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London Conferences in the "New Normal"
Wednesday 29 April 2020
There has been much chatter in the industry in recent days about how company conferences in London and other major cities might operate safely and effectively as and when these gatherings are permitted.
Whilst we await the Government’s guidance here (which may not be swift in arriving), we do know that there will be a desire to get the service industry’s staff together in a safe way after such a long period of working from home and office closures.
But what might these events look like in London conference venues?
The hybrid conference
The current thinking here is that a conference might be delivered in a venue with the keynote speakers on the stage as normal and with some delegates in physical attendance.
This has been happening for several years now, with those not able to attend (for a myriad of reasons) able to access the event via live streaming. A London meeting in the new normal would just be a reversal of the attendance rates with the majority on dial in.
The main issue is that those attending may need to stay up to two metres apart. As you can see from the picture above (taken at a recent passing out ceremony in the USA), this would reduce the seating capacity in conference venues in London by around 80% from a normal theatre style meeting.
The big problem here is that networking will be pretty impossible, which is one of the key benefits of such events. With no idea sharing or “getting to know you” elements, this would considerably reduce the value of these “get togethers”.
Reducing the risks
There has also been some talk about screening attendees to reduce the risk of cross-infection on these events and the reputational damage on the host company. Temperature screening delegates on arrival would be a partial solution and asking delegates to declare symptoms via a registration form would help further here.
Companies will also need to be careful in their planning of food service and catering at these meetings and events, both in terms of service styles and seating.
When and how?
This is of course the big question here. When will conferences in London be permitted in any form. Our view is that this will coincide with the re-opening of restaurants and other hospitality venues, which is unlikely to be in the fist stage of any re-opening plans.
Our estimate is that this may well happen in September, with certain restrictions in place, but there is no doubt that there will be a heightened business need to meet up and present future plans and there is no better way to do this than face-to-face (with or without face masks).
In the meantime, the Venue Search London team continues to promote our great range of excellent London conference venues in the expectation that they will full of the best business leaders and engaged audiences as soon as we can safely re-open their doors!
So the reality may well be that until we have a vaccine, we may well need to be patient here. But then again, if people are allowed to mingle in the office, having been on a busy bus or Tube to get there, what are the real additional risks of a London conference or indeed a Christmas party.