What does Brexit mean for live events in the UK?

Expert Opinion
What does Brexit mean for live events in the UK?

By Ben Parkinson, commercial director at Bluehat Group

Like it or not, Brexit is a reality that we are all involved in. We can choose to play our part in making the best of the situation or not. We are where we are, and it is what it is, as a wise old soul once said.

General consensus from leading economic and social journalists, plus the output from the recent EVCOM senior leaders debate where 40 event industry leaders spent an afternoon discussing their thoughts and opinions (see pdf report attached), the resounding opinion is of a level of ‘uncertainty’ about what the future holds.

The main problem with ‘uncertainty’ is that it can lead to irrational behaviour. But the fact is the future is always uncertain. No one can possibly know what will happen in 1, 5 10 years time and for all the ‘futurologists’ out there who aim to take a big picture view and cast ‘possible futures’, they are as often wrong as they are right.

Bryan Appleyard, writing in the New Statesman, pointed out, “Futurologists are almost always wrong. Indeed, Clive James invented a word to denote an inaccurate prediction by a futurologist.”

When we accept that the future is always uncertain as a rule, people go about their day-to-day lives trying to make the best of it. However when we focus on possible doom and gloom, a sense of trepidation is created, which increases the chances of a self-fulfilling prophecy. And if the prophecy is a negative one (unfortunately bad news tends to sell more papers than good news) then low and behold you have a whole nation shooting itself in the foot.

Business leaders across London are rallying for calls to seize opportunities that are created by the changing landscape. They are asking the nation to “stand up” and recognise that the UK continues to be a great place to do business and we should actively avoid the self-fulfilling prophecy.

Ashok Vaswani, UK Chief executive of Barclays said: “If we all collectively knock down the country then it gets into a negative spiral. This is an opportunity to break through a psychological barrier and say we want to stand up in the world… it’s definitely not all doom and gloom.”

From a business perspective, it should be “business as usual.” For all the posturing, it’s simply not practical for large businesses to just up and leave. Making such noises is part of the negotiation strategy to drive better tax deals from the government. But with a workforce of thousands and offices with 10 yearn plus leases, making the decision to leave now without hard economic factual data should call CEO’s into question.

Jayne-Anne Gadnia, chief executive of Virgin Money said: “I worry that we create a self-fulfilling circle of negativity unless we work out together how to get something good.”

From a live events business point of view, the reason there is a multi-billion pound industry is because there is a need for one. A company’s most important asset is its people and business leaders who recognise this and work to motivate, inspire and bring out the best in their people will be the ones who thrive now and in the future.

To work towards this, companies need to deliver their key messages across their workforces to fully engage their teams in their plans. This will create an environment where individuals in the team display the most desirable behaviours and have a genuine desire and drive to make a positive difference in everything they do at their place of work.

The more people in your workforce that displays such positive drive, the more powerful the impact on the bottom line. A fully engaged workforce is the Holy Grail for a company and this is where one should place full attention.

It would be counterproductive for the rest of Europe if the UK was punished with poor trading terms as a prosperous wealth creating nation will spend more money in their neighbouring countries. The key is avoiding ego and striving for a genuine win-win situation.

As Gordon Innes, CEO of London & Partners says: “London’s economic success is built upon hundreds of years of international businesses, investors and skilled workers coming here to be part of the most open and dynamic city economy in the world. None of that has changed, none of that will change over the next two years and all the terms of the UK’s exit from the EU are open for negotiation.”

In summary, we face an uncertain future today just as we do on any other day in history. Business leaders across all industries should focus attention on their people by delivering a clear message and plan as to the vision of our business. They should lay out the path they are on and where in the journey they are currently up to. They should be clear on what they need from their teams so their workforce is best equipped to make the best decisions and take the most appropriate action in the day-to-day situations they face. This remains the case regardless of the political or economic landscape and it’s the business leaders that get this right that will create long-term sustainable and industry-leading companies in the future.

What does this mean for the UK’s live event agencies? Is there still a need for live events to support corporations with a forward thinking strategy? Yes. Might there be fewer opportunities in the short term as people come to terms with the new reality? Quite possibly. Does that mean that as event agencies, we’ll have to work a little harder to uncover these opportunities? Most definitely!

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