It’s been 6 months now since SITE Week took place, a fantastic conference in the midst of the pandemic which generated meaningful conversations and created a platform for members to voice concerns and ideas about the future. Now at the start of 2021 we find ourselves far from “out of the woods”. A 3rd wave is hitting hard globally and we have been re-confined to our regions, and indeed, homes. While the discussions have moved on from last year, it is interesting to reflect and see how much progress we have really made. From scrambling to put together last minute virtual events, to the desperate search for hand sanitiser, to the agony of deciding whether to furlough staff, to the battles with government to see our industry recognised, we have been through, and achieved a lot. Our virtual and hybrid events now operate with engagement, professional finesse, and genuine success. The drudgery of non-stop zoom meeting has been replaced with a more measured approach. We are thinking outside the box and have adapted brilliantly. Yes, we are still anxious about what the future holds, yes, we cannot wait to throw open the doors and welcome back our treasured clients, but most importantly, yes, we are still here, standing, adapting, and ready.
At SITE Week, a session was held on “Safety First: Changing Designs and Experiences. A discussion on the Impacts and Opportunities for Venues, Hotels and Planning Partners”. Mabel Lam generously took minutes and notes from this session and below are some of her key takeaways, still important to remember as we face into this new year.
Meet our SITE Week Ideation Session Scribe:
Mabel Lam lives in Sydney and has over 10 years’ event management experience. She thrives on connections with people and is passionate about the event industry, especially the MICE sector. She is open to event opportunities during COVID-19 and was honoured to be a Scribe during SITE Week.
Crises Create Opportunities
“In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunities”Albert Einstein
Mabel outlines how it is a good time for us to learn and share takeaways. We have already learnt from the experiences of SARS 2003, H5N1:Bird Flu 2005 and GFC 2007-2008, which will stand to us today. She urges that this is the time to show the power of unity, share information (both professional and personal) and learn from each other. It’s an opportunity for us to do things that matter, spend time with family and loved ones, act on overdue ideas and projects, rest and take breaks for our mental health, reflect on life/our career direction, be positive and stay hopeful, embrace relationships and be there for our staff and appreciate what we have. She stresses that we are all in it together, that the year of 2020 is the year for unity, resilience and to be proud to be one of life’s fighters. She advocates for helping both others and yourself to get stronger and better, quoting Hasan Dinc, CITP, ODS Turkey, “We will come back! – And come back stronger.”
Unique Responses and Challenges
Mabel also notes how as 2020 progressed, everyone in the world was dealing with unique challenges in their life and industry, including business closures, personnel cuts and social distancing. Every country’s safety guidelines and industry protocols were different at the different times, and while this was challenging, health and well-being was, and still is, the number one common priority.
Mabel outlines some of the different approaches from across the world at this time, including Turkey, the UK and China.
As one of the panelists, Hasan Dinc’s slogan from Turkey was “We are ready when you’re ready”. He stressed how communication is key for creating COVID-19 safe environments. Mabel also refers to Turkey’s promotional video at this time, which filmed a holiday from a family’s point of view – showing what happens when they check-in into the hotel room and visit other properties. This is a great example of highlighting unique incentive offerings in the property, showing the public the safety precautions that have been put in place before they arrive.
She notes that in the UK, there was quite a bit of confusion for the Meetings and Events industry last summer and there was definitely a demand for greater clarity from the government. However, on the bright side, she highlights how there were still incentive events planned for 2021, which showed a positive outlook for the future.
The Chinese government was seen to have strict guidelines on safety policies in each region, bringing about a positive outcome for the event industry here. Mabel notes how exciting it was to hear that China’s incentive events were already returning in mid-2020 and into 2021 with a new trend focused on smaller groups, near to home destinations, and close to nature themes, such as hiking and camping. Linda Wang from Destination Asia also mentioned the development of ‘Grand Camping’ packages as well as the initiative of buying Incentive packages via coupon format, which allowed companies to use it as a gift for stakeholders or best performing staff.
Safety First: Virtual and Hybrid Events
Mabel also delves into the pros and cons of virtual and hybrid events at the time, our solution during these recovery periods. The pros she notes are that we can keep engaging and interacting with our stakeholders and fulfilling the needs of humanity. Cons, however, are that virtual events will increase the cost of production for venues, hotels and planning partners and raise the question on how to leverage event charges so that businesses can still make a profit.
Finally, Mabel stresses that while the event industry is a difficult space to navigate at the moment, it is also an exciting one with a lot of innovation, mentioning touchless technology, global shared data for COVID Safe Planning, and new branding ideas through safety equipment. She quotes Linda Wang, saying;
“During different times, look at the angle that no one else is looking at.”Linda Wang
Written by Mabel Lam
SITE Week Ideation Session Series:
SITE Week saw SITE Global hosting 46 Ideation Sessions over the course of 2 days, 2 times zones, and catering to over 1500 registrations. The idea was simple – facilitated brain-storming to help us all prepare for the road ahead, collaborating through the sharing of thoughts, insights and perspectives from across the globe, while collaborating and celebrating the togetherness of the larger SITE community. A scribe attended each session, with the role of articulating of his/her thoughts into an informative article which would be a summation of their takeaways from the session.