Confidence in live events has been hit yet again following the emergence of the new Omicron variant, but event agency leaders and experts are urging corporate clients to wait for more data before making knee jerk decisions and postponing events.
At our micebook ‘talks’ Omicron session last Wednesday, Anna Green, managing director at Broadsword said that several of her clients had already cancelled December events due to concerns around the new variant and the potential impact on brand perception.
“We work mostly in the financial sector, so our clients are very cautious. The decisions are coming from quite senior stakeholders within the business, and they are very knee-jerk. There was no discussion or looking at alternatives, they wanted to act quickly,” she said.
The panel, which also featured Alan Law, founder of event safety experts AFL Associates, and Richard Murphy, managing director at First Event, agreed that the reaction to the new variant depends very much on the client and the sector.
Murphy said his agency has a construction client going to Barbados early in the new year, who is still planning to go ahead, and a tech company going to Montreal for a conference and skiing in January.
“The client looked to us for guidance, and we have advised that they hold on and wait until we have more information about the new variant and a better idea of what is happening and they have taken our advice,” he commented. “One positive from this past 18 months is that we can talk and advise from experience. Thank god the clients trust us and have waited for the options.”
He added that enquiries are still coming through and that the agency has a number of international events planned throughout 2022 from Europe to the US, and hasn’t had a single cancellation, although one trip to Japan planned for March has been moved to September.
Alan Law pointed out that the government had just updated its guidance for the events industry and that there are no changes to regulations. “I don’t expect changes to controls for events and can’t see anything significant impacting the industry from a government level, but I worry that the events industry can get thrown under the bus because of the media hype and the impact it has on perception and confidence.”
The panel agreed that the media hype around Omicron has been hugely unhelpful. “There has been lots of unsubstantiated discussion in the press that is not good for the events industry which is still fragile at best. We don’t know enough about this new variant yet,” added Law.
The media hype was also discussed in detail at our nineteen Agency Leaders session on Thursday, which saw leaders from agencies including Make Happen, Smyle, Worldspan, Noble Events, Identity and more discuss Omicron and other current challenges.
Several agency leaders said they had seen some live events postponed or some flip to hybrid or virtual, while others had not seen much impact yet. But all agreed that the industry and their agencies are better equipped and more confident to deal with whatever comes next because of the experience and resilience they have built up over the past 20 months.
“The next ten days to two weeks are going to be huge as we wait to find out more about the new variant. If it’s proven the current vaccines are significantly less effective and hence new ones needed, it will massively knock corporate confidence and destroy a lot of live events,” said Smyle founder Rick Stainton. “If scientists say symptoms are mild and it doesn’t significantly impact on vaccines, it will reassure clients it’s okay to go ahead with live events and confidence will remains strong going into 2022.”