Return of Live Events

Dialling up – how to plan, rebuild and resource for the return of live events

2020 – a year of postponements, cancellations, hope and renewed frustrations. There were so many times during the last year when the lights got turned on then off again in the events market.

The unpredictability of the situation was one of the most challenging aspects. We are very used to scaling up resources for the big venues, but this is with good foresight and the ability to plan, meticulously so.

The current roadmap out of lockdown offers some structure to the 2021 season. We can see it’s likely to start later in the summer and last longer than usual. While some uncertainty remains, we can at least pencil in the major dates and get back to what feels much more like business as usual.

The last 12 months have challenged every area of our business. Yet we have remained resilient and there are lessons we have learned which we can apply to the year ahead.

Importance of good communication

Communication has been a priority for us. It has been so important to maintain a regular dialogue with clients who were often facing similar challenges. Whether it was to share information, answer questions or just pick up the phone to talk through the issues – it’s been essential.

The same applied for our own team. We are a family firm and so much of what we do is collaborative. We needed to keep our people engaged, updated and reassured at a very difficult time for us all.

Pivot!

With much of our traditional business either on hold or cancelled, we needed to think differently about how the services we provide might work in new markets.

An example of this is our contract with a leading energy company, where we provided round the clock catering for a site supporting a new nuclear power plant. Outdoor and Covid secure, yet a million miles from the likes of Silverstone or Twickenham where we have been doing business for many years. This work showed that our business model can be adapted and flexed for new environments. And it has given us confidence if we need (or want) to change direction in the future.

Tiered planning – prepare to scale up or down

Now we have a clearer idea of when some events will return, exactly what they will look like is still uncertain. Particularly when it comes to size and scale.

It’s not unusual for us to plan 12-18 months ahead with clients so this year will look very different. We have developed a three-tier planning framework. The middle ground is what we expect to happen, based on the information we have at the outset. Then we build in options for scaling up and scaling down. That way we can stagger the planning, adjusting as we learn more, with plans in place for each scenario. We also frontload the paperwork – which will apply irrespective of scale. This method can apply to everything from staffing to bars, concessions to tech.

Our experience of events such as LAP LAND at Silverstone back in December showed how we can adapt our services to a different sized audience in an environment we know well.

Revisit your skills base

Our team on the ground has faced some huge challenges over the last year. We have had to make some very difficult decisions around resource, conversations which I’m sure will have been echoed across the sector.

Traditionally, we built our team from the bottom up, giving individuals the opportunity to progress through the ranks. But we are now in a situation where we will need to dial up, in some cases rapidly, to support contracts coming on board with a shorter lead time. We will need to bring on board people with experience, who can be hands on from the off. Many roles have now changed and require a diverse set of skills.

We also need to consider that many of our venue clients will be operating with fewer staff, teams that will require support to build bandwidth and skills.

As we gear up our operations, we need to be able to work not only with our own new staff, but those of third-party providers – everything from tech and logistics to waste management and cleaning. And all within a covid safe environment.

Over the last year we have had to be resourceful, flexible and open minded. I don’t doubt the experience will strengthen our resilience as a business in the long term.

But for the next few seasons at least, we will apply the lessons we’ve learned and be prepared to adapt and adapt again.

 

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