As part of the Panoptic Events strategy, of reaching out to our clients, leads, and suppliers, we want to know what our peers are doing and how they are coping through this period of business interruption.

I am hoping, that by sharing some knowledge from our own work and from our worldwide partners, we can share some tips which I hope can be added to your daily routine and long term planning. You can also add your own input which should lead to an interesting discussion.

Having spoken to my Local and Worldwide partners, a few common themes are coming up from those still in office. Empathy, collaboration, and communication are all key.

Our suppliers include Convention Bureaus, Hotel Chains, Event Venues, DMCs & Events companies, and much more, from all over the world. Some of which feature below.

Personally, I have taken this time for a ‘Factory reset’ in order to get the house of Panoptic in order. First came an acceptance of the situation. Next was how to survive with an uncertain future and then lots of communication. Speaking to staff, clients, leads, other businesses, and suppliers. This time is not for trying to sell, it’s for asking “How are you?”

I often listen to podcasts with many business leaders being interviewed, one question which is often asked is:

“If you could go back to the start and change one thing, what would it be?”

I have used this as a basis for being able to look at what we required. A CRM system, processes, marketing plan & materials, signing off the new website and optimising the organisational structure within the business. Overall it has turned us into a slick operation, at a time when we have no immediate events to service.

Maintaining a positive attitude and living in the present, has helped me remain mainly happy and productive. Today is day 47 of my own lockdown and there have been (understandably) a couple of wobbles. I was recently involved in an online talk with European buyers, on how we can pull together at this time of global uncertainty in our industry. This has had great feedback and another talk will follow soon. Acceptance and a switch to long term planning is also becoming a big part of going forward in regards to mindset. One of my coaches said the following to me and it has been huge for my own mindset.
“The industry is only sleeping, it will wake up again soon.”
It is what we do now, in the present, that will make the biggest difference to how we come out of this disruption. From a venue I spoke to in Glasgow, forward planning is the order of the day. The events team at Glasgow Caledonian University is embracing this time to look at future initiatives. They are also taking a look at their strategy and getting stuck into projects that are laid aside when normal day to day work is in the way… The Royal Greenwich Museum venues in London are looking towards Quarter 3 in 2020 onwards. Sophie Linin, the Senior Business Development Manager has commented on their own strategy:
“We are busy working on our exit strategy, looking at various options for proceeding depending on the advice/restrictions we receive from the government. We are hoping to proceed with events as normal and luckily, with five venues, we still have availability for events through Q3/4 and 2021.”
Like a lot of companies currently, Sophie is also looking at the technology element and being able to offer events that will suit a reduced capacity and social distance restrictions,

“We have packages prepared for hybrid events, events that want to broadcast live on zoom to reach maximum attendees, as well as grab and go and social distant catering options and provisions. We are also prepared to move events from one venue to another should we need more space to allow for social distancing and enhancing our outdoor offering.”

The team in Greenwich is also being upskilled for when the industry returns to ‘the new normal,’ taking advantage of the multitude of webinars available, doing online training courses, and learning some tips and tricks for those ‘must use’ programmes.

Across the World overall, events in the first half of the year are off. In Croatia, there is confidence in the latter half of the year, “Quarter 4 is looking strong for the Radisson in Split.” comments Ivan Perisin, despite hotels being closed through to the end of May now. They are still hoping for some business in the Summer.

Silva Usic at Penta Zagreb is working hard on her inbound Incentive groups just now. She is very focusing on relationship building which is part of her philosophy overall and is using this time to reach out, strengthen and build new ones.

“forming relationships is everything”

As part of this outreach, Silva is sending personal emails to her colleagues and asking if they are safe. There has also been some lipstick put on with a personal video aimed at Brazillian agencies talking about how Penta is “there for you and working as normal.” There is also a lot of learning going on including listening to Webinars to learn what other countries are doing.

“I honestly think webinars are good because you present to a group of people, like 20 agents and they give you remarks after presentation, but at the end of presentation they ask questions in the chat room. You do not have 1:1 relationship but at least they can see your product. “

There is certainly a feeling of learning across worldwide DMC companies. Communication and sharing of knowledge are what will allow us all to grow.

On Webinars, The Hague Convention Bureau is releasing a series of webinars in which they will address the disruption caused by Covid19. They are looking to share best practices and provide you with advice. Faye Banwell, The Hagues UK Business Events Sales Manager explains why:

“…as a Convention Bureau for a city where things are discussed and happen that change the world, we have taken the initiative to create our own online webinars to support the industry from all sides to create a positive future.”

Their most recent Webinar was looking at the outlook for the meetings industry and sharing best practices during and post COVID-19 disruption. The next one on ‘How are sales activities in the meetings industry evolving in time where there is little demand?’ will feature key speakers from all over the world including; the CEO of IMEX Group, Carina Bauer, and the Global Executive President of MCI Group, Oscar Cerezales amongst others. Sign up here.

 Ilunion Hotels have been proactive in Spain by helping face the crisis head-on. They have started collaborations with many initiatives to help with the spread of coronavirus. Examples include donating beds to the homeless, food donations, and turning their Seville hotel into a care facility for the elderly.

Rebeca Navas, Ilunion’s Director of Sales, is also doing outreach to clients and looking at ways to work together. Rebeca is confident, there will be foreign guests from October onwards. There will, of course, be new procedures and best practices to follow in order to guarantee personal distance and also the safety of staff and guests. Like most people, they are following Government advice. They are also looking at business systems and listening to webinars from various experts:

“to learn a lot about how will be the Hospitality industry and how this pandemic can change our “Hotel World”.”

This knowledge share will lead to better predictions on how the pandemic will change the overall events industry.

One company who has been very proactive with their communication is Deutsche Hospitality. They host a weekly tea time travel quiz (3pm on a Thursday) hosted by Rachael Askem. These are bringing together buyers and suppliers from the UK and Europe. These fun quizzes have helped with communication and offer a break from peoples ‘normal’ day. They have led to discussions about what people are doing, knowledge sharing, and network building. All the while, being a fresh approach to outreach and keeping the company at the top of buyers’ minds.

In the Philippines, the International Convention Centre has given over one of their spaces as a Quarantine facility, like many Exhibition Centres across the world. They have also looked at drafting new event policies to safeguard clients with any event postponements.

“We are looking forward to the day when we can all go out and be back to normal business, but I guess we will need to consider the new normal.”

Vianca Marie Bocalan (Sales & Marketing Officer) like others, alludes to ‘the new normal’ and working out what that will be. The Philippine ICC is coordinating with the MICE players in the country for a well-coordinated plan for the Philippine MICE industry. Collaboration during this time is massively important and speaking with the whole industry in the country will lead to a stronger future.

In Thailand, Journey to Asia (DMC) are doing daily conference calls with staff, which is training their team ready for business post-crisis. They are also noticing a busy November and December 2020. Journey to Asia’s Jeff Fongmool says there are “also looking into new products and technology for events. Communicating internally and innovating with their upcoming events.”

In Mexico, IM Promociones have a great new video presented by Daniela and her dog Pepito. She speaks about how her company are being proactive personally and in business. She talks about resilience and being creative (excellent advice) all the while presenting a destination that you might want to use for Incentives in the future. The message is great, look at this place for the future, and know the destination, the spaces and the food will all be there in the not too distant future.

Companies can now react quickly, our outreach will allow us to understand clients’ needs. We all need to work together, suppliers, buyers, and clients. We have a lot of time to listen more, think more, and be creative. Safety is paramount, hence current events are off. Though there will be a staged comeback, so look at options of hybrid events just now. Get yourself ready as the industry will wake up soon, maybe even as soon as Q3.

Overall, proactive companies are being creative and looking at long term planning. Building up internal operations and looking to the future now is what will stand the industry in good stead. Yes, there is a short term pain, though looking at a long term gain will bring us all out this stronger.

Creating a learning mindset across the industry will really help in the immediate, what have we seen today that we can share with others?

In terms of communication, we need to be showing empathy, talking to as many people as possible, picking up the phone, or going on video calls, having meetings, conversations and collaborating. Strengthening and forming new relationships right now (we have some time) is the way we will all come out this stronger. We may not be able to meet face to face, however we have never been better connected. Use this time to reach out, you never know what ideas might come from it.

I have found communication has been key in this period and it has been great to reach out to friends & acquaintances across the worldwide industry, as we are all in this together. Speaking to others in the industry will allow for best practice, knowledge sharing and collaborations moving forward. It is an uncertain future, however, sharing information today will ensure our beloved industry has a future.

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