A delegate’s viewpoint from a live hybrid event – Talking Point : The future of events

Our Sales Director Mark Upham recently attended this event as a delegate – here’s his thoughts and reflections on how it felt –

Phone… wallet… mask… hand gel… negative lateral flow test. All the essentials needed for my first business event since February 2020. It felt a little bit like the first day back at school after the summer holidays. I even ironed a shirt, something I’ve not done for over a year.

So, where did I go and what did I do? I attended Talking Point, the Future of Events, at Millennium Point in Birmingham. It was a hybrid event with about 50 people in the room and another 100 watching the live stream.

Travel into Birmingham was on a local train service and journey wise, all was good. The majority of people conforming by both wearing masks and continuing to socially distance.

Once into Grand Central station (still New Street to locals), it’s a 10-minute walk to the impressive Millennium Point. It’s actually a charitable trust and a multi-purpose venue whose prime motivation is to give back and support Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) related projects in the West Midlands. I learnt that over the past 5 years, Millennium Point has funded projects to the tune of £25mn.

The ground floor of Millennium Point is currently being repurposed as a COVID vaccination centre, once again demonstrating its altruistic values.

Arrival at the venue was low key and once into the reception area, it was apparent that the event, being attended by event professionals from both an agency and corporate background, would be relaxed.

I even, for the first time in over a year, shook someone’s hand. It’s a natural instinct when someone offers their hand that you reciprocate but thinking afterwards, it’s the first time someone has done this in quite some time.

The auditorium has had a £350,000 refurbishment and now features a large staging area, enhanced lighting and AV and is well equipped to offer both in person and virtual events. Social distancing means that current capacity is reduced from 350 to 112 people.

The event itself was split into two halves. The first part focused around how events will shape up over the next 12-18 months and panelists included Rebecca Delmore from Millennium Point, Jo Austin from Alpro, Paul Colston from Mash Media and our very own Chris Peacock.

There was an interesting discussion around collaboration – it’s seen as being essential that the 3-way triangle of venue, corporate and agent work better together. Concern was also raised the loss of technical skills and knowledge within the industry due to redundancies. Other topics discussed included the growth of virtual, hygiene and health and safety within a venue, concern over not travelling and of course, Sustainability.

Sustainability was the focus of the second panel session. Panelists included Victoria Webb from Millennium Point, Anne Shaw from Network Resilience, Andrew Perolls from Greengage and Chris remained on stage.

Focus on community, sharing of some of the great initiatives in place at Millennium Point, a collective plea from Andrew about how we need to reduce emissions in events by 45% by 2030 and an introduction from Anne about how transport policy impacts on sustainability, were some of the highlights.

And then, after questions from the audience, it was off to the pub, for a pint of Guinness in a proper glass. After all, it’s the little things that matter. The Woodman is a proper old-fashioned pub, over the road from Millennium Point and next door to where the entrance to HS2 will be.

 

So, what are my learnings from the day?

  • In person events are on the way back and felt safe to be at. Ultimately, it’s about confidence and the more events we run, the greater the confidence and the sooner corporate customers will start booking and holding their own events. It’s interesting to see the results from the Liverpool Events Research Programme and how transmissions were no higher than the general rate of transmission across the UK, despite there not being any requirement for masks or social distancing.

 

  • Capacity, particularly for larger venues, will be key. Millennium Point is currently operating at 1/3 capacity, which is not financially worthwhile in the medium to long term. The industry will be watching with bated breath for post 21st June announcements.

 

  • Virtual will continue to have a role to play in many organisations event strategy. Not everyone is going to want or be able to travel to a venue, so being able to adapt to this will also be crucial to a venue’s success going forward.

Finally, a heartfelt thank you too Becky, Vicky and Abby at Millennium Point for having the foresight to stage the event and demonstrate that we can still have in person events in a safe environment.