Adapt with Arena x Events at Club Chelsea

Event industry professionals equipped themselves with the new skills needed to thrive as the event industry rises from the pandemic, as the fourth instalment of the series took place in collaboration with Events at Club Chelsea.

The focus of this virtual event across a series of panel discussions at Stamford Bridge was assessing what is needed to deliver the new attendee experience for in-person events as the Stage 4 opening gets underway, and event planners rush to understand how to juggle safety concerns with a long awaited return to live interaction. Click here for videos of the Adapt panel discussions

Moderated by Conference News’s digital & community editor Cameron Roberts, panellists included Clare Melton, Global Head of Events at HIS Markit, IMEX Group’s director of operations Mark Mulligan, and Chelsea Football Club’s meetings and events manager Lucy Adamson. Panel discussion topics included ‘Strategising for the new look in-person event experience’ and ‘Ready for lift off – recommendations from a major event venue’, where Chelsea Football Club’s senior event team staff discussed their real experiences of hosting hybrid and in-person events.

Panellists agreed that there is cautious confidence among the industry and event attendees. There is no denying that people are keen to get back to attending events in-person and that the desire to reconnect is there after so long apart. However, this confidence is somewhat theoretical, as planners are being more careful about when they’re booking events and attendees are making decisions about how they will attend events much closer to the event date. So, it’s fair to say this confidence is twinned with a bit of reticence, although the panellists hope to see a continuing uptick of confidence as time goes on.

The panellists also agreed that travelling to live events is one of the main concerns people still have that need to be tackled. With many people still having not travelled since before the pandemic, there is a degree of concern around personal risk. Venues and planners therefore need to help attendees work through this lost confidence and encourage them to attend, by thoroughly communicating safety measures that are in place, working hard to understand risk levels, and instilling as much confidence in attendees and clients as possible.

When deciding which safety measures to implement the consensus from the panellists was that it’s about understanding where confidence levels sit, and tailoring the approach accordingly, working from a matrix of measures ranging from more stringent to more relaxed. For example, attendees will still expect to see things like hand sanitiser, masks, and social distancing, even though these measures are not necessarily mandatory any longer in the UK.

From the outset, clearly communicating everything being done to keep attendees safe, is the best way to ensure people feel safe. This should be communicated across all channels, and past delegates should be asked about their sentiments too. Panellists didn’t think there would be a backlash from event attendees if restrictions tighten in the Winter, because all planners and venues are adhering to current restrictions for everyone’s safety. If tighter restrictions come into play, this will still be the case and necessary adjustments will be made.

Finally, when the topic of whether the pandemic has led to any breakthroughs that will contribute to creating a better attendee experience for the next generation a couple of positive points were flagged. Many venues, including Chelsea FC, have taken the opportunity to undertake major refurbishments to refresh attendee experiences while venue spaces have been closed. Importantly, the industry has also had to get better at using technology and adopting solutions at all stages of the event process including booking, attending and delivering content. Technology is an especially important variable as hybrid events are likely to play a more important role going forward.