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Why we all need to be looking at summer incentives… now

By Kerry Wright, Head of Group Sales, Lime Venue Portfolio

My word! We’re only in February for god’s sake, this is still (technically) winter and its freezing cold outside… Also, we’re being told that there is a race for space planned in March, we need to get to that first, OK?

Oh, and by the way, anyone who reads anything about anything to do with this industry will know that lead-in times are dramatically dropping, lets not get ahead of ourselves.

Oh, and one more thing before you go, there is still a pandemic in our midst, I’d like to plan for Summer, but I’d also like to have a business and actually get there first thank you very much …

Cripes, walked into that one, didn’t we? But hold on a second, this could be really important for everyone in the meetings and events industry, so apologies for this rather worthy public announcement about summer incentives.

It’s based on two emerging trends that we’re seeing across our 80+ UK venues, and they both mean something significant for us all:

  • Christmas Parties are moving to Summer, and they are being booked now… that’s right, now!
  • The incentive market is changing dynamics and 2022 could be an amazing opportunity

So, let’s do these one at a time. First of all, the Christmas Party market; already we are seeing either cancelled, postponed or new enquiries being moved into the summer party season and it’s changing the way this market looks. In the past, it used to be that organisers would either book incredibly early – we’re talking up to 12 months – to get the right slot, the right space and the right venue – or they would wait until the very last minute and make the choice between available dates and best price, often also considering joiner parties.

This year, because so many businesses were not able to book their 2021 Christmas Party, they have moved it to the Summer. But not just ‘moved’, we mean ‘booked the date’ moved, so as to avoid a lot of growling employees who feel cheated out of their event. They want the date, the theme, and they want to be planning their outfits. Equally, from a business point of view, there is a desperation to create chances to say, ‘thank you’, ‘well done’, ‘we appreciate you’. Loyalty amongst staff remains a major priority for businesses and moments like Christmas Parties have a large role to play.

This moves us on to the incentive market. It used to be the dynamics of the industry, as it emerged from economic or environmental damage, was the following: training – staff have been lost, new staff have been bought in, for those that have stayed, businesses want to invest in, training is a sturdy business investment that shows instant recognition in staff; conference – the business has its team, now it wants to communicate to them, get them excited and motivated, it wants to send out its manifesto in a meaningful way; incentive – once the first two are done, it’s time to reward, create loyalty, build team cohesion.

The reality is though that in 2022, this formula has all been mixed up. Yes, teams and businesses have been disrupted, but there has been no shortage of information, Zoom calls, communication, and content. What businesses need to react to is something far different. The reality is that workforces have changed, they have fragmented and dispersed. More and more we are not just seeing bookings for meeting space, but workspace as well; teams don’t just want to talk to each other, they just want to hang out together. Businesses are trying to manufacture the ‘watercooler moments’ of old.

At the same time, in 2022 the recognition needs to come first. Now is the time for hugs and pats on the back, not to jump into rigorous training plans. For two years many employees have missed their colleagues, they need to reconnect, they need relax and spend time together, they need to decompress and get to know one another again. This is the massive opportunity for the incentive market.

There are other trends that boost this sector as well. We talk a lot at Lime Venue Portfolio about meeting convergence, and this is no different with incentives; incentive and team building, incentive and conference, all wrapped round a Summer Party. How about a casual workspace in the morning, some fun and teamwork in the afternoon and an elegant evening soiree … our portfolio has some gorgeous green spaces!

These events take time to organise, there is a need for the right space at the right time and, with so many events moving up and down the calendar, it’s worth looking ahead a little further. From our own point, our position stays the same; if you’re going to do it, do it properly. Incentives work because they are a reward, so make the guests feel rewarded. Build in programmes that give people the gift of time, as well as the gift of hospitality.

Its casual time together that has been missed most. So, have some fun, give structure and meaning to the day, but don’t forget that just hanging out has never been so special.