Susan Tanner, CEO of the National Outdoor Events Association believes the UK’s appetite for outdoor event experiences spells a summer of success for event planners.
Outdoor events in the UK will return, and it is our vision at the National Outdoor Events Association (NOEA) that they return stronger and better than before. This isn’t a self-delusional ambition either, although it is easy to lose hope off the back of what has been an excruciatingly hard year for event professionals.
What gives us hope? First and foremost is the ticket sales already coming in this summer. We work in partnership with our colleagues at See Tickets, and both through them, and from the feedback we have seen from our members, the response to many outdoor events, from sporting to music and cultural festivals, has been phenomenal. From the small to the large, those events taking place this summer are seeing an amazing response from the public.
This is especially reassuring given that some of these events have had 18 months out of business already and may have lost connection with their audiences. Equally, there was a justifiable concern that spectators would be reticent in returning to live events, with the prospect of either social distancing or reduced capacities affecting the experience, not to mention concerns over their health. What the data proves is that the appetite for face-to-face, outdoor experience has never been higher, nor as robust; in truth, you don’t miss some things until they are gone.
This should give us hope, as a community of event professionals, that there is still a market for what we do. For brands and businesses, that this still remains a highly productive way of influencing audiences and reaching customers. The data we’re seeing isn’t just that people want to go and see bands, watch entertainment, or enjoy the great outdoors, they want to be part of a community; meeting with likeminded people under the brand of the events they love.
This is incredibly important to our corporate members, who buy into this connection between brand, event and audience. They use these moments to create memorable experiences that create connections and loyalty with existing and potential new customers. These brands have missed live experiences as much as the audiences they market to. Event sponsorship and marketing works, whether it’s activating a new product launch, building an experiential area, or just providing an added value experience to the guests.
The second reason for our confidence looking forward, is the changes that have happened within the industry itself, however it is fair to say that these are by no means set in stone. At the beginning of this pandemic, NOEA committed itself to not only protecting and fighting for the industry now, but setting the foundations for it to #BuildBackBetter in the future.
There are parts of this strategy that still concern us. We have, inevitably, lost talent out of the industry and we need help to get those people back. Organising events takes experience; from security to car parking, from health and safety to staging and lighting, these are not transferable skills and the biggest concern to those invested in these events is that the right people are still around.
We’ve been working hard with the government to ensure that the building blocks are in place to protect events and event suppliers now. This means that they then have the resources to return this summer and, more importantly, subsequent summers. In a post pandemic world, this is especially important as we look to provide the right level of safety for audiences, reduce the levels of risk for sponsors, and protect the liabilities of the businesses involved in creating and running these events.
As we move out of the pandemic into finally creating events again, we need to be mindful that everyone learns the lessons of the past, so that we can rebuild a robust industry for the many thousands of people who are relying on us to create amazing experiences this summer. This means tighter understanding of liabilities, insurance, risk and safety, and that we have grown up conversations about each one. If we do, there will be a greater level of protection for everyone.
For NOEA, this is a major challenge, but we are spurred on by the incredible response to events already this year. Our industry is rightly the envy of the world, probably because we have a population that sees so much value in outdoor, live experiences. We owe it to those people to continue to be the very best industry in the world, and to be one that continues to help great experiences happen.