Collaboration and cuddles. Jack Saward, managing director of Saward Marketing and Events, ponders how the events industry can tackle its current challenges…

Our industry has been both fragile and resilient over the last two years. We’ve developed new ways to deliver projects and many businesses have just about survived in crisis mode with no money coming in. How has it done this? In some cases, it has been due to the relationships we have with our clients; in others, it’s down to the relationships we have with our suppliers. In many cases, it has been both.

During the pandemic, the industry adapted and continued to deliver infrastructure and event support. Now, we are impacted by another crisis as the world deals with the situation in Eastern Europe, whilst still coming to terms with the ramifications of Brexit. These are major challenges, but it is not stopping the return of live events from gathering pace. So, how can we deliver live events in a challenging market when stock and a skilled workforce remain limited?

It pleases me to see so many business opportunities coming back and job boards full of roles that need to be filled. Filling them is a challenge, though. During a recent conversation with a UK university, I was told that enrolment numbers for
its events courses are down significantly. Do students no longer view our industry as a future profession? Have they noticed that our government did not acknowledge the sector and support us during the pandemic? How are we going to change that perception and develop the next wave of talent? How should we breathe enthusiasm into students about this fabulous industry? Perhaps the work being delivered by Dodge Woodall and Craig Mathie with The Event Crowd Diploma, or Mark Breen and the Professional Diploma in Risk and Safety Management for Crowds and Events, will boost our sector and provide a route.

But resource and talent are not the only challenge we face; the other is cost. There are some extreme numbers being bandied around the sector at present, with freelancers and companies taking advantage of current supply and demand issues. Is this attitude and short-term gain really going to help our industry get back on its feet? I don’t believe so.

During Gordon Brown’s tenure, we faced the challenges of a recession. But did we fight back charging the earth and losing the core aspect of what we are good at… communicating and delivering value. I recall that our approach then was to “hold hands” so that we didn’t fall! Our suppliers needed to sell us materials, our customers needed our services, and we needed to pay our staff. We all know that costs are increasing, but we must not forget to utilise our amazing communication skills. The trick will be to deliver things differently without compromising on our standards and values.

We can do that through collaboration. Over the last six months we’ve seen more and more of this. As events clash and overlap, we’ve had to find ways to deliver for our clients whilst juggling other projects, and we’ve had to ask our contacts for help. Is this providing less value for our clients? I don’t think so. Over the next 18 months, we will all need support from our peers; so, do you have those contacts in your phone that you could ring to ask for support without fearing being ripped off in the process?

In the coming months, I know that I will certainly be continuing to deliver a “professional cuddle” to our clients, offering both support and value for money. And if that means more collaboration, great. I have every confidence that we can do so effectively.

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