This time of year is more often than not an opportunity to reflect on the previous year and scan forward to the months ahead. In this way, this year is no different to any other, except what we are reflecting on, and what we can look forward to, can feel like a view through a foggy looking glass.
1 January 2021 was not quite the demarcation that some wanted and hoped for – nothing so simple as a new year’s resolution this year I’m afraid! 2020 brought with it some very significant lessons for us all personally and professionally (and humanity as a whole should we have the strength to take such a wide view).
I wanted to take the opportunity that the New Year presents, to consider some of those necessary adjustments in 2020 and highlight some of the things we will continue to do, and be, in 2021. I looked back on our 2020 New Year piece highlighting the trends, as we saw them for the year ahead.
However much we could not have guessed the year we were about to have, there is some element of prophetic thinking in our musings around Live Streaming, Wellbeing and Sustainability.
As a service we will continue to be:
Flexible and Versatile
With the virtual world becoming the go-to for a significant portion of the last 12 months our reliance on technology and need to navigate this world quickly, accelerated developments already underway across our portfolio. We were already avid users of our online registration platform and the early summer months saw the launch of the University of Leeds Event App. Future event activity will require a shared space, with a melding of the benefits of in-person and virtual events.
Our team has remained close to all our customers since the first lockdown, working closely with them to understand their needs and to co-navigate our collective challenges through the start-stop nature of the pandemic. With regular check ins, frequent calls and an abundance of understanding we have been able to create an enabling environment and maintain strong relationships in complement to the necessary flexibility that the ongoing situation has dictated.
Connected, with our customers and each other
I was talking to our Cloth Hall Court Manger the other day about this very blog, and asked her what her thoughts were about what is here to stay. As a sales professional we can sometimes think that our strength in building relationships, showing empathy and understanding is our domain, but her operational team have made connections with clients that far surpass any previous focus on the logistics alone:
“There has been, and will continue to be an emotional connection with our clients. Every individual who walks through our door is managing their own personal challenge. Our team who are themselves navigating this strange time, are connecting with each individual on a level beyond just business. We walk the path together “ Kelly Allen.
In December I wrote a reflective piece on what the world has been like for the conference team over 2020. The team continues to support the wider institution, but like any good family we stick together. Supporting each other, challenging each other (currently a daily squat challenge!) and checking in. The coronoa-coaster (as I heard it referred to yesterday) continues to evolve and in tandem so does the team’s agility, resilience and perseverance.
Safe and Prepared
Where our customers used to be mostly focused on Access, and Price there has been a monumental shift in focus, to Safety. Our communications (in person and online) has relied upon our team’s ability to reassure and comfort our clients.The importance of detailing the many measures in place at our venues, and the experience and knowledge of our team has been recognised through customer feedback and our industry accreditations.
“Thanks so much for today – your team and the venue are incredible! Nothing was any trouble and all the safety measures in place were followed to the letter by customers and all the staff. The staff are so welcoming and are a real credit to you!“ October 2021
As I write this blog we remain in a national lockdown and reports on the event industry make a very stark read. All this notwithstanding, I continue to be inspired by the steadfast resilience of the industry in its support of one another, and its commitment to the relevance of our industry, evidenced through the International movement ‘We Are Events’ campaign ; the regional work we see through Conference Leeds to bring the delights of the Leeds and wider region hospitality and events sector to peoples’ living rooms #LeedsAtHome; and through LeedsHotels and VenuesAssociation offering support to the industry in its lobbying capacity.
As a University conference team we also have the benefit of sitting within the Higher Education venue sector. Speaking as a HE venue the support of member organisations and colleagues across the sector is extraordinary. Demonstrated in the fine work of Academic Venues Solutions and Venues of Excellence in bringing colleagues together to share their stories and to hold each other steady.
Whatever 2021 brings, we will carry forward lessons learned from 2020 and in the words of Maya Angelou.
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
― Maya Angelou