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    TOP TIPS: The secrets to fruitful COVID-safe event planning

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    With physical gatherings back on the corporate agenda Russell Allen (pictured, right), owner of team interactions specialist Fruitful, offers some top tips for creating a truly stand out event…

    As we emerge from the effects of the pandemic and social distancing restrictions, which sort of corporate events are your clients looking to organise right now?

    They fit squarely into two camps. The first requirement we’re seeing is for events that bring colleagues together face-to-face, often for the first time in over 18 months. These are essentially lengthy off- and on-site meetings where there’s very little scope for anything other than the agenda and business at hand.

    The other requirement is for structured social events with no formal agenda. These are all about people enjoying being part of a physical team again, meeting new colleagues and reigniting those pre-COVID working relationships.

    Although we are starting to see the return of these two objectives merging and coming together.

    What kind of requests are you getting from corporate clients?

    We’re definitely seeing demand for activity-based events, clients turning to event companies not only for ideas and inspiration bit also because they offer the  kind of structure and safeguards that a professional management company can provide. A safe event right now is about ensuring people are comfortable in new or unfamiliar settings, and they know what’s coming. But fundamentally, there is desire and appetite for more structured, fun and activity-based events and that as social animals getting together is part of our make up.

    If someone is planning a live physical event right now, what should their key considerations be?

    The most crucial thing is good communication, particularly with colleagues to explain how and why the event is happening, plus their expectations. We all deal with the relaxation of social distancing rules in different ways, so you need to give people the maximum opportunity to adjust to the fact that they may well have to attend an event. In that respect the hybrid option of part live, part digital attendance is an interesting one, but you need to be careful that one doesn’t compromise the other. Ultimately, most companies have a policy now when it comes to office attendance, or they’re at least considering one. The same approach needs to be applied to physical corporate events also.

    How should those planning a post-COVID corporate event work with prospective venues?

    I would say always take advice from the venue because no one else will know a space better than its in-house team. They’re doing this stuff day in, day out, so there’s often no need reinvent the wheel when it comes to things like risk assessments, as the venue should already have taken the necessary precautions. That said, don’t be frightened to ask the venue about anything that you’re unsure about – the important thing is to work with them – you both have the same aim – to make your event a success.

    What will the corporate events environment look like in 12 months’ time?

    That’s a great question and the truth is that no-one truly knows. One thing that everyone should be aware of is a trend towards longer lead times across all events. In general terms there’s a lot less resource in the industry, not just because of the pandemic, but Brexit too. So, my advice would be to plan ahead when it comes to everything from choosing a venue to picking a production team, and to get the best out of your supply chain give then realistic time to respond.

    It is worth bearing in mind if you are taking your event abroad that the UK is not the only country experiencing supply chain problems and challenges with staffing. It’s not. The pandemic was a terrible global event, and every country is facing similar kinds of challenges.

    So, you may have to temper your menu ambition when you’re choosing menus, and be realistic – are the scallops and sea bass going to be available in seven weeks’ time? Or would feasting platters be more practical and achievable? Again, it’s just about setting those expectations.

    Let’s not underestimate that we are all humans with a deep, innate need to gather – that goes a long way. Focus on the merriment and bringing people together, instead of whether your guests are going to have five types of cheese on their plates.

    What advice would you give to PAs when it comes to creating a stand out event?

    I would say set the expectations with your boss, the board and the management as to what they want a successful event looks like . What we have now is an opportunity to do things differently, rather than just falling back into pre-COVID habits. PAs are uniquely positioned to be able to hold a mirror up in an organisation and ask difficult questions. Don’t be afraid of trying something new. Nows the time!

    And of course, we should always keep in mind sustainability.

    Absolutely. We’re just on the back of a tender for a carbon-neutral event with 2,000 guests. As we at Fruitful are on a journey to becoming a carbon-neutral business, initiatives like offsetting are really important and with the right design, execution and partner shouldn’t feel like a compromise.

    Find out more about Fruitful by visiting www.fruitfulteam.com or get in touch by emailing hello@fruitfulteam.com.

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    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien