Lockdown is lifting, but venues remain in flux. The Business Visits & Events Partnership has warned that, if dates for the commencement of events are not specified soon, it is estimated that the industry across the UK will face a £50bn shortfall, placing 500,000 jobs at risk.
On 23rd June, Boris Johnson delivered an update on the nation’s public spaces and businesses, and the likely date at which services would resume. Pubs and restaurants took precedence, while the conference halls, auditoriums and meeting spaces reserved for the events industry were absent from the docket.
With the nation returning to a semblance of normality it is a frustration for venue managers that their fate remains uncertain. The issue of covering their overheads both during and post-lockdown is key. So how will venue operators tackle the issue of covering their costs, and what ripple effect will this have on clients and suppliers?
COVID-19 will hit the capacity of future events, at least in the short term. The Night Time Industries Association revealed from their own research that many businesses speculate they will only achieve 40-43% of their original capacity for the first three months after lockdown is lifted.
Katharine Khan, who manages London’s the Village Underground, shares this concern: “We already know how many people we need to come through our doors to cover our costs. Working on a regular basis at the much-reduced capacities that would be required by social distancing will not enable us to cover our overheads, in fact it would run us into a financial hole pretty quickly.
While these figures focus on evening venues, the issue reflects the struggles faced by corporate events spaces, too.
What to expect
As an event co-ordinator tasked with putting together an event which is going ahead at reduced capacity, we believe you should be prepared for venues to request a higher price for the use of their space. The expectation will be that the organiser, or the client, will help the venue to cover their overheads so that the physical event can go ahead.
This could leave you paying more money for your event, running at reduced capacity. We propose a different approach.
Our solution would be to deploy a virtual hub or platform, allowing your physical event to become a hybrid offering, both preserving your live audience capacity and bolstering it with a much wider group online.
A potential solution.
With the deployment of a virtual platform you allow delegates who feel unsafe attending a physical event to gain the benefits of your programme – for a ticket fee – which can go towards covering the venue overheads.
A virtual platform also has the benefit of an unlimited capacity, and with the correct publicization could become a viable avenue of cost recoupment.
Of course, the development of a virtual platform also comes with its own costs. The value proposition here is that the virtual platform remains useful long after the physical event has shuttered – for gathering data, engaging with your delegates, and generating potentially lucrative leads. The infrastructure of your virtual platform can stay up for use as long as you would like, and can be repurposed for future events.
Event organisers should also expect the distribution of their spend to shift in other ways as the needs of delegates change in a post-pandemic world. Concerns for safety will linger, and increased safety measures will need to be taken to ensure they feel catered for. These extra hygiene measures will require budgetary considerations.
The tactile, personal nature of a physical event is important. Physical events provide elements of the event experience a digital alternative will never be able to replicate. That’s why it’s important, now more than ever, to keep our favourite venues in mind and devise new strategies to ensure their survival.