On 10th September, the #PowerOfLiveEvents initiative left the virtual space and converted into an all-day live conference with support from the newly-formed Budapest Convention Bureau and the Budapest Festival and Tourism Centre and with the cooperation of the industry associations.
In the presence of hundreds of participants populating the conference room of Puskás Arena, in the framework of a wide-ranging industry collaboration, the safety protocol and COVID handbook for business events that play an important role in the relaunch of the Hungarian economy and the life of Budapest was presented. However, minimising risks does not mean that we should give up the experiences and creative solutions provided by live events.
The newly-formed Budapest Convention Bureau’s mission is to provide a platform for its clients and its partners representing the MICE sector in Budapest and in Hungary in order to boost the incoming event industry and business tourism while promoting the destination on international level. The primary objective of the next period - in consultation with the government and the Budapest city council, along with the key players of the local industry - is to formulate a recovery strategy for the coronavirus situation, while creating a new marketing and sales strategy. One of the organisation’s first appearances was to embrace the launch of #PowerOfLiveEvents and to facilitate a comprehensive events industry collaboration.
Flexibility, partnership, responsibility – these will be the keywords of the post-coronavirus era for live business event organisers and related industry players. What started out as a social media campaign in May with the participation of tourism and event industry professionals from all over the world with the ultimate goal of maintaining the need for live events, manifested in a full-blown live experience. At the Power of Live Events Conference on 10th September 2020, demonstrating the state and private sector ‘s collaboration, unity and power, raising trust after these challenging times, you could see right from the start that a lot had changed.
There was a disinfection gate with a digital thermometer where all you had to do was to hold your 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 coloured armband, it was possible to indicate without words if someone might have wanted to keep a greater distance. In summing up these elements, the most important thing is that the live conference proved that by creating the right conditions and involving a well-prepared organising team, it is possible to organise MICE events for up to hundreds of people in Hungary in accordance with health-safety rules. As 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 showcasing how events can be organised under the current circumstances. Prestigious speakers representing different segments of the industry were discussing 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 the safe event protocols developed due to the pandemic.
The UNICEO research on 200 large international companies, presented as the opening of the Power of Live Events Conference, immediately provided eye-catching insight into the event industry’s immediate future. In the first quarter of 2021, 64% of companies surveyed would like to continue organising events, 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 events has changed only very minimally, which promises a positive outlook for the Hungarian event industry.
The line of foreign speakers was opened by Jens Oliver Mayer, CEO of Jack Morton Worldwide, who vigorously illustrated with spectacular examples how the domestic event industry could benefit in the future from a perfectly polished user experience and the smartest utilisation of data in the big data age. While Jan Oršič, as 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 then presented even more life-saver best practices regarding marketing strategies for overcoming the crisis.
The Hungarian industry leaders then detailed the prospects and opportunities of the more than 100,000 affected employees: the most important task was to retain the highly skilled Hungarian workforce with internationally marketable professional knowledge, urging the current discourse even to the highest levels. After all, without suitable and highly skilled professionals, it can be much more difficult to restart the entire industry after a shutdown this scale. 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 liveable city, also keeping sustainability in mind. We are strongly convinced that Budapest and the Hungarian meeting industry professionals are prepared and able to organise 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,” emphasised Anna Békefi, managing director of Budapest Convention Bureau.
“Representing the capital, I consider it our most important task and one of the main goals of the cooperation urged at the conference to jointly create the framework with which we can make Budapest attractive for business travelers visiting here. With proper representation and industry dialogue, It’s not impossible for a one-time business traveler to return as a tourist. In the end, all the actors involved, both the capital and Hungary, can benefit. Nothing is impossible for Budapest,” said Csaba Faix, CEO of Budapest Festival and Tourism Center.
As a recurring theme, the benefits of live events over digital or hybrid events were discussed several times during the day. 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. 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,” said Zsolt Kassai, CEO of Special Effects International, one of the initiators of the event and program series.
“The Power of Live Events campaign aimed to bring to life the experiences and memories that only live events can bring. After all, it is in our common interest to restart quickly, as the epidemiological situation allows. In a short time, nearly 170 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,” pointed out Szabolcs Botond, CEO of Visual Europe Group, one of the initiators of the event and program series.
“I believe the meeting professionals have proofed that the profession is able to survive and there is a safe solution for organizing events under the current circumstances. The initiative showcased what a huge energy lies in live events and in a professional industry cooperation,” stressed out Tamás Végh, COO of Bo-Live Branding Agency, one of the initiators of the event and program series.
Following the professional conference, a so-called “Get-Together” event and concerts were held, and the most beautiful sights of Budapest were highlighted in blue as the most spectacular part of the awareness campaign.
Based on the experiences of the Power of Live Events conference together with professionals representing all the segments of the meeting industry, a COVID Handbook will be compiled. It’s going to contain all the health-safety protocols for business events and delegates covering the entire guest journey from the very first moment of arriving in Budapest till departing from the city. With this, Budapest is really keen on strengthening its position as a leading MICE destination while it can’t wait to welcome visitors, delegates and organisers from all over the world.
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