Around 100 event professionals including representatives from leading corporates and agencies gathered in London for our Pan Pacific showcase event last week.
The event kicked off with a live meeting for 20 agency leaders, including heads of agencies such as Smyle, DRPG, TTA Principal Global Events, Lemon Lane, Strata, Eventful, INVNT, and facilitated by Brands at Work Managing Partner Karen Kadin.
This was followed by a panel session covering the challenges facing corporate event planners, which featured: Dawn Christie, Global Head of Events at Freshfields; Christopher McCarthy, Senior Events Manager at Rathbone Brothers; Shirin Dhala, Director, Events & Partner Communications, Inmarsat; and Independent Global Events & Experiential Expert Christianne Beck. See key takeaways below.
Some of our partners then presented MICE Trailers to share their latest news and updates, including London Convention Bureau, Singapore Tourism Board, Hotel Berlin Berlin and more, and we unveiled our latest micebook offering Ventures.
Guests then enjoyed an evening of hospitality at The City’s hottest new opening, including delicious food, drinks and were given the opportunity to explore the property further.
5 key takeaways from the corporate panel
1. Live events are back – to a degree
All our corporate panel members said they have gone back to live events, but most have adopted a cautious approach. “We are going to exhibitions as we need to showcase what we are doing but we are not hosting any dinners or receptions as we don’t want to create additional extra risk for staff and clients by gathering lots of people in one room,” said Inmarsat’s Shirin Dhala.
The decision over whether to hold live events is being driven by reputation concerns, and the potential impact on brand if anything was to happen at the event, as opposed to health and safety concerns, according to Christianne Beck.
“We are eager to go back out and do live events, but there is a level of cautiousness. We have done some live events outside and I am trying to map out what 2022 looks like. We will definitely have a live partners conference as we held a virtual one this year and they are keen to go back to meeting in person,” said Freshfields Dawn Christie.
Christopher McCarthy said Rathbone Brothers waited until September before doing anything in person and has so far only held small events for groups of 50 or less. “Our largest is for 300 in December and we are pretty confident it will take place – we are not using full capacity at the venue and taking the necessary steps to make sure it is as Covid-safe as possible.”
2. Managing risk
As event profs, we are happy and used to being asked to show proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow to attend an event. However, in the corporate world, organisers are unable to mandate either Covid passes or tests pre-event. They are following government guidelines, which suggest testing as a way of mitigating risk but it’s not a legal requirement.
“We are not required internally to prove you are double vaccinated, so we can’t ask our clients that. Although we do encourage them to test 24 hours before coming on site,” said Christie. McCarthy agreed: “We are asking that people to take a test before attending, and not to come if it’s positive. But we are not asking them to show a photo of the test result because it looks like we don’t trust them.”
Beck added that it’s a complex issue, and all they can really do is make sure that communications around Covid pre-event are crystal clear, so for example telling people not to attend if they have any symptoms.
3. A cautious approach to Christmas
Despite missing out on corporate festive celebrations last year, our panel members said there is no huge rush to host big celebrations at their companies this year for staff or clients.
“We held our Christmas party in September rather than December so we could do it outside and reduce the risk,” said Christie. “We’re leaving it up to individual teams to decide if they want to hold smaller lunches or celebrations closer to the time.”
Beck said there is a reticence to attend Christmas events. “We are hearing that many people don’t want to risk going to a professional event close to Christmas for fear of jeopardising Christmas with their families, which they missed out on that last year. They would much rather go to a smaller celebration with some of their colleagues but not a professional external event.”
4. Key challenges
In the agency leaders meeting held before the corporate panel session, heads of agencies discussed increasingly short lead times and unrealistic expectations from clients. Interestingly, our corporate panel said they are experiencing similar challenges internally with their stakeholders.
“Lead times are ridiculously short. Events that I would normally have a lead time of three months for, I am being given just one month to deliver from start to finish. I can see them getting even shorter as it gets towards Christmas as people have budgets left and want to spend them otherwise they will lose it next year,” said McCarthy.
Christie agreed, adding: “I try and push lead times out as far as I can and communicate when expectations are unrealistic, but it’s a challenge.”
The panel also discussed issues around resources on the agency and venue side. “The venues are understaffed, and they are not responding to our requests or providing the level of service we require,” said Dhala.
Beck said it’s a balancing act to manage stakeholder expectations. “Agencies have less resources and there are capacity issues at venues. My supplier costs are also going up, but stakeholder expectations are the same, so it’s challenging right now.”
Unsurprisingly, sustainability remains a key issue for corporate event planners. “It’s the biggest focus in our firm right now. Every conversation is around that. The events industry is the fifth largest polluter on the planet, so we must take it seriously. We are looking at streamlining our suppliers to make sure their sustainability goals align with ours.”
Beck commented: “I have been challenged with speaking to all of our agencies and getting them aligned with our strategy. We are expecting our agencies to keep up with our sustainability goals and act on our behalf sustainably.”
Christie said she has engaged a specialist to undertake a carbon analysis to find the best destinations to hold an event based on where the company’s offices are and travel options available to those attending. “Carbon offsetting will be an option, but we are also considering destinations that offer train travel such as Paris and London.”