Conference News September 2021 - Page 8

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THE HUMAN FACTOR

HBAA agencies share insight into their role during the pandemic and in recovery .
f agencies have learned anything in recent years , it is how to survive and prevail in a difficult and disruptive market environment . They have shown their creativity , flexibility , and resilience in the face of adversity , and their response to the past 18 months has been a prime example .
As we emerge from the pandemic , it ’ s clear that agencies have never been more valuable and intrinsic to the success of the industry . They have adapted at high speed in a plethora of ways to meet client needs in an ever-changing global crisis . They have played a pivotal role in bringing corporate business back to in-person and hybrid events , and it ’ s all down to the commitment and adaptability of their enterprising owners and directors and the flexibility of their people .
Early support
First , when lockdown began , agencies proved their worth through crisis management , particularly their negotiating skills . Staff worked hard to ensure their “ clients did not have to pay cancellation fees , even though it meant virtually no income ,” says Gaynor England , director of Abstract Events .
Beckie Towle , founder of The Events Raccoon and HBAA marketing director , explains further : “ As soon as the restrictions were introduced in Q1
2020 , we called every client to discuss their options . Negotiations to postpone events began ensuring a fair outcome for clients and suppliers , and our role as contact and relationship negotiator was more vital than ever .”
High-level expertise , service , and trust
Next , what clients needed most from their agencies was information and guidance on how , within the limitations of lockdown , they could use events safely and effectively to maintain communications with their audiences . Agencies worked with venues to develop Covid-safe measures , processes , and procedures for events , and ensured that contracts had robust Covid clauses . These actions illustrate the vital role agencies play in rebuilding client confidence and kick-starting the return of face-to-face events .
On this point , England says : “ We have done all we can to ensure the events can still go ahead no matter what the future holds . All our events are booked in venues that can flex capacity to accommodate for social distancing if required . We have robust Covid clauses in all contracts and a digital event contingency in place just in case .”
This level of expertise is one of the reasons clients rely on agencies , particularly in uncertain times , and is fundamental to boosting client confidence and helping business events return . However , it ’ s not the only reason ; there is also the human factor , the vital personal touch in communications . Towle explains that the key to success has been to “ maintain open and honest communications . This approach with suppliers , as well as clients , has been instrumental in doubling our client base . These relationships have never been stronger – there is a new level of trust and respect ”.
Diversifying and embracing virtual
Next , the adaptability and flexibility of agencies and their staff came to the fore as they pivoted to virtual events . Many agencies have invested tens of thousands of pounds in new technology and formed strategic partnerships with tech providers while staff have developed the new skills needed .
“ It was very clear to us that virtual events were the only way to keep working throughout this ,” says Chris Peacock , director of Conference Care . “ We now have four platform partners , suitable for different types of events , so we can provide a complete end-to-end service for virtual events .”
Top Banana also significantly grew its digital events offering which
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