Emma profile

Business Development Officer at MEETinLEEDS
I have always been so proud to work in the Conference & Events Industry; an industry full of amazing, creative and resilient people. Over the last few weeks, we have watched our venues across the UK light up blue in support of the NHS, with some even being transformed into hospitals, and we have seen almost everyone we know using video conferencing software to keep in touch – this time has made me even more proud to work in our industry.

There may not be any conference activity taking place on campus at the moment, but we are very proud to see how the University has stepped up to tackle the coronavirus crisis by marshalling world-leading expertise and equipment, as well as influential networks in the collaborative fight against the virus. Final year students have been fast tracked into the NHS, staff have volunteered, laboratories on campus have been opened up, and support has also been provided to the NHS through the use of University accommodation.

Our Conference & Events team at the University of Leeds, like many others, quickly adapted to offering the same great service from our homes. It’s been the perfect opportunity to work on those projects that we hadn’t quite got round to, and we continue to focus on the future and how we can offer the best customer experience in the changing landscape. We’ve also thrown ourselves into this new way of working, using our time wisely to work on personal development, taking advantage of online courses and joining the many interesting webinars our industry has put out.

The last few weeks have really shown how supportive we can be to each other, as an industry. I’ve been catching up with colleagues across the industry to see how they are adapting to the current situation, which is why I’m proud to launch our first ‘Ask The Expert’ series, in which I speak with various colleagues across the industry to get their thoughts on the effects of COVID-19, advice, best practices and the future of conferencing.

First up, I spoke with VisitBritain, the UK’s official tourism agency, who recently shared an open letter of support for the industry, stating that the UK is here to support the global events community. Here’s what they had to say when we asked for tips to support UK destinations and venues, during this unprecedented time:

What is VisitBritain doing during the COVID-19 crisis for the international business events market?

As the world reacts to the crisis, as well as the individual and businesses challenges that it brings, VisitBritain Business Events is continuing to connect with international event professionals, and they know the UK is here to support them.

We have sent an ‘open letter of support’ to the international events sector to show unity to the industry as it grapples with the COVID-19 crisis. We want the global events community to know that the UK is here to support them and the industry’s recovery, and ready to welcome their events to the UK when the time is right. The letter was shared via video on social media channels, and widely shared by the UK events industry and international events industry organisations including IMEX, The Meetings Show, Event Manager Blog, Conference & Meetings World, Boardroom and CIM magazines.

We are encouraging the UK business events industry to share this message of support on their own channels. To download the open letter video and suggested social media post, see the VisitBritain corporate website.

For our UK suppliers and international buyers, we are committed to being a helpline of support and continue to educate international events organisers on the UK offer, and facilitating new business opportunities and relationships through virtual events. We continue to have one-to-one engagement with buyers in the market to understand the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses. We are making it our mission to create the most impactful campaign, and target the sectors and markets that offer the best prospects for the UK, as part of our recovery strategy when global restrictions begin to lift.

How should I stay up to date on the latest information?

VisitBritain provides regular information on the COVID-19 crisis for the tourism and events industry. This includes sharing the latest Government updates and providing the latest advice and support for businesses.

To stay up to date with the latest information, sign up to our newsletter, and follow the corporate updates on VisitBritain’s corporate Twitter and LinkedIn.

For more information on COVID-19 support available for businesses – including loans, tax relief and cash grants – visit the government’s Business Support page here.

How should businesses be reacting during the COVID-19 crisis?

Though as businesses we are facing a time of uncertainty, it is important to approach your messaging with sensitivity to the situation. Reach out to existing clients and industry peers, offer an ear to listen and be understanding.

The crisis is creating a fast-changing world so stay closely abreast of industry developments and use what you learn to plan ahead for the possible recovery scenarios and how your business may react.

Sign up for regular updates from events industry media such as PCMA Convene, Northstar Meetings Group, Event Manager Blog and AMI who are regularly releasing research on the situation as it rapidly changes. Use this information and recovery scenarios to consider the potential impact that they may have and how you could react or adapt your business.

It’s great to hear that Visit Britain are supporting the global events community, letting them know that the UK is here to support them and the industry’s recovery – I agree that we will be ready to welcome their events to the UK when the time is right.

We will be using these tips from Visit Britain to keep up to date with industry developments and to work alongside colleagues across industry in understanding what the recovery process might look like, whilst keeping the customer central to our future plans.

I will be back tomorrow with next blog in the ‘Ask the Expert’ series when we will hear from Harrogate Convention Centre about transforming a conference centre into a hospital.