Furlough is a strange place, and not a place I would usually choose to visit. But with the threat of being quarantined should I return to work, it’s a place I have found myself in since March.
The food has been good: the local chef Anna (my soon-to-be wife) has cooked up some amazing meals in between episodes of tiger king. Those jobs I’d been promising to do for ten years are reducing in number, and the wedding is almost planned.
Furlough has in the main been a chance to get stuff done and, although I didn’t decide to learn a language or do an online university course, I found myself becoming a talented mechanic. I restored 11 scooters over the summer as well as a collection of iconic mountain bikes, and became great friends with my neighbours.
My bosses at Leonardo Hotels & Jury’s Inns have used this time to refurb everything, which is incredibly exciting. I have some incredible news for the industry when I return to work…from rooftops to restaurants, the #newnormal for the group means #brandnew.
It’s been bittersweet. I usually spend my summer volunteering in Romania with Hospices of Hope running kids summer camps, which sadly had to be cancelled. In the last few months I have seen many icons of the industry fall victim to redundancy.
But I firmly believe that life’s for living, and I feel incredibly lucky to have received furlough. My bosses have been supportive and like anyone returning to work soon, I’m sure it won’t be easy. But nothing bad ever came from hard work.
With the extended events family brought even closer during these last few months, many who are now more hybrid virtual and tougher than ever, I firmly believe that the break has made us an even more resilient unit and truly future-proof.
Not being at industry events has been a strange one. Before this, many of us would be seeing between 50-500 people a week and I’ve never been a fan of video calls as I can’t sit still and talk. You heard it here first: I can’t multi task.
Creativity is at the heart of events and the industry has always found a way to connect. Although I haven’t been able to work or go to a networking or trade show, my industry friends have made sure we all keep in touch and I’m now a master at Zoom. I feel incredibly honoured to be part of such a great industry.
The take-aways from the pandemic are huge: hybrid has been here for years, but was like a dirty secret we didn’t tell anyone. We attempted to hide it and if anyone dared mention virtual, they were removed from the Christmas card list.
One thing I have learned is that redundancy = opportunity. No, I haven’t gone mad…who would have thought you would have been able to hire the top talent in events with ease? That dream hire is just minutes away.
The pandemic has forced many things on us and they all will make events venues and trade shows even better.
A return to higher service levels, a commitment to delivering safe world-beating solutions to our clients, and a future with a higher level skill set and understanding of tech can’t ever be viewed as a bad thing. Branded masks are the advertising dream we didn’t realise we needed, but will change the face of events - literally.
With all this tech talk, you might ask if I will be at Confex live in March or if I will Zoom in? I will be there in person, as I have been every year.
Nothing will replace the importance of face to face connections, but lockdown gave us the added benefit of being able to wow clients with the conference offerings that now benefit from being bolstered with hybrid and digital solutions. This means that Confex 2021 will be even more innovative than last year’s epic show.
Andrew Woods - Meeting and Event Sales Director