Covid 19 – Exhibition and Events – Hope amidst the chaos!
Posted by Tom Oakes
This month’s blog is a little different. In the face of Covid-19 and the impact it is having, not only on business but also on our lives I want to take this opportunity to talk directly from my own experience in the hope that in sharing I may be able to spread a little light in these dark times.
If you have found our website by now you already know we are an Exhibition Stand Design and Project Management Company. Formed in 2000 by my Father Andy, we have worked together as a family for over 20 years designing and delivering exhibition stands to every corner of the world. Prior to our formation both Andy and Rob my uncle, on leaving school; worked in the exhibition industry as carpenters. Later my brother Joe and I joined the family business having been bought up with exhibitions and events in our blood. Family life and holidays have always been scheduled around event season, long hours and weekend work were the norm and living in a house full of free exhibition giveaways, gadgets and toys was part of the course. Astro exhibitions is our work, our clients and our portfolio. The suppliers, colleagues and friends that we have made over the years but above all else family is all we have ever known. Coronavirus has put a temporary halt to business and like the rest of the world, we are as a business and a family finding a new normal.
What impact is Coronavirus having?
The Events industry has temporarily shut down. We had a sense as early as January once international shows started to postpone that the seas were going to become rough for anyone working in any event related industry. However, I don’t think that anybody could have predicted the profound impact that Coronavirus was going to have. Speaking with clients, colleagues and competitors, the uncertainty, regarding when life may return back to “normal” is not only affecting their businesses but their mental health as well. Working as an exhibition contractor we connect with clients from every different type of industry and it is clear that it is not only the events and retail sector that Coronas is having an impact on. On a personal level, we are fortunate in that as a family business we are able to support each other through this uncertainty but I know for many business owners across all different types of industry that many are feeling very vulnerable and alone right now. Thankfully, there is support and at the time of writing it appears that the government have come through with many of the financial support packages promised. For anyone still unsure of what help is out there the link below has all the information currently available.
Be there for each other. The events industry is built on bringing people together, that’s what we do. We create space in which people can connect and communicate and we know more than most how important this is to the health and success of businesses world-wide.
Stay in touch – Again, speaking personally I have felt touched when receiving a phone call from a client or supplier to genuinely see how we are. It is important to vent, to talk, to share information. Pick up the phone, use zoom or another conference platform and check in.
Prepare – The world will return to normal and when it does we all have a responsibility to ensure things get back on track ASAP. Businesses and individuals are going to want to reach out and connect with their clients and contacts, markets will re-open and again and speaking personally, we will be ready and waiting to ensure we continue to supply great stand designs and create engaging environments in which business can happen.
Firstly, I want to draw attention to the amazing work carried out at London Excel’s Nightingale hospital. I know the call came out and was answered by many contractors and tradesmen to help in the enormous effort to construct the hospital. Astro Exhibitions thanks you for not only helping in the fight against Coronavirus but in doing our industry proud.
Secondly, I want to take a second to remind ourselves that our industry is not only important in bringing people and business together but also in aiding in the field of medical research, launching and promoting charities and community initiatives. These sectors will become vital as we fight the pandemic further into the future.
Our industry is robust. A study by the UFI (The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry) reported that in 2019 there were 138 million square metres of exhibition stand installed worldwide whilst 303 million people attended exhibitions. Year on year we hear time and again that exhibitions and live events are becoming obsolete in the face of digital online platforms and conferencing but year on year the numbers continue to show that the appetite for face to face human interaction never quells.
There is a conversation to be had about sustainability and as an industry we are not immune to the ever increasing pressure to aid in the fight against global warming , but if there is one thing that the current corona crisis is teaching us is how important human interaction and connection is to not only the health of our economies and businesses but also our mental health and well-being. We need to all find ways to limit the impact we are having on the environment whilst maintaining our ability to interact. Perhaps the current situation will help aid in igniting sparks of ingenuity to work towards that end.
More broadly, we are winning. Countries all over the world are starting to get on top of Covid-19. Again, speaking personally and working in an industry focused entirely on business, marketing and sales we can all sometimes be responsible for taking our eye off the ball of what really matters in life, the reasons why we work as we do in the first place for the people we care about that can stretch from our family, to our community, to our wider colleagues and friends. I hope we are all finding time to reflect and connect with the people important to us. I am hopeful that our industries, our countries and we as individuals will come through this terrible time stronger, more resilient, more creative, caring and compassionate and in the mean-time, from all of us at Astro, we would like to take this opportunity to wish you all well. Stay home, stay safe, protect the NHS.