Corporate event planners from Oracle, KPMG and the Association of Financial Markets Europe (AFME) have switched their focus to virtual events for the foreseeable future but are hopeful they might be able to run some small local meetings before the end of 2020.
Our latest micebook talks session featured insights from KPMG Head of Events and Hospitality Julie Furby, Oracle Head of Strategy & Operations International Marketing Mark Baker and Jade Cannon, Associate Director of Events at AFME, which represents the wholesale banking industry. Here are some of the key takeaways…
KPMG’s Furby said: “We are moving swiftly into upskilling the whole team in the virtual space”, adding that looking after the team’s wellbeing and making sure they are supported through regular virtual huddles and team chats is also a key focus.
Oracle’s Baker said: “We have managed to keep everyone on, which is great. We have always had a mix of live and virtual as part of our events strategy, with the main focus being live. It has now gone completely virtual. We have moved from 100 virtual events a quarter to 300 virtual events a quarter. This has created challenges in terms of the platforms we use and making sure our people are skilled up. We have been focused on making sure they know how to guide their speakers and customers from interacting in a rich live environment to a virtual environment.”
AFME’s Cannon also still has a full team and is focused on upskilling the team in virtual events. “Webinars and virtual events have been on my list of things to do for years. Now we have been thrown into this, we are adding lots more virtual events into our calendar, which we can keep alongside our live events once they come back. It’s been difficult because it’s a lot of change for the team, but there are some silver linings.”
What does the immediate future look like?
All of AFME’s events will be virtual until Autumn. “There are lots of factors that will impact out decision to go live again including government and travel restrictions in the UK and across Europe. I hope we can start delivering some live events before the end of the year, and next year, we will definitely be doing a combination of live and virtual events,” said Cannon.
KPMG has formally frozen all live events for the summer period. Furby said: “I don’t see too much coming back this calendar year from a live perspective. We are optimistic and keeping our options open. We will keep an eye on government guidelines and make sure we are in a position to react quickly to any changes if we can. For virtual events, we are looking at how we accommodate all our audiences and make sure it’s an inclusive environment and takes into account people with additional needs, for example the hard of hearing.”
Oracle’s Baker said: “We are desperate to be back face to face as we think it is a great way to interact with our customers. How soon live events come back depends on size of events, what is happening in those geographies and how far along on the Covid-19 curve they are. We had to cancel our big regional hub event in Singapore in June, and we don’t expect those large events to come back until well into 2021. We are starting to see some interest in a few locations, starting in Asia, and think there might be an opportunity to do some small events for 30-50 before the end of this year.”
What could venues, hotels and suppliers be doing to help corporates?
AFME’s Cannon: “This is such a difficult situation for everyone involved. There is no expectation from us that anyone will know the answer. It’s a two-way street and important that we all work together. But what would make me feel more confident is for hotels and suppliers to be proactive and show us what they are doing with regards to increased sanitisation and suggestions for how they might serve food safely. You will stand out from the rest of the suppliers in your field if you can show what solutions you can offer.”
Oracle’s Baker: “In order to sell something internally, we need to make sure our stakeholders are comfortable with any risk we might be taking by bringing people together. The more documentation and clarity we have from suppliers to show how they can help us manage that risk, the better.”
How will budgets change?
Oracle’s Baker: “We will continue being pushed on cost per person. Trying to do physical events while maintaining the cost per person we had before is going to be difficult if we have to have less people in larger spaces. But in order to get buy in it will be important. If there are extra charges because of the extra measures you are taking as a venue, make sure it is clear why, so we can take that information up the chain and try and justify the cost internally. Clarity is key.”
KPMG’s Furby: “ Budgets will need to stretch further because there are lots more considerations than we had before. Getting the most out of the event will be more important than ever.”
Outlook for events in general
AFME’s Cannon: “It’s vital for us to still have a presence in Europe and we still want to organise events in European cities but that will be dependent on the ongoing travel restrictions and rate of infections in those countries. I think travel restrictions are going to be our biggest hurdle. I think smaller board meetings might come back first, then potentially conferences but with a smaller audience and a hybrid element. One of the last things to come back will be dinners as it will be challenging to manage a dinner with social distancing in place.
“I am feeling hopeful. We are one of the best industries to adapt to change and deal with crisis management. It is going to be difficult, but I think we can work together to come up with some interesting solutions.”
Oracle’s Baker: “We love doing big events in hub locations rather than smaller regional events. There are two things that are going to drive that – how quickly travel routes reopen and how quickly other companies have a willingness, based on cost sensitivities and realities ,to put people on a plane to another country to attend an event. My gut is that we will have to do fewer large cross-country hub events, and more local events.
“As a company we have always done physical first. What I see is as we head into next year is people being much more familiar with virtual technology than they were before and being more comfortable with it. The question is, will it affect their willingness and interest in travelling to an all-day event?”
KPMG’s Furby: “I think outdoor events might come back first. Then smaller events in larger spaces. The hybrid will be a lot more of an easy sell. Those decision makers that have been technophobe in past and would have always gone for live event will be more open to hybrid and virtual solutions, which can help widen our audience reach. I am hopeful and excited and looking forward to working it out with everybody together.”