It’s time to enjoy the UK

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed all of our worlds, and not just in the short-term. Outside of healthcare—where heroes dressed in gowns are battling on the front lines—few industries have been hit like travel and within that I include Incentive Travel, where staff are often rewarded for their efforts & successes with a well earned ‘money can’t buy’ experience somewhere in the world.

That said, the scale of the problem cannot be ignored; entire nations have been ordered to stay at home, airlines have gone bankrupt, travel companies are laying off massive amounts of workers, and hotels are now hospitals. When things do start to return to “normal”, travel, especially international travel, will look very different.

When will travel recover?

The million-dollar question. The short answer is nobody knows for sure. Travel will recover in stages and freedom to travel will vary, not only country-by-country but by region. In addition, there are multiple factors that will influence travel such as social distancing on planes, the reliability of antibody tests, if immunity is lasting, restrictive company travel policies & peoples own willingness to travel, to name but a few.

So what will influence your next incentive travel project?

  1. The queue at immigration in some countries & then at certain airports could be longer than ever before
  2. You may need more than just a passport – wristbands with barcodes, immunity certification, testing at the border etc
  3. Travel will have different ‘new’ expensive windows of opportunity
  4. Recovery will be uneven so being able to predict which country is ‘open’ months ahead will be hard
  5. Will you be able to get insurance cover for your group that includes Covid cover – nobody knows right now
  6. Air quality on aircraft is vastly different & those airlines highlighting their premium quality air filtration systems will be the ones to use
  7. Local partners – good DMC’s will become more important than ever to ensure all activities, accommodation & service providers are COVID guideline compliant

Therefore there’s no better time to explore & enjoy ‘home’!

Like you & I, I bet that whoever your incentive is set out to appeal to they will not have truly explored and enjoyed some of the wonderful places & experiences that sit right under our noses here at home. Whether we are talking 5 star hotels or treehouses, rugged coastlines or lakes & valleys you will find some of the most amazing, jaw dropping places to stay & things to do in the UK. All accessible by your own car or train in only a few hours, with no luggage restrictions, entry requirements & of course you could if you needed to get home quickly & easily.

Here are one or two ideas:

Go on Safari at Port Lympne Reserve – sleep with the lions (see headline pic), in a tent with the giraffe’s or under the stars in a 180 degree, panoramic bubble pod

Have a long weekend in one of the luxury tree houses at Chewton Glen. Surrounded by the New Forest & by the coast you can ride horses or sail in the Solent as part of your stay.

Enjoy hot air ballooning & fine dining with a stay at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in the Cotswolds,created by celebrated chef Raymond Blanc OBE.

Evolution are here to help

We have many years experience of providing our clients with incentive travel solutions which has in turn given us an in depth knowledge of properties, activities & service providers both here in the UK & overseas.

If you would like us to provide you with some ideas, get in touch & we will happily respond to your brief with either a ‘light touch’ proposal or fully costed solution. Whichever you require at the time.

A new narrative for hotels and venues

Stephanie Hall, Group Director of Sales & Marketing at the Exclusive Collection gives us her thoughts on a new narrative for hotels and venues.

“Our business is about bringing groups of people together – to interact, learn and celebrate. Ultimately to be social. 

Yet, rightly so, these interactions, learnings and celebrations must be done from a distance or the foreseeable under ‘social distancing’. However, as we move towards a new phase in lockdown shouldn’t we be relinquishing the ‘social’ shackle and work with a term that is more fitting for an industry that encourages social interactions?

It’s widely acknowledged that loneliness can be detrimental to our health and mental health and our current ‘social distancing’ status has compounded this as we keep learning during this Mental Health Awareness Week. A YouGov survey recently found half of people working from home felt isolated and 7 in 10 were missing social interactions at work.
Therefore, isn’t ‘physical distancing’ more fitting and a better descriptor? After all we’ve re-tuned ourselves to sensing a new 2-metre physical boundary and we are now well versed in being able to uphold our personal perimeter when we are on our occasional errands and exercise trips.

The entire hospitality sector is jumping through hoops to ensure a physical 2m distance is in place for when the locks are off. We have spent the last 8-weeks understanding the customer and supplier journey, implementing protocols and heightening sanitisation, while balancing the core premise of our business: places for people to be social.

Our golf and tennis facilities have just opened, fly fishing at Lainston House is back in operation and there are positive rumblings for the hospitality sector that we will all be socialising again – albeit at a physical distance.

Across our businesses we’ve created new signage to help with the flow of guests and to keep people the appropriate physical distance from each other. Nowhere do we suggest guests shouldn’t be social! 

A ‘physical distance’ but not ‘social distance’.”

Sell Sell Sell…..


There’s always targets to smash, expectations to meet and products to sell, sell sell! But even the best sales teams will have their off weeks; where the phones won’t ring, emails go unanswered and morale goes through the floorboards.

For organisations who rely on their sales teams to generate and convert those precious leads, having a demoralised sales team can mean big problems. So, how can you shake off the blues and get your sales team back to their deal-closing best?


Yup, you’re probably reading this and thinking cash incentives or bonuses are the answer to encouraging sales team.

Well, when it comes to cash v rewards a cash-related bonus for hitting a target might make sense, but they’re just not that effective long-term.

It’s a well-known (not-so) secret that when it comes to motivating certain behaviours in the workplace, non-cash rewards are a far more appealing carrot to dangle.

There are examples of plenty of national size companies as well as smaller ones who are ditching their reliance on cash incentives and switching to cashless rewards and incentives as part of positive company cultures.

Cashless incentives and rewards can help companies do two things:

  • Maintain consistent effort
  • Retain your best talent.

These are pretty big factors when it comes to a motivated and successful workforce, so if you’re wanting to motivate your sales team, perhaps it’s time you stashed the cash and tried these cashless alternatives instead!

1. Who doesn’t love a good bit of grub? Treating those that hit target to a decent bit of food at a trendy restaurant or pub, possibly with an overnight stay instead of their usual soggy sandwiches or warmed-up leftovers will give everyone the boost to make those sales.

Dining experiences tend to stick with people for a long time and get talked about over and over again. There are well known places like Heston Blumenthal’s, Fat Duck close to London for example however there are also fantastic lesser known places like Restaurant Dans Le Noir where you eat in the dark, served by blind waiters or even Dinner in the Sky for the ultimate team dinner!

2. They may be a stereotypical part of company cultures, but a day out engaging in a well planned & thought out team building day will allow your team to expand their problem-solving skills, improve their communication skills and work together as a team. Brilliant right now for a team that may have been furloughed or working remotely.

They might be seen as just a ‘nice day out’, but when done properly, they give staff the opportunity to build upon all the skills they need to be a winning team and have some fun along the way. Sailing in The Solent, on safari in Kent or winemaking in Somerset are all activities that the team here at Evolution can help you with to create a fantastic team culture.

3. Providing memorable experiences for when your sales team close that big deal is another way to inspire productivity and profitability. Giving your people the chance to enjoy an activity or experience they may not get the chance to do regularly can be more effective than just dumping some coin in their bank account.

Experiential rewards will always have more impact if they are seen to be more achievable & regular so it doesn’t have to be the annual target type 4 day trip to New York or a week in the Caribbean reward. You business could be better to offer quarterly mini breaks to somewhere like the New Forest or Scotland or maybe even a ski trip in the Alps. This way every month is a new start & the team goes all out to claim the prize without switching off because the reward is out of reach.

Here at Evolution we are experts in understanding exactly what would inspire your team the best & coming up with a ‘menu’ of solutions that you can choose to put forward. Get in touch if you would like us to do just that for you.


Today’s blog is slightly different to those of the last few weeks in that I want to use it to simply ask some questions & make a few statements that should get us all thinking about the direction we are heading in, how we are or could be adapting our own businesses to reach those short term objectives we’ve recently been forced to set and what conversations might we be having with our clients & prospects to identify where & how they are going to get the events business back on track post COVID-19.

So here goes:

Is it a given that all future face to face events will have to be amplified with some sort of digital & virtual experience?

From an event perspective when life returns to ‘normal’, will staying at home be the new going out?

Can sponsorship of a virtual event (or elements of a F2F event) give a better ROI for sponsors than a face to face one?

“Today Virtual – Tomorrow Hybrid”

Businesses need to ensure they can survive today before they look long-term – JP Hanson

What is your virtual programme going to be & how will you engage with your sponsors?

Is there a danger that events become to technology & product led and less so about the customer & the experience being offered?

How will airlines adapt both the airport and in-flight customer offering to comply with new COVID-19 guidelines and will this cause many event organisers to put on hold plans to run events involving air travel in the short to mid term?

“Upheaval breeds innovation, transition provides space and perspective to reevaluate and reprioritise”

Extensive screen time, accelerated by behaviour changes due to COVID-19, will bring gamification to the fore for many new event planners.

With social distancing guidelines likely to restrict the size of future events, is there, an opportunity for event planners and suppliers to get creative and win new business?

The best marketers will be upping, not cutting, their budget – Mark Ritson

Post lockdown, but with new guidelines in place as to how we all live & go about business how can we help brands to deliver on the entertainment and escapism that experiential used to create at or as events & experiences?

The short to mid term focus for UK event planners has to be largely on UK venues so do we know enough about what’s on our own doorstep to put forward a compelling and winning proposal to a client?

Will venues be able to adapt effectively enough to attract event business with probable social distancing guidelines in place for some while?

What is normal?

When the world ultimately returns to normal, albeit an as yet unknown “new normal”.   Where does all of this leave live events? Both in the UK and globally.

Much comment has been made about Zoom, especially its exponential growth during the lockdown; that businesses across the globe will realise that face-to-face meetings of any size are redundant; that drab (and not so drab) offices are surplus to requirements as we all embrace a new WFH culture; that AI and automation will bring an end to the need for many to trudge daily onto the factory shop floor. Let’s take a quick look at each of those.

Evolution uses Zoom once a week on a Friday morning for a remote social get-together for the team, to enable us all to say hi and see each other’s happy smiling faces. It can be a bit “clanky” at times with the odd mac glitch preventing somebody from joining, but in the main it works. It’s a purely social thing, no work of any nature comes up as some of the team are in furlough and email and the good old mobile phone works just as well for the rest to communicate (as it always has done).

Zoom is not new, the service launched at the start of 2013, more than 7 years ago – yet how many of us have only just started using it?

There are plenty of fore runners and competitors to Zoom: work-based models such as Cisco Webex that enable colleagues to speak directly to each other across the world. I am no expert, but I would expect these may be much more secure systems and possibly relatively expensive in terms of the kit needed? Microsoft Teams is an alternative option too… we have that included in our software licence package but have never felt the urge to actually use it. And of course, there’s Skype, which launched a full decade before Zoom and enabled everybody to easily and cheaply connect with friends, relatives and associates wherever they may be. Zoom has its plusses I’m sure, its ease of use (even a 0.1 on the IT scale like me can use it) and the fact that it is free to use for limited sessions. Beyond that, i‘m not convinced Zoom is a “Global Gamechanger” in terms of human behaviour any more than its predecessors have proved to be.

What about the office?

Love ‘em or loathe ‘em, most of us have them.

Even Evolution has one, of sorts, buried away in our warehouse complex. Some of the team actually use it too, though the nature of our work and the location of some means that we only very rarely are all there at the same time.

In these days of high-tech communication we have always functioned well outside of the office. The current lockdown though has forced middle and senior managers who have historically eschewed home working (mistrust perhaps?) to accept, perhaps grudgingly, a WFH culture.

At the start of the lockdown in the UK, many of our key client stakeholders that I spoke with were enjoying (if that’s not too strong a word in the current circumstances) the ability to WFH all week long; no tedious commute; no leaving early and getting back late; saving money on fuel and travel. 4 weeks into the lockdown and that sentiment has changed from many that i speak with; cost savings aside, it turns out for many that the commute actually gave them the opportunity to separate work life from home life. Or to read or watch movies and box sets. Or, most importantly of all, that being at the office enabled them to communicate more effectively and efficiently with colleagues, chat with friends, pop out to the shops, have a work-social life. “I never thought i’d miss the drive to **** each day” “I used to be able to watch the first half of the movie on the train to work, the second half on the way back” “I’ve no one to talk to all day to break up the monotony” “it’s impossible to achieve anything in an online team meeting” are all comments I’ve heard.  

Who’d have thought people would miss the office! 

Events are dead. Long live Events!

Ok, I’ve borrowed the sentiment from the accession of Charles VII of France way back in 1422, but that’s the general direction of today’s blog. Are live events really dead, set to be buried under an avalanche of remote Zoom me-toos? Or will that most innate of human characteristics, to socialise and interact with other humans, win out?

History has repeatedly proven that live Events of whatever nature are essential, regardless of economic, technological or social developments. Humans are a sociable breed and simply cannot survive without interaction with others. Events have bounced back many times before and will do so again this time around. Yes, there will be changes – some subtle, some more obvious – but things will be different. The rise of live streaming of events, of webinars and such like, was already well charted before C-19 arrived; we began selective streaming and remote live relay of the events we were delivering for clients quite some time ago. Initially this was to enable a speaker to present live who, for one reason or another, couldn’t practically be at the event. More recently, live streaming of their events has enabled one of our global customers to reach a wider audience and gain exposure to, and knowledge of previously unconnected businesses and individuals. It’s early days and over time, data will tell, but my feeling is that people are unlikely to sit through a full day’s conference at their desk or in their kitchen, but more likely will dip in and out or even abandon the event after a while as ”something more important” crops up. I’m certainly in the latter camp. We need the interest engendered by a great keynote speaker, the interaction within a break out or Q and A session, the expert knowledge garnered from a brief chat during the coffee break; the opportunity to network and meet with peers, meet potential suppliers and especially potential customers; and as individuals, develop, learn something new and have fun. We need the 2-way nature of a live experience, rather than the one-dimensional experience of staring at a small screen for a long period of time. Even smaller meetings will continue to be popular despite the convenience of Zoom et al, as people again prefer to engage face to face, to look them in the eye and (dare I say) shake their hand. 

For a time (perhaps a long time) the usual rules will change. Corporations will rightly ban or heavily pull back their employees from air travel to avoid that confined, air-conditioned space. Until such time as they deem it more important that they do fly (to a sales opportunity, to engage with an overseas business or Government, to make an acquisition – the reasons will quickly multiply). [I actually know of a UK based, internationally operating organisation that in late February banned all employees from going to pretty much any other country, including European ones. Except for the USA, where its key customers and projects were. Hindsight may question the wisdom of that call.] The airlines and airports (indeed all modes of public travel) will have a part to play here, with regular deep cleaning and disinfecting of aircraft; limiting numbers below capacity both on and offboard; thorough checking of every passenger wishing to travel, perhaps using recently discussed health apps and more rigorous testing? There will be a financial impact with each of these measures, one which will ultimately be passed on with higher air fares. The UK may become an even more desirable destination for events for UK companies than pre-Coronavirus.  

Hotel proprietors will need to follow a similar pattern in order to reassure corporate and leisure guests that their properties are safe, hygienic, and regularly and thoroughly cleaned regardless of their occupancy during the Coronavirus period. The enhanced attraction of staying “local” in the UK combined with a plethora of postponed events moving to Q3 and Q4, will likely result in higher prices and crucially, a squeeze on availability as venues try to fit these in with regular bookings made before the crisis.

External business events such as Trade shows, exhibitions and business conferences, not to mention AGMs, will quickly reappear as marketplaces for commerce and knowledge sharing. Few of those due to be held in Q2 / 3 are likely to be rescheduled for this year, but will be back on the calendar in 2021, in one guise or another. Those businesses leaping out of the starting blocks to invite treasured customers and prospective new clients to exclusive events and high-profile gatherings may be rewarded with an eager and enthusiastic response, a willingness to engage without the reticence of the pre-coronavirus era. 

Formal internal events may be a little slower off the mark, but if ever there was a time for an off-site motivating, inspiring, energising senior exec get together, or a full on morning sales conference to refocus the team (followed by a fun afternoon team activity and a bit of “letting the hair down” in the evening to reacquaint everybody), it will be sooner rather than later after the virus has passed.  Or perhaps 2020 will be the year of your organisation’s best ever Christmas party? Budgets don’t need to massive. Creativity and energy are key. Remember though, venue availability may be constrained so get some in initial planning and ideas together now. 

The Events landscape will be different post Coronavirus lockdowns, but maybe not that different in the end.

Stay safe. 

Grow Your Event Sponsor Opportunities with creative Activation Ideas

Offering functional experiences for sponsorship is one of the most straightforward ways to ensure high brand exposure that really stands out from the sea of logos while providing real value for both attendees and corporate sponsors alike. 

Global corporate & brand sponsorship traditionally gives planners a key opportunity to maximise their relationships with companies that have already budgeted for events.

However, many planners struggle to demonstrate the return on their sponsors’ investment, especially when it boils down to foot traffic in a crowded, multi-sponsored environment. Moreover, with the impending pandemic threatening many events, how can you convince sponsors that their investment is a safe bet, nevermind a lucrative one?

The answer is through activations that provide real functional utility for the attendees — activations they will seek out to engage with, online or offline. Functional sponsorship is the easiest way to turn passive brand exposure into active brand engagement.

In this blog post, we’ll go over some ideas for sponsorship opportunities that attendees will actively and happily engage with, securing the exposure and data you’ll need to substantiate ROI and secure future sponsorships.

Functional Sponsorship Ideas for Brand Engagement

Providing functional sponsorship opportunities — that is, services that give your audience something they can actually benefit from — makes a much more memorable impact compared to a simple corporate logo placed on event swag.

Check out the following ideas to incorporate sponsorship activations into your next event and drive engagement with all of your stakeholders.

1. Sponsor Panel Discussions and Online Engagement

More and more, events are going virtual as a safeguard against exposure to the coronavirus causing COVID-19. Sponsoring a panel discussion is an effective way to actively incorporate a supporting brand, either in person or online. In addition to projecting a sponsor’s logo on the screen, a representative can also introduce the panelists and briefly mention the company’s connection to the event.

Similarly, you can connect partners with attendees in advance of the event with online engagement opportunities such as branded giveaways, lectures, social media activations and content hubs. Another digital touchpoint includes sponsored content, which is particularly attractive because it’s easy to track statistics on audience reach and engagement through multiple platforms.

2. Incorporate Sanitation Stations

The importance of health and sanitation is at an all-time high as coronavirus wreaks havoc on events. At events that take place soon after the lifting of any restrictions, attendees will certainly appreciate the brand that helps them manage their onsite risk. In addition to a greater number of hand sanitizer pumps throughout the event space, consider sponsoring sanitation stations that include wipes for phones and laptops as well.

Sanitary goodie bags are another practical opportunity for sponsors. Personal-sized items can even be branded for added impact and a lasting impression with attendees. Even as events are cancelled across the world right now, the coronavirus has clearly created a new market for sanitation sponsorship that will likely last even as the outbreak wanes.

While tracking methods for this type of sponsorship are somewhat limited to footfall, you can ensure a high engagement rate by offering a goodie bag to every attendee and posting the sanitation stations in key areas throughout the venue, partner hotels, and any other space attendees are scheduled to go en masse.

3. Implement a Branded Workspace for Attendees 

A designated workspace sponsored by a corporate partner can be a major draw for attendees at a professional event. Tailor this opportunity to fit your audience’s specific needs. For example, you could offer sponsorship for podcast and video booths if your event targets content creators.

There are a number of ways to track the engagement here, from using a dedicated hashtag and asking people to post and share to asking people to scan their badge to tap into the space, wifi or charging outlets. If you think that might add too much friction to the exposure, foot traffic tracking methods work well as well, especially if the work space is cordoned off.

4. Set Up Sponsored Lockers 

For event venues not attached to the hotels where attendees are staying, lockers can be a huge benefit. Having to carry bags, laptops, and other personal items from session to session is a pain we’re all familiar with.

The Montreal Tourism Board have done this at major exhibitions before where it was hugely popular among attendees. The lockers also came equipped with charging cables — another event essential. It makes networking and mobility much smoother without having to drag around luggage or work bags.

To access the lockers, attendees had to register online and enter a code, making the use of the lockers easy to track.

5. Give Attendees Free Wifi

Your chosen venue likely has wifi available, but getting your own connection for your event makes things more secure and reliable for your attendees, who may want to post, share or live-stream parts of your event.

It also serves as a chance to support sponsorship goals. You can get attendees to register through a sponsored landing page by signing in with their email or a code you can communicate to them in your registration pack or on the event badge. Make the connection even stronger by making the wifi password the name of the sponsor.

Tracking the engagement here is easy. The number of people who accessed the wifi is the number of people who interacted with the brand.

6. Include Coffee Stations For Morning Sessions

The first session of the morning can have attendees dragging, especially if they had to travel to get to the event. A branded coffee, tea and refreshment station lets everyone grab something on their way into their first session. Whether there’s a sign with a corporate logo or branded to-go cups, everyone appreciates that early morning fuel to start the day.

For added memorability, specialty teas and coffees with a value-add message will reinforce a positive brand association. Local, cruelty-free, and sustainable sourcing is one way to achieve that. Providing snacks that meet a lot of dietary restrictions is another way for sponsors to let people know they care.

Tracking here can be accomplished in a few ways. Apart from standard footfall tracking methods, you could get people to scan their badge to access the food and drink carts.

7. Sponsor the Event Technology

Event technology provides the perfect trackable sponsorship opportunity as engagement tracking is normally part of the platform itself.

If an event app is part of your event offerings, give companies the chance to sponsor different aspects. Most apps let you add sponsor banners within the platform. You can also incorporate a sponsor icon within the app that links to unique branded content. One of the major perks of app sponsorship is that the company’s return on investment is completely measurable through clicks and engagement.

Facial recognition for super-secure check-in is also novel enough to give attendees a memorable brand experience. Branding can be added to the check-in kiosks, as well as in the confirmation or welcome messages.


Demonstrating the value of event sponsorship to corporations isn’t always easy. By creating a suite of truly functional opportunities, your sponsors will see better engagement with attendees who are eager to interact with their brands and share their experiences with friends, colleagues, and social media platforms.

The Event Industry Will Remember

While communities are rallying together to defeat the COVID-19 outbreak, there are also a number of companies enforcing unjustified layoffs, charging crazy cancellation fees, and not processing refunds for unused products. 

The event industry will remember.

I was checking my social media stream over the weekend, as all of us are from the solitude of our voluntary quarantines. In a sea of bad news, I could spot some incredible posts by event professionals really stepping up during this time of crisis.

The trend is across the board, from suppliers to planners.

In no time whatsoever I saw:

  • Conference centres working round the clock to become emergency hospitals
  • Event technology companies working around the clock to deliver new virtual tools. Event planners recently laid off picking up jobs at local supermarkets or offering to babysit for those working from home.
  • Planners offering their superior logistics skills to help coordinate triage at local hospitals.

These are just some ways in which the event industry is showing its superior power to empathise.

You won’t find so many incredible individuals shrugging off the worst crisis an entire sector has ever faced like it’s nothing. All that time under constant stress has paid off. That doesn’t make it an easy burden to bear, but we have large shoulders.

The world will remember the acts of kindness of these incredible individuals.

At the same time, many individuals are taking advantage of these incredibly difficult times to show their own true colors.

  • Many tech companies that previously claimed to always be on the planner’s side are not giving out refunds for unused services.
  • Online registration companies are charging fees for sold tickets of canceled events.
  • Mass layoffs are delivered with no communication, no furlough option.
  • Venues are charging crazy fees to planners for postponements or are penalizing them with a premium for rescheduling to the fourth quarter 2020.

To all these individuals perpetrating some of the worst business practices in a terrifyingly historic moment, I want to say this: we will remember.

We will go back and follow up with all the planners affected. We will remember who these people are, what they did and when they did it.

It is important to note that this is the time to have honest conversations, be transparent and help each other. It’s a time to create incentives to do the right thing, not to capitalize on pressure situations that place a limit on options.

Some companies may simply not be in a sound cash position to keep employees. Sad, but fair. Have an honest conversation with your employees.

Some tech providers may not be able to afford to lose the money if they want to stay afloat. Work with your clients to find solutions.

Some venues will be overloaded in the fourth quarter. Work with planners to find alternative dates.

We will remember how you react to this. So be your best self; show that you’re a partner when the going gets rough.

How Will Event Planners React To The Coronavirus Crisis?

If you have been in the event industry long enough, you may remember striking similarities between the lead up to the financial crisis in 2008 and the Coronavirus emergency. Will the industry react in the same way or will things change for good?

It is fair to say that we share a common need to talk about something else in our industry that is not the Coronavirus and the devastating effect it is having on people’s lives as well as entire business sectors.

One of the most crucial exercises if you are laid off or on furlough, are cancelling your events, or are simply staying home is to start thinking about what will happen once this crisis is over.

While in fact things look extremely awful everywhere right now, China and South Korea are giving us certainty that the emergency will peak and then end.

This is not a post on the future of events and the short- or long-term outlook. Instead, it is about a striking resemblance between the lead-up to the Coronavirus emergency and the pre-financial crisis period of 2008. It’s about how the industry will react.

If you keep an eye on what we talk about in the industry, you would know that, in 2008, the obsession of the event industry was sustainability. Technology was also on top of the list, especially virtual events, seen as a great opportunity to change the event business model for good.

The attention that the industry was giving to these topics was unprecedented. An imminent change was on the way.

Then the financial crisis hit over 2008 and 2009. Entire event departments got wiped out. Events were the first layer of fat to trim from corporate budgets. Seen as a ‘nice to have’ industry, we faced one of the most unprecedented crises of the former 50 years.

The results were devastating, and it took several years to get back on track. What happened in the meanwhile was a complete aberration of topics like event sustainability, which only started to gain steam again in the past two to three years — a cycle that peaked in 2019, when the industry was undeniably living one of the most exciting times of its existence.

How can we not see the similarities to the lead up to the current crisis?

It is legitimate to ask ourselves where the conversation will go once business as usual resumes. As for 2008, the industry was very close to making never-before-seen changes that would reshape events forever.

So what will happen now?

We have two scenarios ahead of us:

We will be in recovery mode.

The industry will try to go back to where it was. Businesses will lick their wounds and try to re-ignite growth, following the same model that brought them to success until 2019.

This essentially means that getting back to business will entail doing everything in our force to use marketing and sales to build wealth.

There is no space for change in this perspective; change will be at the bottom of the list.

This is exactly what happened in 2008 and may well happen following the crisis.

We will change priorities.

The impact that COVID-19 is having on the world is unprecedented. Many like to refer to it as uncharted territory. Some countries are facing 1,000 deaths a day.

The world will not be the same. The scar of this vile virus, obliterating entire generations, would be too deep for us to go back to the way things used to be.

I am thinking about a pre- and post-coronavirus age. The aftermath will be one where issues like climate change or equality (just to mention a few) will not be treated with the same superficiality with which they have been treated before — as marketing tactics more than vital elements of our industry that need undisputed attention.

This scenario advocates a stronger, united front of vocal event professionals that want to plan and produce differently. Change will be inevitable.

It seems that the industry is at a crossroads.

Take the blue pill and things will go back to normal. We will be back living our previous life, full of incredible personal satisfaction and not particularly concerned with change.

Take the red pill and embrace the emergency we are experiencing, which may be far greater in its effects than the devastation we are currently experiencing with the virus.

Matrix references aside, it is clear that, with the incredible suffering that COVID-19 is bringing to humanity, it is also forcing many sectors, including the event industry, to make key decisions that could reshape business as usual.

Where will the industry go? Will we react in the same way we did in the past? Will the way we plan events change for good?

That’s one for you to answer.