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The Covid catalyst

The Covid catalyst

Kerrin MacPhie, chief executive of the Meetings Industry Association (mia), believes the connection and collaboration of the sector across the UK is getting stronger in post-pandemic times.

While we continue to be exposed to ongoing reminders of the pandemic, as we emerge from troubled times it remains important that we take time to stop, think and reflect on the challenges the sector has overcome over the past two years.

The damage inflicted by this pandemic cannot be understated, however the challenges we have overcome and the way our sector has diversified and developed has strengthened our sector and created opportunities. Covid-19 has served as a catalyst for positive change.

Talent

It has been well documented that many organisations across the sector’s supply chain have been experiencing recruitment challenges, with a recognised reluctance from some individuals to enter a sector that was abruptly shut down at the height of the pandemic. The tide has started to turn as the sector reopens and business levels grow. However, the workforce to support this growth remains depleted. Nevertheless, there is still cause for celebration, as many industry professionals have emerged from the pandemic with developed skillsets and, in turn, advanced into more established roles.

During what was unquestionably a stressful time for all within the sector, the pandemic presented a unique opportunity for some to step up. With many organisations reliant on redundancies and the Job Retention Scheme as a means of survival, the versatility of the event professional was pushed to new heights, fast-tracking the development of certain individuals, particularly the next generation, into key positions.

Recognition of these accomplishments has never been more important. Having recently launched our 2022 mia List, we’re looking forward to celebrating such achievements and are encouraging organisations to recognise their exceptional talent by nominating individuals and teams for these annual awards.

Training

From our industry research throughout the pandemic, on top of enforced redundancies, we found that six in 10 organisations serving the sector experienced resignations from their events staff. Due to the uncertainty of the industry during this period, three quarters of those leaving their roles did so to join another sector, reflecting a shake-up in the business meetings and events network.

As we welcome industry colleagues into new roles, and new faces into the sector, to maintain the highest of standards that have been set over the years, it is paramount that we continue to invest in training and development.

Speaking with our members coming out of the pandemic, we recognised the need for a one-stop training solution and are delighted to have launched a comprehensive training platform designed with the industry’s needs in mind to develop the skills, management and leadership of the sector, driving expectations in career development and business performance.

Not only will this prove essential in supporting organisations’ retention strategies, but also in supporting the skills of the sector, its ability to provide five-star service and the development of the next generation of event professionals.

Connectivity

It was refreshing to meet with so many faces, old and new, at our recent Connect Day event at Alton Towers, where we experienced such optimism, energy and opportunity for the future of the sector.

On a day all about sparking new relationships, it also provided delegates with opportunities of consolidating with existing networks, with many LinkedIn connections established over the pandemic also meeting face-to-face for the first time.

With the pandemic reflecting what was ultimately a time for togetherness, with an intense point of interest for all within the sector, we saw more conversations, more connections and a freshly fuelled sense of community across the sector that has inspired many a new initiative and innovation to help drive the sector forward.

Recognition

We also made great strides throughout the pandemic in gaining much needed recognition of the meetings and events sector from government, which in the past has often found itself caught between the realms of a mixture of industries.

Developing a direct relationship with government and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) throughout the pandemic is something that we continue to benefit from today, as we provide ongoing intelligence to support with the development of policy for the sector.

I was delighted to be invited to join the Events Industry Board, which was also recently relaunched by government, as we work on plans to attract more business events to the UK. As a sound board for the government on the best way to help grow the business events industry across the UK, we as a sector, have a clear voice to government, and we will continue to ensure that the latest challenges and opportunities we face are now comprehended.

While the majority of organisations across the sector forecast recovery to take between one to two years, many have proven successful in adapting to new ways of working and the provision of new offerings that provide an optimistic outlook on the future.

We, the Meetings Industry Association, are working hard to continue providing the sector with the support needed to help equip the industry for the year ahead, and beyond.