Like all businesses, Forum Events & Media Group (owner of Hotel Designs, Hotel Summit and Interior Design & Architecture Summit) has been forced to adjust its operations in the face of Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown’. Managing Director Sarah Beall explains how Forum has used technology to take its events business into the digital age…
Hotel Designs LIVE, the one-day virtual conference which took place last month, was the collective result of an adaptable team who put content first. The four seminars put the editorial spotlight on integral topics and debates, while also welcoming relevant suppliers to pitch their latest products. The parent company – the infrastructure, if you like – behind Hotel Designs is Forum Events & Media. And in order to share how the company is adapting, and able to host virtual events such as Hotel Designs LIVE, we caught up with its Managing Director, Sarah Beall.
Hotel Designs: How has Forum Events & Media transitioned from live to virtual events during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Sarah Beall: Our Forums and Summits are unlike exhibitions or other large scale B2B events – they facilitate supply and demand, and serve their industries by bringing together buyers and suppliers for a series of pre-arranged face-to-face meetings.
We’ve tackled the Covid-19 crisis head-on by using our cutting-edge proprietary matching-making software to create an interface for live video meetings in a ‘virtual Forum’ environment, taking our live experience online.
HD: How was this achieved and what role has technology played during the transition?
SB: Redirecting our focus from live events to virtual means we can continue to deliver expectations to our exhibitor partners and delegates alike. Our appointment setting software is bespoke – we assigned our development team the task of integrating it with a video conferencing platform, so we can now create and deliver a live itinerary of pre-arranged meetings for participants.
“Our virtual format replicates our live events” – Sarah Beall, Managing Director, Forum Events & Media.
HD: How can people attend your virtual events and how do they work?
SB: Our virtual format replicates our live events, bringing together 65 key decision makers with 35 industry suppliers. The event registration process is exactly the same for both delegates and suppliers – the only difference is that all the meetings take place online as opposed to a physical venue.
HD: What are the main benefits of virtual events for your supplier partners?
SB: It’s all too easy to bury your head in the sand and wait for this pandemic to pass – but at Forum we know how important it is to stay in touch with our clients and create new business relationships with future prospects. Our virtual Forums are a powerful way to do business and stay connected from anywhere in the world.
HD: What are the main benefits of virtual events for your attending delegates?
SB: For anyone in procurement, events and meetings are keys to success – relationships with suppliers all start from an initial meeting and product knowledge. But right now companies will want to reduce the risk of their employees catching coronavirus, so we expect they will carry out due diligence as to whether they can attend live events. As a response, we are providing a safe solution for everyone, with buyers and suppliers meeting via video call from the comfort of their home office.
HD: Will virtual events operate alongside live events as part of the ‘new normal’?
SB: Live events are where deals are done and new products are put into the hands of a buyer – I do not see that changing. However, as we move out of lockdown hybrid events that offer both live and virtual attendees the opportunity to meet with trusted suppliers can only help expand the marketplace and increase supplier export worldwide.
HD: How does Forum intend to develop its virtual events offering going forward?
SB: Our virtual platform will allow us to hold our Forums and Summits worldwide, enter new industries and connect even more buyers and suppliers.
We cannot wait to welcome attendees back to our live events from September and have implemented a Covid safe risk assessment at all our venues.
But we are prepared and ready to kickstart our Forums from this month across four industries via our virtual platform. And we will continue to serve industries by holding hybrid live and virtual events that are Covid safe throughout the remainder of the year and beyond, if required.
Interior Design & Architecture Summit is taking place on September 2 at Hilton London Canary Wharf.
Hotel Summit is taking place on November 23 – 24 at Five Lakes Hotel, Colchester.