By now, you must have heard the big news: a lot of states have started lifting COVID restrictions. Things are going back to normal at last! Or are they? The Brew Crew is wary. Even with as many as 2 million people vaccinated in a day in the US, the events industry is still far from organizing post-COVID events.
Join Dustin, Nick, Will, and Thuy as they discuss restrictions, vaccinations, and what the future might hold for the events industry in the wake of recent news. It’s a great opportunity to get to know our hosts better. They’re not just talking as event profs with their own set of interests. They candidly share their personal opinions on the matter as well!
Post-COVID Events: Is There Going To Be Event Tourism?
“If you can’t do an event in your state, why not go to the next state over where you can?”, asks Dustin after Will tells the Brew Crew of a recent unmasked event in Texas.
Will likens the situation to the healthcare tourism and expresses his concerns about events getting the green light. “Everyone goes ‘Cases are way down’. And then you look at the numbers and it’s the same numbers that we were panicking over in May of last year. I think things are getting better, but it just always feels too early to me. Let’s take our time.”
Thuy’s company is based in Austin, Texas, so she is able to share what kind of measures her company is taking in light of re-opening. “We got an all-staff email saying, regardless of the news, we still have the studio space and our venue space. You still have to wear a mask and sign up for the safety of the community in our company.”
And how does she feel about the situation in general? “For me personally, it feels like not even a slap to my face, but a slap to all the healthcare professionals that are risking their lives and all those who have died. It’s a little disrespectful in my eyes. For a whole entire state to say that we’ll be the Guinea pigs in all of this, is that going to be worth it?”
The Road To Post-COVID Events Is Long & Hard
Nick points out that the events industry is obviously in favor of things going back to where they were. However, it should have the expectations from external stakeholders and attendees in mind as well. “There’s a lot of really interesting precedent setting happening right now. There’s a land grab opportunity, but also a huge loss of face, on the negative side. So I’d be really curious to see who the big winners and losers are for this. Because I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of in-between.”
Dustin is generally in favor of re-opening, but just as long as it is done responsibly. “When you look at the science of it all, it seems like a reckless decision that I hope doesn’t backfire. I suspect it might. All it’s going to do is push back those that want to be more cautious as a proof point to say: ‘See what happens when we open up!’. What we should really be looking for is getting the most vulnerable vaccinated and then finding a resemblance of a life again. Otherwise, it’s going to continue forever.”
Restrictions Might Be Lifted, But The Event Industry Is Not Re-Opened Yet
It’s one thing to discuss post-COVID events on a regional scale, but another on a global scale, though. “There are certain areas that are actually not doing great right now globally. Also, there are certain mutations that people are starting to really pay attention to. You could contain a sort of regionalized event down the line and consider what the impact would be. I think that the variables become exponentially harder to deal with and predict when you have a global difference. It’s going to create this different class of attendees, based on where they’re from,” says Nick.
“It’s fair to say that our industry doesn’t come back until there’s plane-loads of people in the sky, crossing the planet to go to a destination. Re-opening the local bars and having regional events is not the events industry re-opening. That’s step one. We really are not open,” adds Dustin. “But I do wonder if those countries that get through the vaccination process first will come out as the ones to fully re-open. I wonder if they are going to be more attractive for that first year of international travel.”
Post-COVID Events & Vaccines
You can’t talk post-COVID events without including the COVID-19 vaccines in the discussion. “I’m really looking forward to all the research that’s going to come out about vaccinations within the event industry,” says Thuy. “If we thought that COVID testing and being compliant in that area was difficult – how are we going to do vaccinations? There will be people that won’t get them. Is it our responsibility? Are we able to ask people? How do we keep track of that?”
There is no simple answer. “I don’t think we’re going to be in a space where we have a vaccine passport that you have to carry around with you and that you can’t go to an event unless you’re vaccinated,” replies Dustin. “The challenge is who decides, who gets to make the decision as to who goes where. Is it the government that’s going to say that you have to have these vaccines to go into a venue that holds X amount of people?”
Nick adds his two cents: “I think certain countries are going to be more wired for collective care than certainly ours, which never really cared about anything other than the individual from its beginning to now.”
“Over time, when they start losing out on international business, the money will talk and the market will drive what happens next. If you’re going to be one of the only developed countries that is going to make the decision to be ultra-safe, you’re going to pay the consequences. You’re not going to be an attractive destination for business travel for a conference because anybody that’s not vaccinated is not going to be able to get in,” predicts Dustin.
Post-COVID Events & Safety: It’s Not Just About Vaccination
Will asks a complicated question that makes the Brew Crew scratch their heads. “How much does the events industry need to be pushing for our own industry to focus on getting vaccinated?”
Nick sums the controversy up perfectly. “We just need to take on a bunch of policies that are all aimed towards the maximizing of health and safety that we can provide for attendees and our teams. It seems like everyone wants a silver bullet, but in fact, there’s going to be diligence required across the board. We can’t just let up on diligence for health and safety concerns. There has always been health risks. We just need to keep our eyes open and do a bunch of different things. I don’t think it’s necessarily about being a brother’s keeper, but it’s more about promoting a culture that is about health and safety full stop.”
“As event profs, we have to continue to focus on the millions of other things we have to do to keep people safe,” adds Dustin. “Some of the hygiene theatre has the potential to take our eyes off of the things that are really important as well. There’s a lot of other things we do on a regular basis to keep this industry safe. We have to make sure that those remain a priority and those don’t get overshadowed by vaccines, hand sanitizer, and masks. It feels like fire codes don’t matter anymore. Every second door you go to is locked. As we go back to work, let’s not get too crazy about the hygiene theater and let’s make sure we’re still operating safe events.”
Staying Mindful Of The Risks
Restrictions might lift, but that doesn’t mean all safety precautions will be thrown out the window. “We’re going to get into events probably a little bit before we should. And if we do it a lot before, shame on us, but we’re probably going to do it a little before we should,” says Nick. “We’re probably going to make some mistakes and people are going to get sick. The reality is that the world is messy. There’s risk involved with everything. I’m not saying just do whatever you want. Mitigating risks to the best of all of your abilities and trying to do your best is one thing to consider.” Just like Thuy’s company has done!
Dustin agrees: “Corporations are going to demand more than what the restrictions are, which might help balance all of this out. I think there’s hope for this industry to come together and rise up. People will say that you can lift all the restrictions, but there still is a certain level that we want to operate under.”
In Conclusion: Less Is More
As somebody who knows all about event design trends, Nick concludes by sharing his vision for the industry. “There’s too much on the plate of the event professional. They should have bigger teams with more resources. Less events with more resources for the events that do take place because they’re better and they’re worth it. They’re at a higher cost because they get a higher return,” concludes Nick. “The people that will be left will be the ones that really can prove the ROI, prove the value. They’ll get the resources they need.”
“Surround yourself with people who also want you to succeed and focus on that community. Create that community if you don’t have it. Because what’s gonna get us over this hump is a community all focused on true success for everyone.”