Ask the Expert: Once all of this is over, what will the future of events within Leeds look like?

Emma Broadhurst

Emma Broadhurst

Business Development Officer at MEETinLEEDS

Within the Conference & Events Industry, we all know how crucial planning ahead needs to be! With that in mind, we spoke with Wayne Topley, Chair of Leeds Hotels & Venues Association (LHVA) and Managing Director of Cedar Court Hotels, to get his perspective on what the future of events will look like once lockdown restrictions start to ease.

What do you hope the future of events in Leeds will look like once this is all over?

On a positive note for anyone currently in lock down, which is most of us, everybody now has the underlying belief that the meeting industry is definitely not dead!

Working on your own at home and in isolation has a finite appeal.  Collaborating online, working over email, talking on Zoom – even when you can see people – does not feel the same, or have the same level of emotional buy-in that you get when you work with people and that human interaction that we all enjoy. Once lockdown is over, I feel that the Meetings Industry will be vibrant and with a real sense of purpose.

We have a lot of space in Leeds and I mean some great community buildings and community space supported by Leeds BID and Leeds City Council over the last couple of years, and we have a fine range of hotels and venues in the boundaries of the city.

Leeds was always known as one of the top conference locations in the UK and that was because we could flex our pricing and offer a range of options for our conference buyers.  Through active and city-wide collaboration, we had the ability to package together an attractive offering which has been a major success for many years and that won’t change.

Looking to the future, we have a strong base to build upon, and a shared passion to get back on our feet again and shout about what we have on offer.

I think that we will better understand the value of our meetings as teams, meetings as colleagues and meetings across industries.  Released from lock down, the face-to-face interaction of meetings will no longer be seen as a distraction.  We will all have a better view of how we make the most of these opportunities, going in with clear objectives and a new understanding and appreciation of the value of that face to face meeting and that shared experience.

The IT element that we have all embraced on a daily and hourly basis won’t go away or diminish and I think there is a new art form in development of how events profs incorporate this into meetings without losing face to face interaction.

We understand cross-border restrictions will be in place for some time but let’s hope that doesn’t stop internationals coming together, where the overseas contingent will join the host nation through IT.  That would previously have been seen as a negative yet in the new world order, it is a much better and positive outlook than meetings not being held at all.

For the last 10 year the gap between a social meeting space and business space has got smaller and those facilities are often used for crossed purposes.  The Leeds First Direct Arena is a perfect example of this.  Primarily an entertainment hub, it now hosts a range of corporate events, conferences, and exhibitions outside of its original focus.

Hotels have been doing this for 20 years.  Spaces that were originally grand banqueting halls are now the ambient setting of a corporate conference, networking event or exhibition and I think we might see more of this.  Meetings will become more social and not less.  We’ve all sat in the 8 or 10-hour session, whilst we don’t undervalue that, meetings should be 50% work related and 50% social.  How many times have you returned from a business trip and the family asked, “How was New York, Berlin, Copenhagen?” You have no idea as you saw the station or the airport and the venue of the meeting, nothing more.

As the new meeting spaces take shape, and the new meeting attitude blurs the line between the corporate and the social, cities that have a vibrant offer of both, will be the ones that thrive.  Leeds, with all the wonderful assets at its disposal, is in a really strong position to be one of those cities that does it best!

We’d like to extend our thanks to Wayne Topley for taking the time to share his insights on the current situation and for the work he does on behalf of the LHVA.

That concludes our ‘Ask the Expert’ series – we’d like to say a massive thank you to our industry experts for their helpful insights into the conference and events industry as we navigatethrough these unprecedented times.

As an industry we are flexible, adaptable and forward thinking. We will support each other through this time and together we will come out stronger.

The team at MEETinLEEDS look forward to the day where we will meet our industry colleagues in person and welcome our customers with open arms back to the University of Leeds. We can’t wait to host more outstanding conference and event activity – with lots of opportunities created for sharing research, knowledge transfer, relationship building and collaboration.

Until then, we wish our industry colleagues and our customers the very best through these challenging times.