Katie Roberts is head of events at Hosted by National Museums Liverpool. She spoke to C&IT to discuss some of the challenges facing the conference and events sector amid the coronavirus pandemic, and ways that businesses can grow and adapt.
“One of the unique selling points of our venues is their history, with our museums and galleries home to artwork and artefacts dating back centuries,” says Roberts.
“We usually encourage clients who enquire with us to visit our venues, as this gives them a first-hand opportunity to see how special they are, as well as allowing them to meet their event manager and start to create a plan for their event or conference.
“As things stand, this won't be possible for the foreseeable future, but we’ve adapted our approach. With recent, high-quality photography and videography, we’re able to showcase our spaces in the best possible way, which, coupled with commentary from our remote-working sales team, is a great alternative for clients.”
Roberts says that with most event professionals and planners now working from home, interaction with clients has gone online. That could mean digital conferencing platforms to maintain that face-to-face interaction or using 360° VR-style tours to demonstrate their space.
“We appreciate that many corporate clients are facing challenges of their own, and venues need to be mindful that budgets that have been in place for current bookings may not be there going forward,” says Roberts.
“To minimise loss of bookings or income, flexibility is key. Now is the time to review your cancellation policies or even your payment terms, and take a different approach - even if it’s temporary - that will benefit both you and your client in the long run, while retaining a transparent and honest dialogue throughout the process.
“By allowing our clients to reschedule events within a 12 month period, we've found that the calendar is already filling up for the months to come, giving us the confidence that we, like many others, will be able to recover from this crisis.”
A time for learning
Roberts says that with fewer events to manage, staff may feel that they have more time on their hands, but it's important that they are still working in ways that benefit the business.
“So far, we’ve been taking this opportunity to really focus on personal and professional development across all levels,” she says. “This means using our e-learning platform and other activities and training programmes to ensure that our staff keep on top of their practical skills, and will come back to their role with confidence.
“This could be the time to develop your brand identity and review your offer, for example.
“Venues can also use this as an opportunity to review their digital strategy, perhaps adopting a new approach that will maximise opportunities in the weeks and months ahead.”
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