On September 10, 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-19 handbook for business events that play an important role in the relaunch of the Hungarian economy and the life of Budapest was presented.
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 organization’s first appearances was to embrace the launch of #PowerOfLiveEvents and to facilitate a comprehensive events industry collaboration.
"Flexibility," "partnership" and "responsibility" will be the keywords of the post-coronavirus era for live business event organizers and related industry players, according to the Budapest Convention Bureau. 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 September 10, 2020.
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 colored 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 organizing team, it is possible to organize 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 organized under the current circumstances. 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 (United Networks of International Corporate Event Organizers) research on 200 large international companies presented as the opening of the Power of Live Events Conference provided insight into the event industry’s immediate future. In the first quarter of 2021, 64 percent of companies surveyed would like to continue organizing events, and one-third of respondents expect a pre-epidemic budget. The research found that 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 illustrated how the domestic event industry could benefit in the future from a polished user experience and the utilization of data. 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 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 skilled Hungarian workforce with internationally marketable professional knowledge, urging the current discourse even to the highest levels. After all, the Budapest Convention Bureau says, without a 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.
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.
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 organizers from all over the world.