Stronger Together: Why The Events Industry Needs to Be More Unified
Image from Wise Productions
If COVID has shown us one thing, it’s that as an industry — we’re stronger when we stand together. When it comes to bringing the economy to its knees, this pandemic has been pretty indiscriminate. With the exception of a handful of businesses (*cough* Amazon *cough*), we’ve all been hit hard by this global crisis, but there’s no denying that the events industry has taken one of the hardest blows. It’s also, however, finally beginning to come together in ways that it’s never done before.
It’s in the darkest hours that the hardest truths come to light, and for the events industry that hard truth was this: we’re a divided sector and it’s these divisions that to an extent, have left us so vulnerable in this economic catastrophe.
When we founded HOPP, one of our primary goals was to change the way that people thought about events. We noticed that the perception from the outside (and to be frank, sometimes from the inside too), was that the events industry wasn’t unified but fractured; different suppliers working and staying in their own lanes. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. As anyone who works in this industry will know, event suppliers wear many different hats, often working across a whole range of different kinds of events, from smaller social ones to large-scale national ones. One day, they could be working on a wedding, the next a corporate event, the next a bar mitzvah, national sporting event or music festival. This industry is constantly intertwining, overlapping and collaborating — that’s what makes it not only so vibrant, but also powerful. So when we try to untangle ourselves from one another and allow others to create false divisions between us, that’s when we lose some of our power.
Together, the events industry is worth a whopping £84 billion and yet, it’s still considered by so many people, including policy makers in our government, to be a “luxury”. If you look at Companies House and the options available to businesses when classifying the type of company they are when registering, there are only three categories in a list of over 700 which refer to ‘events’ at all — ‘activities of exhibition organisers’, ‘activities of conference organisers’ and ‘event catering activities’. The highly restricted nature of these then excludes thousands of event companies, forcing them to choose other categories which register them out of the events industry all together. To put it simply, the events industry isn’t taken as seriously as it needs to be.
When people think of events, they think of flowers and place settings, production and entertainment, canapés and cocktails. What they’re not thinking of is the employed workforce of over 550,000, the 25,000 operating businesses, the knock-on revenue generation for adjacent industries such as travel, tourism, retail and hospitality, the extensive supply chain that goes all the way back to manufacturing and farming, and the opportunities that are opened up for areas around the country where events drive footfall to small and local businesses. For our end clients, an event is a moment. It is a luxury. But for us working in the sector, it’s definitely not. And for the British economy, of which we are the fifth largest industry, it certainly isn’t either. So it’s about time that we come together and start making that message loud and clear with a single voice — one that can’t be ignored.
Since the first lockdown back in March, we’ve seen the birth of several powerful campaigns that highlight the importance of events and the devastating consequences of not supporting them. These inspiring and uplifting movements are all working hard to achieve the same goal, but are coming at it from a spectrum of different angles. #WeMakeEvents, #SaveNightLife, #SaveLiveComedy, #LetTheMusicPlay, #WhatAboutWeddings — these are all brilliant campaigns but they focus on their own specific area of the sector. And beyond these campaigns there are at least eighteen event associations representing different areas of the industry. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been collaboration — there certainly has. One really exciting example of this is the launch of the #WeCreateExperiences by “One Industry, One voice”, a coalition that brings together all of the five aforementioned campaigns to amplify their messages and effectively lobby the government to bring about real change.
In the midst of lockdown 2.0, only one thing feels certain, which is that nothing is. We’re in for a rocky ride, so we need to work together to draw up a roadmap to lead us out of this chaos. And if we can harness this power of unity, the benefits will go well beyond surviving this pandemic.
With the recognition and support we deserve, truly exciting things lie at the end of this journey. COVID 19 is not the only crisis that we are facing. From climate change to the widespread decline of mental health, critical challenges lie ahead of us and it’s only in coming together that we can overcome them and play our part in tackling these issues. Imagine — a single coalition to represent the entire events industry; one that can coordinate all of our efforts in sustainability, social responsibility, health and wellness. One with a direct line to policy makers in the government so our voice can be heard and real change can be made. It’s an exciting future that we can help shape together. The work has already begun — it’s up to all of us to make sure it keeps going.