the majority of the population are vaccinated which is unlikely to be the case in May.

Virtual Events, the future for Business Events

The banning of live events and adoption of remote working has virtual events replacing in-person events.  As a result of the pandemic, the sheer volume of online events has increased significantly. Businesses who wouldn’t necessarily hold online events before are now looking to virtual events as a way to engage with their audience. The convenience and economy of these means that they are likely to become more widespread in the future.

However virtual events don’t allow the same opportunities for meeting people and networking.  It is also quite challenging to showcase your business well with a virtual 3D stand and engaging with visitors is more difficult in the virtual sphere.  Evidence shows that revenue is significantly lower from a virtual event, profit margins may be higher but there is a loss in revenue of 50% according to Bauer UK the organiser of many events.

While in-person events are certain to make a come back, there may still be a reluctance from people to travel and mix with large groups.  This is where hybrid events could be a good solution allowing for a much greater reach for event organisers.  Visitors could either attend in person or virtually using virtual reality software to tour the exhibition and attend seminars.  Seminar content can be filmed and live-streamed for delegates who do not wish to attend.  But once again this prevents the benefits of networking that an in-person event brings.

So, the return of large scale events will be a challenge while the threat of Covid-19 remains high.  Organisers will have to put many measures in place to ensure the safety of visitors and staff.  Virtual or Hybrid events have replaced in-person events during the past year and will probably continue to do so in the near future.  But businesses still prefer the benefits of in-person exhibitions and trade shows as they give greater scope to showcase their products and provide unique opportunities for networking.  If you would like to discuss your exhibition requirements with an expert, you can contact us on 01202 723 500 or email designteam@quadrant2design.com.