In a tangible step towards a return to normality, and in front of hundreds of participants in the conference room of Puskás Arena, the #PowerOfLiveEvents initiative left the virtual space and became a day-long live conference earlier this month.
Hungarian and foreign guest speakers talked about reviving the market, presented crisis management “best practices” and discussed event planning in this new situation. The conference on September 10 was attended by more than 300 people with COVID-19 safety measures in place.
There was a disinfection gate with a digital thermometer where all attendees had to do was to hold their wrist in front of the display; masked, gloved hostesses helped manage elevators, among other things, to reduce the number of surfaces touched; chairs, tables and microphones were regularly disinfected; lunch packages were individually prepared; and with the right colored armband, it was possible to indicate without words if someone wanted to keep a greater distance.
Organized with support from the newly-formed Budapest Convention Bureau and the Budapest Festival and Tourism Center and with the cooperation of industry associations, the live conference proved that by creating the right conditions and involving a well-prepared organizing team, it is possible to organize MICE events for up to hundreds of people in Hungary in accordance with health-safety rules. The event organizers insist the limit of more than 500 participants only applies to music and dance events; there is no participation cap for any other type of event.
The aim was to showcase how events can be organized under the current circumstances. Speakers representing different segments of the industry discussed the situation, the changes, the new trends and challenges the meeting industry is facing. Additional topics were the role Budapest is playing as a key MICE destination, the strategy for helping the sector, and safe event protocols developed due to the pandemic.
United Networks of International Corporate Event Organizers research on 200 large international companies, presented as the opening of the Power of Live Events Conference, provided an immediate eye-catching insight into the event industry’s immediate future.
Some 64% of companies surveyed said they would like to continue organizing events in the first quarter of 2021, and a third of respondents expect a pre-epidemic budget. Even if the cost of business events needs to be reduced somewhat, it could affect gifts distributed to guests, entertainment add-ons, and spectacular decorations or installations. However, the total number of planned events has changed only very minimally; if that proves to be true, it promises a positive outlook for the Hungarian events industry.
Foreign speakers included Jens Oliver Mayer, CEO of Jack Morton Worldwide, who illustrated how the domestic event industry could benefit in the future from a polished user experience and the smart utilization of data.
Jan Oršič, head of the Ljubljana Convention Bureau, gave professional advice on how the event industry can reach the right target groups during the almost complete shutdown forced by the coronavirus, while retaining key partners. Gorazd Čad, CEO of Toleranca Marketing presented more life-saver best practices regarding marketing strategies for overcoming the crisis.
Hungarian industry leaders said the most important task is to retain the highly skilled Hungarian workforce with internationally marketable professional knowledge. Without suitable professionals, it will be much more difficult to restart the industry, and business events play an indisputable role in relaunching the economy.
“In the current situation, we all now need to work together, shoulder to shoulder, to help industry workers and strengthen our position in the international MICE market. It is in our common interest to bring quality tourists to a livable city, also keeping sustainability in mind,” said Anna Békefi, managing director of Budapest Convention Bureau.
“We are strongly convinced that Budapest and the Hungarian meeting industry professionals are prepared and able to organize and conduct business events for hundreds of people in accordance with current epidemiological rules. Delivering this message across borders and boosting the business events market requires a proactive, solution-oriented attitude and the collaboration of the entire profession. With this conference, we have taken the first significant step in this collaboration,” she added.
A recurring theme was the benefits of live events over digital or hybrid events. The vast majority of speakers argued for the benefits of live events.
“With their different tools, digital events may partially support some corporate goals, but they are not up to live events in terms of doing business, engaging and retaining employees, or creating experiences,” insists Zsolt Kassai, CEO of Special Effects International, one of the initiators of the event and program series.
“We also managed to prove to the professional audience and corporate partners participating in our conference that, with the appropriate precautions, a live event for hundreds of people can be held safely in the current situation,” Kassai says.
“It is in our common interest to restart quickly, as the epidemiological situation allows. In a short time, hundreds of companies from 25 countries have joined our initiative, an unprecedented collaboration in our industry. Despite the extreme difficulties, the event industry has not disappeared in Hungary. In fact, it is more unified and better prepared than ever before,” points out Szabolcs Botond, CEO of Visual Europe Group, another of the initiators of the event and program series.
“I believe the meeting professionals have proved that the profession is able to survive and there is a safe solution for organizing events under the current circumstances. The initiative showcased what huge energy lies in live events and in professional industry cooperation,” adds Tamás Végh, COO of Bo-Live Branding Agency, another of the organizers.
The event was the culmination of a 17-week online social marketing campaign that began in May titled “Power of Live Events”. The initiative was set up to draw attention to the difficult situation caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Hundreds of companies and organizations from 25 countries have joined the campaign, led by Special Effects International and Visual Europe Group.
Following the conference, so-called “Get-Together” events and concerts were held; at the Museum of Fine Arts, a concert by the Óbuda Danubia Orchestra took place, while on March 15 tér a video mapping show and a concert were held.