Be Prepared: a paean to the resilience of eventprofs

Expert Opinion
Be Prepared: a paean to the resilience of eventprofs

Paul Cook says the coronavirus has revealed the resilience of the events industry


In 1907, Baden-Powell, devised the Scout motto: Be Prepared. It was a phrase synonymous with the Scouting Movement and helped young people get ready for life’s challenges.

In fact, it is pretty much the unspoken motto of the global events industry also. Event organisers automatically have alternative plans ready, in case their first one needs to be changed. Venues and other suppliers are also well used to dealing with risk assessments and adhering to health and safety legislation for whatever part of the world they happen to be in.

There will always be some issue that the events industry needs to be able to deal with it. From the impact of: an earthquake in New Zealand, bush fires in Australia or terror attacks in Europe, the events industry has to react with speed, professionalism and calm.

The coronavirus is the latest crisis in a long line of issues to make the headlines.

You can never know what’s around the corner. Who would have imagined an ash cloud would have put air travel on hold across Europe, or that we would experience an outbreak of SARS or that the spread of Foot & Mouth disease would have led to many event cancellations in the UK? While it may be impossible to predict what form a crisis will take, managing the risk is possible.

The lessons from disasters have already been learned by the events industry. In fact a number of organisations in the events sector have produced all sorts of blog posts, articles, factsheets, videos and podcasts on how to deal with the issue of the time. This very useful information should be plugged into the knowledge banks of overcoming a crisis for the industry as a whole.

Break any disaster down and its impact will be felt in the areas of finance, people and property. However, the issue that is more important than finance and property (as both can be replaced) is people. People suffer, people panic and people don’t always have information to help them deal with the situation that has arisen. What happens to people when a crisis occurs? They get injured, they get sick or they get stuck.

As an industry with all the knowledge, expertise and insights to deal with these scenarios there is no reason for anyone to panic. However, the challenge for the events industry is one of perception. It needs to be better at its own PR. Despite years of successfully dealing with disasters, some media can issue shock headlines that make the crisis seem worse than it is. The headlines need to be countered. The expertise of the industry needs to shine and instil confidence. Faith needs to be restored that the creative sector really is in control.

The events industry is resilient but needs to shout about it. Apart from issuing press releases and statements, actions speak volumes. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Our industry needs to communicate effectively. Silence should be avoided as it only helps to fuel nervousness of people who fill in the gaps with rumour if they don’t know what is happening.
  • Key players in the industry such as hotel chains, conference venues or airlines need to take decisive action in a short time frame. Adopting a wait and see what everyone else does approach doesn’t help. The length of time taken on making a decision can have a big impact on the final result. This is where preparation is key. If you have run scenarios of how to cope you will be in a better position to deal with the issues. The events industry needs to come together to ensure that ‘lessons learned’ are not after the next disaster but in advance of it. There is a wealth of experience across all sectors of the industry that can help. The industry associations can influence their members and have a major impact on public perception of a crisis.

Isn’t it time that the events industry demonstrates just how resilient it is and gives the calm assurance to all stakeholders, staff and the public that it really is prepared?

Whether you are an event organiser, a chain of hotels, an airline, a supplier or an association you have a story that can be told. A story of how you helped minimise the impact of the crisis. It’s a story that others can learn from. It’s time to share.

One of the best ways to share is by contacting the relevant trade association, trade publication or national broadcaster. It is up to us to create our own positive PR. As an industry, we know how to deal with disasters. It’s time to let anyone outside of the events space understand that they are in safe hands. One thing that the coronavirus can reveal is just how resilient the events industry really is.

Baden-Powell would be proud of our actions.

Paul Cook is a writer, author and lecturer – specialising in events and founder of Planet Planit Ltd

Stuart Wood is a news reporter across the Mash Media editorial portfolio. He writes for CMW alongside sister publications Conference News, Exhibition News, Access All Areas and Exhibition World.

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