Ask the Expert: How have events across Leeds adapted during COVID-19?

Emma Broadhurst

Emma Broadhurst

Business Developent Officer at MEETinLEEDS

Next up, we chatted with Claire Heap on behalf of ConferenceLeeds, the city of Leeds’ conferencing bureau, on how Leeds have had to adapt upcoming events during the lockdown including going virtual.

How have events across Leeds altered as a result of Covid-19?

Whether events have been brought to life virtually, postponed to a later date or cancelled completely, there is no question that the amount of hard work events teams across the world have completed in such a short space of time has been incredible. Being flexible and adaptive are two very crucial skills when working in events, and COVID-19 has certainly tested us on those.

Whilst cancelling an event is always so unfortunate for all involved; from the team that is running the event to the conference organisers, right down to the delegates who planned to attend, health always remains the main priority, and as events’ organisers it is our responsibility to keep people at the forefront of all of our work.

We’ve seen a great spirit here in Leeds and have an industry comprising of dedicated and passionate individuals always looking to adapt and work around the current situation to still enable the knowledge sharing and networking to take place. Leeds Digital Festival, which is the largest tech event in the UK, showcased exactly how events can still be a success when moving online. Taking the decision to move the physical event until later in the year, the annual festival was able to change its practice to continue to run during the lockdown period. By creating a virtual space that delegates could log into online, their team were able to host a variety of events and ensure that delegates could still attend the festival and take part in sessions.

Covering all areas of digital marketing and strategy through an online platform, ranging from social media masterclasses through to SEO strategy, web development education and automation talks, the annual festival provides a key role in bringing the tech sector together and we were proud to see how this team adapted and have been able to bring an excellent event to life digitally.

In this current climate, it’s incredibly encouraging to see how a local, home-grown event, such as the Leeds Digital Festival, is able to be adapted to continue to run, and we’re really pleased that all of the knowledge sharing, learning and networking was still able to take place, as it’s more important than ever for professionals in this industry at this time. Tech is, after all, one of Leeds’ most key sectors! The online sessions had thousands of attendees from a total of 46 different countries, with many attendees expected at the physical event in September.

I signed up for a number of the Leeds Digital Festival virtual sessions and can vouch for how well they were delivered and full of insightful and engaging content.

It was a fantastic demonstration of the ability to move events online. It’s likely that we will see more of this in the future, with physical events being supported by virtual elements or a strong blend of both physical and virtual events taking place. I’m looking forward to attending the Leeds Digital Festival in person in September. I have confidence that human connection and opportunities to network in person will always be of value and I look forward to seeing this return when it is safe to do so.

Tomorrow in our final blog in the ‘Ask the Expert’ series, we speak to the Leeds Hotel and Venue Association to hear their thoughts on what they hope the future of events in Leeds will look like once this is all over.