When the events industry came to a halt in March because of the rapid spread of COVID-19, we had to stop our event promotion for the time being. Our weekly #eventprofstalk Twitter chat rapidly became a regular hub for knowledge exchange and business advice, helping event professionals navigate through this crisis. In recent weeks, we have focused on how we can add value remotely to our online community while following governmental guidance to stay at home.
Following announcements regarding an easing of restrictions on public life and movement, with initial liftings on social distancing taking place around the world, we have been constantly assessing the situation. However, in the meantime, we also aim to communicate our action plan for the Event Planners Talk conference due to take place this year in Bern from 27–30 August. In the following paragraphs, we want to share with you a full update on our recent online activities and those leading to the conference in Bern.
Regular online events and new online initiatives
In the past few weeks, we have fully focused on covering current topics on the #eventpofstalk Twitter chats every Monday (from 9–10 pm BST) and Friday (from 8–10 pm BST). Although these two slots focus on advanced education, we also recognised the need to offer a place where event planners can promote their best work done in recent months.
Together with Megan Strahle—a Tourism, Hospitality & Events master’s student at the University of Queensland—we launched the #eventprofstalk marketplace, a new Twitter chat slot on Friday from 1–2 pm BST. The aim of this chat is to provide event professionals with a platform to promote their best work among community members, ask for feedback and share recent or future projects that could be of interest. Another important reason is to network because when the pandemic is over, the industry will bounce back more strongly, and now is the time to strengthen relationships. We’ve already seen new connections form and new industry initiatives taking place—providing promising evidence for the future and reassuring us that the industry will come out more strongly from this crisis.
Another new initiative that we launched is the #eventprofstalk hackathon, which took place from 23–25 April this year, a collaborative project also with Megan Strahle. After reading and hearing the unfortunate news of event businesses needing to furlough employees or closing down, businesses losing income for multiple months and clients keeping contracts on hold, we had to do something about it.
There is no time to look backwards. Instead, we need to work collaboratively as an industry and think about solutions that will make our businesses more secure, robust and agile in the future. The way we work and communicate will evolve and take place increasingly online when businesses reopen. That knowledge means that it will require adjusting and evolving the current business models of an event agency.
The idea of the online hackathon was born. We put out the challenge to our community to ‘develop a 12-month business plan for an event agency affected by COVID-19.’ The ‘agency’ was a fictitious entity for this challenge, but when working on this, we suggested that participants also think about it as their business. Fifty event professionals from all around the world registered to take part in this inaugural project. Four groups collaborated for 48 hours on Slack across different time zones.
The entries were of a particularly high quality, setting a very high bar for the first edition of the hackathon and exceeding all expectations. The group members thought out of the box, strategically and sustainably, creating a business plan for an event agency affected by COVID-19 to give back to the industry that we love so much. The winning entry will be announced in May of this year and published across our channels. Seeing the concepts develop from a short brief to a detailed business plan really made the process somewhat emotional—that emotion that you have at live events and until now thought would not be able to be replicated in the online space. We were overwhelmed by the depth and creativity of ideas, and we’ll be planning a second hackathon in June, with details to be announced in the coming weeks.
Event Planners Talk conference going ahead as planned
Today, we have begun to see the initial lifting of physical restrictions in Europe. That change makes us optimistic that our first international event will be able to take place from 27–30 August 2020 in Bern, Switzerland. We are constantly monitoring the situating and following the Swiss government’s guidance to ensure the full health and safety of all our attendees. We are working closely with Bern Meetings & Events and the Switzerland Convention & Incentive Bureau and monitoring the situation on a regular basis. If the situation remains unchanged, and/or restricted movement and international travel are still in place, a final decision to cancel this year’s event will be communicated on 26 June, two months prior to the event. All ticket holders will be refunded.
Going ahead with the event will require several adjustments. The conference will be smaller than planned and capped at 25 participants. The good news is that all the educational sessions will be live-streamed and recorded for the global event community to participate and engage with the content online.
Furthermore, the educational programme will change, and topic selection will include current issues that are on top of the event’s industry agenda: how to design digital event experiences, mental health and wellbeing, lessons learned from COVID-19 and what measures should be put in place to ensure that the industry will survive further potential global crises in the future.
Through the regular Twitter chats, the hackathon and the live event, we are working on delivering a 365-day experience that is valuable, educational and can help event professionals grow their network and generate business results. At the event in Bern, attendees will also be introduced to a highly unique destination experience. We truly believe in live experiences and that they are irreplaceable. These events can enhance networking and education when they take place in the right setting, allowing attendees to discuss the content and develop it further, sharing opinions and networking in a particularly unique and inspiring environment where they can clear their head for new ideas. We look forward to welcoming you in Bern!
Registration for the event is now open on our website. Sign up for the latest news and updates about the upcoming programme here.