Future trends in event planning

Following the Government’s roadmap announcement – which gives the go-ahead for indoor performances and smaller events from May 17 (with social distancing), and large-scale events from June 21 – many event organisers and venues are planning live events in some capacity this summer.

This is positive news for our industry, but we are remaining pragmatic. If the last 12 months have taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.

Here are 5 changes we expect to see at live events in 2021

  1.  Technology – Contactless payments and eradicating the need for cash
  2. Hygiene – Sanitation stations, social distancing
  3. Food & Drink – Digital ordering, click and collect methods
  4. Increased demand – surveys show consumers welcome the return of live events
  5. Outdoor vs. indoor – making more of outdoor spaces to welcome crowds, creating a new format for events previously held inside.

The way we operate in events has changed in a number of ways. Our business has had to evolve and adapt to changing guidelines, timelines and restrictions. All the while generating the revenue we need to operate and remain in business.

Some of the changes in the industry are very COVID specific, for example infection control and social distancing measures. But who’s to say that some of the new ways of working won’t stick longer-term? Healthier attitudes to hygiene and fresh air circulation will be high on the list for many, I’m sure.

Scaling up….and down

There is still the question of scale. Large events carry huge financial risk. And it’s a balancing act for venues and organisers who need to assess viability and profitability, alongside the changing guidelines and remaining uncertainty. What’s more, with no Government-backed insurance scheme, some events have already decided to cut their losses for 2021.

A number of factors will contribute to how large (or small) events will be over the next 12 months. First and foremost, government guidelines and measures to ensure social distancing, where it’s needed, will act as a ceiling on numbers. But we also need to consider how venues and event organisers will drive this, now and in the future.

Just as events suppliers have faced the challenges of resourcing an uncertain business pipeline, so have venues. They will have had to furlough staff, scale down contractors and consider how they use their infrastructure in new and different ways for smaller events.

Now they are faced with scaling up once more. But how far should they go? A return to ‘normal’? Or will their business models change to a more cautious, incremental approach?

Some sports venues have made plans for reduced capacity events and we are supporting them with a number of services. We’ll be at Twickenham, for example, later this month for the European Challenge Cup and Heineken Champions Cup, both planning for 10,000 in attendance. We will also be back supporting at Kingsholm Stadium with Gloucester Rugby from 28th May as part of their plans to gradually scale up spectator numbers.

While these games won’t host capacity crowds, the numbers are still significant in light of the last 12 months.

Supply chain – future planning

Changes to size and scope of events will ripple across the supply chain. There’s a lot to consider here from staffing and facilities on site to the providers of food and beverage, tech, logistics, waste management, concessionaires….

Freeemans Event Partners Catering Ben & Jerry's

The best way we can support this is through good communication and an inclusive planning process – even more so than we would have done in pre-COVID times – where everyone is working towards the same (sometimes shifting) goals. We believe this shift has to be good for further development of business relationships and partnerships.

The new event experience

 The pent-up demand from young people in particular, to get up and out to events is almost palpable and I don’t doubt that any festivals that take place this summer will be massively over-subscribed.

But we need to consider how attitudes to events more broadly may have changed. For example, will we see the same appetite for indoor events and exhibitions?  How will the corporate world react now that businesses have become accustomed to operating more remotely?  How has the experience of COVID changed individuals’ feelings towards large gatherings and crowded environments?

At Freemans Event Partners, we’re working with our venue clients to develop new ways to give consumers peace of mind for their safety without eroding what we have all come to love about festivals and events.

Tech is one aspect. It has the potential to play a huge role in how events operate differently, from ticketing and the potential for digital COVID ‘passports’, through to contactless payments for food & beverage or merchandise. We have seen a rise in demand for the latter, which helps preserve hygiene for visitors and staff while reducing queues and waiting time.  Twickenham Stadium, for example, already operates a completely cashless model. With the FCA confirming changes in the rules to allow for an increase in the single transaction contactless payment threshold from £45 to £100, we expect others to follow suit.

Contactless payments Freemans Event Partners

We are also looking at a new delivery model for food and drink, where instead of lining up at a concession, event goers order via an app for click and collect or providers deliver to their seat.

Back in September, we provided an in-seat catering service to fans attending a Premiership rugby match between London’s Harlequins and Gloucester Rugby at Kingsholm Stadium. 1,000 fans entered a ballot to attend live as part of a pilot scheme under strict COVID guidance.

Event goers placed their order and made payment via the Seat Serve mobile website where they could choose from a selection of fast food and full-service bar. Throughout the game, a group of runners delivered over 559 separate orders to fans in their seats.

Time will tell whether the changes to events will be temporary or become more permanent as we continue along the roadmap and learn to live with the threat of COVID longer term.  While many of them have been driven by necessity, some may mean we improve how we do business as an industry in the future.

If you’re planning an event this summer and want to discuss how to run your event safely, we’d love to hear from you, please contact Jason Mumby.


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