The Middle East Events Industry during the Covid-19 Lockdown

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Guest authored by Shaumik Saha (Events Director, Stride Plus Events)

Alongside travel, tourism, and hospitality, the events industry was one of the first to be directly affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. Bans on travel, public gatherings, and more recently complete lockdowns render events an impossibility.

The recent announcement from the Expo 2020 team postponing the Expo- one of the most anticipated events in the Middle East- paints a fair picture of how severe the impact of this situation is on the industry locally and world over. There is mistaking the fact that things have come to a temporary standstill.

A broader perspective on the situation:

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However, this does not mean that things will persist this way. Historically speaking, we have braved through worse pandemics and more severe economic slowdowns, making a full recovery and progress more than likely in the near future. Most epicenters and severely affected geographies have undertaken necessary precautionary measures and the next 2 to 6 months could spell out very positively in terms of containing the spread and reintroducing normalcy in business environments. Much speculation is out there about a potential vaccine, cure or immunization but that delves beyond my area of expertise and therefore shall not be a further topic of discussion in this article.

In the meantime, the following are a few ideas to enable companies to continue planning events, while keeping event managers in work and supporting the broader business community.

Use this as a time of preparation for future projects:

Markets ebb and flow. They are always cyclical, and things eventually return to normal. Make no mistake- we’re in a serious situation now but this slowdown is temporary. Eventually this circumstance will pass, and things will resume to normal.

Most large events require 4 to 6 months of planning anyways, from ideation to execution. Most events that couldn’t take place due to ongoing quarantines have only been postponed and not called off. So, pull up your socks and get right back to planning future events.

The temporary switch to virtual events:

I have mixed opinions about this. While this is definitely the only feasible option for events and meetings that absolutely must be had, I have been quite disappointed by the opportunistic approach of virtual event solution providers fearmongering and jumping on a dogmatic narrative to force clients into virtualizing events that simply can be postponed to later in the year.

That aside, I think virtual events are a fair alternative for the time being, but make no mistake, live events are here to stay and are not even in the same playing field as an online stream or cloud conference. That would be like comparing apples to oranges.

Creating a win-win situation:

Event managers are short of work and most would be willing to work on projects at very attractive rates. I think businesses and organizers can use this as an opportunity to engage good talent at a great price. This will keep event managers in work, sustain the industry and in doing so support the broader business community. It is a win-win.

Genius is eternal patience:

This is one of those situations where you must wait things out. No one can foretell the future. Being patient for business to resume as normal is about the best that we may do for now.

Don’t jump the gun or break any rules. Wait for the local authorities’ green light to continue organizing public events. This is a test of patience. You don’t have to make any moves, just wait to make the right one.

Meanwhile, stay safe and all the best.

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