It’s now just on one year since Friday 13 March 2020 when not even the Village People could stop what was about to happen. And it wasn’t just the music that stopped – events of all shapes and sizes were mortally wounded.
At 8:45am on that fateful day, the Grand Prix was cancelled and at 1:00pm the Prime Minister banned all events over 500 people. We all know the rest of the story and understand how it all played out, and still is to this day, although there is light beginning to shine at the end of a very long tunnel.
A lot has been said and written since then, so on this auspicious anniversary I thought I would share my take on the past twelve months and what the future holds. Recognising that the events world is different depending on where you call home, this comes from a Victorian perspective.
So, here we go in no particular order what I’ve learnt:
- Our events industry has been the hardest hit and events, in general have become collateral damage in the big picture about saving certain industries sometimes to the detriment of ours. Large public events, festivals and exhibitions are still way off being able to operate normally. It’s now a two-speed economy depending on what type of event you are running and where you are located.
- Despite continued efforts with the state government, we have not been successful in gaining any additional direct support for our industry. I will write a book about this one day, but it’s not through lack of trying by many. When I see images of crowded shopping centres and nightclubs and compare that to empty function rooms it’s enough to make every event producer, food and beverage manager and functions manager cry. Why different rules for different sectors!
- Border closures sap confidence for everyone, and that is the current issue that is on everyone’s mind.
- Clients are champing at the bit to do something other than Zoom.
- Against this backdrop, the events industry in all its forms is so fragmented that there is not one unifying voice that can speak on behalf of us all. Instead, 10 different voices have gone out with good intentions, but has inadvertently created some mixed messaging at different levels of government. This is no one’s fault but has arisen out of the basic instincts of human survival. Importantly, just because one voice can be louder than another does not always equate to being strategically sound and working in the best interests of the industry as a whole. This is something we need to look at in the future. The Australian Hotels Association’s model appears to be a good one as they lobby on a national level, and have the ear of government.
- There is no doubt it’s been a hard slog particularly for the smaller operators of which I classify myself as one. To lose good staff and then watch them leave the industry has been, by far, the hardest thing to deal with. Personally, I’ve seen five leave.
It’s easy to go on and say why has this all happened to me whilst other sectors of the economy are booming. But to quote the late Michael Gudinski, “if you only want to talk the past then you should move on.” So, in taking this advice, I’m planning to move on and do so with an understanding for the following;
Yes, we will always continue to work with the government, but with the understanding they can’t instantly fix the key issues. They’re not going to change and a lot of the time I feel it gets bogged down in the overall system.
I even question the value of a parliamentary enquiry having any direct impact on government policy in the short term. We could all write that report ourselves as everyone knows what the key issues are. The report is not due until late June and for many that will be too late.
So, I can’t do anything about that, but what I can do is plan the future of the business around the confines of a COVID-19 world. Clients are saying, “Peter, we didn’t do the event last year and we have to do something albeit differently, otherwise we are losing contact with our stakeholders”. Clients are looking to us for real solutions and not just to hear what can’t be done. This is my chance to be more proactive than ever.
I am also resigned to the fact that large public events like street parades and festivals will be limited this year, but there are other ways of doing the same thing. It’s just a matter of thinking differently, as even a modified event is better than no event.
The tide is slowly turning and barring any disasters around borders, I can see the light a more positive outlook from May onwards for us and many other suppliers.
Yes, there will be casualties just as there has been in other industries, but have a look at those businesses who have made changes and are now off and running.
It is and always will be an issue around clients having confidence to run events. From 13th March I’m officially drawing the line and not getting side tracked by those who want to go down a different path.
There will be so many opportunities if we’re prepared to make our business relevant, focussed and above all, adaptable.
Then the song I will relate to is by the one hit wonders D:Ream – ‘Things can only get better.’ Apologies, if they had another hit.