Between September and November, trading across the three Make Venues sites has returned to 2019 levels, far outpacing the sector, which the industry recently suggested was around 65% of pre-pandemic levels.
So, what have we been doing to secure such a rapid and strong recovery, and what can we pass onto our colleagues in the industry so that we can all collectively build back stronger?
From our own point of view, after absorbing the shock of temporarily, but indefinitely, closing the doors, and watching years of hard graft disappearing, we soon began to realise that there was likely to be a ‘second coming’ for events; and we wanted to ensure that we would be ready.
It is human nature to want to socialise and interact and that was never going to go away, but we knew we would need to be agile and adapt to the new considerations caused by Covid. We also knew that, regardless of what was to come, things had changed permanently, and that we needed to as well. For us, it was always about what that change would look like.
Once lockdown began, we got to work, using the downtime to re-invest and strengthen our product by exploring leading-edge hybrid technology and converting dormant office space to further meeting room stock. It was our contention that two things would happen during the lockdown; firstly, people would rapidly familiarise themselves with digital communication, be it Zoom, Google Hangout or Teams, technology was going to be there, confidence would join it.
Secondly, the market would want to meet again, and quickly. We owed it to our customers to not only be ready with the space their businesses need, but to offer them ways of reaching their delegates in a new world.
Alongside this, we took the decision to keep the sales and marketing machine running during lockdowns, allowing us to proactively maintain engagement with clients and let them know that we were here whenever they were ready. This complemented a new way of working that we discussed at length, a ‘softer’ way of working with clients to minimise penalty charges, taking uncertainty out of the buying cycle, and demonstrating patience with regards to contracting. Trust and transparency have never been more important, and we wanted them sewn into the fabric of how we do business.
This strategy has proved right for our customers as we move towards the end of the year. The demand for business events going into 2022 will be greater than pre-pandemic levels, something we attribute to a combination of pure face-to-face events and hybrid or remote options. Customers are increasingly realising that this ‘user-friendly’ technology is not something to fear but instead can be used to help them reach their objectives. With strong relationships, flexible terms and robust technology, we’ve managed to de-risk the buying process for our customers, allowing them to focus on their businesses and what they want to get out of their meeting programmes.
As we now look towards 2022, we have no plans to rest on our laurels. For us, it’s about the bigger picture and the ongoing investment in our sales team is already laying robust foundations for next year with forward bookings on a par with the same period in 2019.
We believe this manifestation of ‘pent-up’ demand is a consequence of organisations acknowledging that the best way to rebuild confidence across their teams is to bring them together, inspire them, appreciate them, and support them to achieve a fair work/life balance and to support mental health.
Given that we know a proportion of the buyers’ market has decided to ‘park the bus’ for 2021, we’re also expecting a second wave of demand as 2022 brings with it a fresh perspective.
So, it has been, and continues to be, an intense period, but we’re reaping the rewards and are excited for the future. The anticipation across the team at what lies ahead for us in 2022 is infectious and we cannot wait to share that enthusiasm with all our customers.