How Covid-19 has led to a review of event strategies

Alan White, business development director, The Translation People
Coronavirus has caused businesses around the world to face the most impactful shake up in traditional operations many of us have ever experienced.   
It started with conferences around the world being cancelled. Then came widespread travel restrictions, followed by governmental instructions that employees who can, should start working from home.

For those who see international meetings and events as a day-to-day element of business, trying to achieve any kind of ‘normal’ has proven a mental, physical and logistical challenge.  

As far back as February, large-scale event organisers took steps to mitigate the impact of major cancellations before any stringent governmental rule was issued. B2B event specialist Informa announced it would be cancelling almost 130 events – worth more than £400m in revenue – due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Its events are world renowned; they include HotelEx, the Natural Products Expo and the Game Developers Conference. The step is said to have led to the company suffering a ‘£1bn drop in its market value’, as its events arm accounts for about 65 per cent of £2.9bn in total group revenues.  

Many businesses survive or thrive based on face-to-face interactions, whether to promote research and developments, to fulfil supply chains, or to meet potential new partners. But there are other repercussions of the coronavirus that aren’t yet clear in their potential impact. Although many events will have insurance to cover cancellation, very few cover pandemics; furthermore, how will businesses satisfy sponsorship and commercial rights contracts?   

While the pandemic is often prefixed with the buzzword ‘unprecedented’, it is certainly an apt use of the term; it continues to highlight challenges we have never previously faced, and it’s causing many event organisers to review their typical strategies. Not just for the immediate future, but in terms of contingent, long-term planning. So, what tools and services are available for businesses that are forced to change tack in order to retain and strengthen the international relationships they intrinsically rely on? And what are the steps they can take to ensure their business emerges from this global crisis stronger, and prepared for the new business normality?  

Continuity in conferences
  The pandemic has forced business owners to slow down and reflect, with many reconsidering what constitutes the essential and non-essential elements of their usual operations. The realisation of the benefits of putting people before profits may just lead to international business being completely transformed in the future.   

Overseas travel comes with a high cost in terms of time, expenditure and impact to the environment. As a senior real estate executive who has attended Mipim 20 times recently told the Financial Times: “Why do 27,000 real estate professionals need to go to the south of France for a week in the age of Skype and videoconferencing? When you couple the problems with air travel and international conferences with the fact that businesses need to be doing something about climate change, [Coronavirus] might be a useful catalyst for them to rethink.”  

We work with businesses all over the world, and typically our team of interpreters will travel internationally to support clients with conferences, events, meetings and training, which require translation. We recently invested in a multilingual, remote conferencing and interpreting platform to help businesses reduce their travel time and costs and meet their sustainability targets – but in the current climate, and as our clients contemplate the ways they can emerge from the coronavirus haze, it’s also being utilised as a solution to the restrictions on international movement.  

There are a variety of virtual conferencing tools on the market, but international businesses know the pain of trying to interpret and translate in real time. Our platform facilitates an unlimited number of virtual interpreting booths that are accessed remotely by organisers and participants around the world; each user is allocated one of our qualified linguists who translates live, in real-time, in whatever language they select as their preferred choice. It delivers a seamless, multi-way, translated conference, conducted entirely online, with interpreters able to work remotely from anywhere in the world, while simultaneously encouraging business leaders to consider how they might reach sustainability targets and make cost savings in the future.  

Continue sparking creativity
  To keep teams motivated about the future, consider replacing events you might’ve been attending around the world that are now cancelled, with creative brainstorms focusing on how you plan to saturate that territory in the future – prioritising the importance of relevant and cultural messaging.   

International marketing and sales messages benefit from a service called transcreation – a highly creative translation service, which falls somewhere between translation and foreign language copywriting. It’s a service we’ve delivered for global technology leaders, fashion retailers, international food and drinks manufacturers and more, the world over.  

A transcreator analyses a company’s English language marketing campaign, then looks at the international audience a brand is trying to reach, the tone of voice they want to strike, how they want the audience to engage and the action they want them to take. They then take the brief and create relevant content which is sensitive to cultural nuances and connotations.   

You can use Zoom or Skype to set up a virtual event between your marketing team and a transcreation specialist so you can effectively achieve your desired outcomes – whether the campaign is launched now or after the global crisis.  

Now should also see marketing teams reviewing current, live campaigns to make sure your brand’s messaging, content, tone and sentiment is not only still relevant, but is sympathetic to the situation at hand.   

The global events industry was valued at $1,100 billion in 2018; there is no doubting they are pivotal to business success and there will always be a need for them. But while businesses across the world continue to feel the impact of the coronavirus crisis, technology is being made accessible which replicates several elements of events and can also provide insight to how to shake up operations for the better, in the long term. Taking steps to look at what your business might look like after the pandemic lifts, demonstrates true, entrepreneurial leadership – exactly what’s needed to ensure your business goes the distance. 

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