26 Feb 2021

What the events industry learned in 2020 and how to apply it in 2021

A picture of prominent events sector key Gary Meador at Aggreko

The impact of 2020 on the Events industry was clear to see. With cancellations taking effect throughout the year, event planners were forced to adapt, often at very short notice.

Perhaps you were forced to postpone your event at the last minute, or perhaps your plans had to respond to a rapidly changing policy environment. 2020 was undoubtedly a year full of challenges for one of the worst-hit sectors.

But with much of the industry on hold, there was also time to consider the opportunities of the future and to plan mitigation for the trends likely to continue into this year.

With that in mind, we spoke to Aggreko’s Gary Meador about the lessons learned last year, how he expects 2021 to pan out, and the ways we have reacted to our customers’ rapidly changing needs.

An immediate need for flexibility

As COVID-19 first broke out across the United States there was a rush to adjust event plans. Gary’s team was deeply involved in helping customers to manage these changes, and crucially in working to reduce costs wherever possible. “The Event sector was one of the hardest-hit during the pandemic,” he tells us. “As mass gatherings were immediately shut down, it left many customers in the middle of installs, or worse, during the middle of events. We tried to be overly fair with our customers by working with them to reduce any costs they might have already incurred and help them plan for the future.”

The importance of clean air

Following this initial period of closures and postponements, the focus for event planners changed. Gary explains: “Once it became apparent that the initial lockdown was not going to stop the spread of COVID-19, the requests from many customers were ‘how can we continue with our event in light of Coronavirus?’.”

“As my team had already been researching COVID-19 mitigation, we were ready with several Aggreko Clean Air services as early as the end of July. This included incorporating high-quality return air filters, increased air circulation designs, adding UVC lighting, HEPA filters, and other new technologies to clean the air for structures at events.”

This preparedness and expertise allowed some activity to continue safely. By providing COVID-19 mitigation for tents, for example, Gary’s team was able to help several customers continue with planned events. “We even worked with local permitting authorities to help them understand what we were providing for our customer’s project,” he says.

These services proved of particular use for the Film and Television industries, who were eager to get back into production. “COVID-19 had shut most productions down for several months, and many TV shows were running out of content,” Gary tells us. “We employed a variety of services to sanitize their air. We also had a huge number of requests from Universities, Manufacturers, and Hospitals for COVID-19 related tents to handle overflow or extra space for social distancing.”

Time to work on the future

Despite everything, there were some positives to be found in the shutdown as Gary’s team had the time to develop new initiatives. “Team members contributed to several future technology groups such as hydrogen generators, low power consumption HVAC services, and power monitoring electrical distribution,” Gary says.

“A primary focus was on Sustainability and Green products, including Battery Hybrids and Storage, Gas generators, alternate fuels, Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) technology, and using Aggreko’s remote monitoring resources to “right-size” generators for our clients.”

What changes will outlive the pandemic?

Gary is convinced that many of COVID-19’s impacts will perpetuate into 2021 and beyond. “I firmly believe that health and air quality in tents and other structures will be an essential consideration for event planners and producers,” he tells us. “The safety of guests has been a growing consideration for several years in our industry, but I think that the pandemic has highlighted that a safe event site does not just encompass precautions for visible dangers.”

Elsewhere Gary sees food service changing forever, with buffets firmly a thing of the past, closer control on how many attendees are permitted at events, and health checks on arrival. “We are already seeing new technologies being implemented, such as automatic thermal scanners to read body temperatures and online health questionnaires that attendees must fill in before they arrive at the event.”

Despite all these changes, and the growth in virtual or hybrid systems designed to replicate live events, he is confident that things, on the whole, will return to normal. “There is no substitute for being there,” he says. “The technology to duplicate the experience of a music festival or other major event is still a way off.”

Final thoughts: How will your event planning mitigate risk in 2021?

It’s clear that once the pandemic eases and the events industry can return to some kind of normality, there will be a range of new considerations and mitigations required of organizers.

In preparing for these extra health checks, clean air requirements, and any other developments which may occur, you need a vendor who can be flexible and adaptable to respond to the times. Ideally, they would have experience across industries and scale, to be able to provide the precise equipment and services you require at that moment.

Hidden health dangers will be at the forefront of the minds of attendees and local authorities, and so if you can find a vendor who will not only provide the appropriate services but also explain their effectiveness and purpose, you’ll be a long way towards mitigating for 2021.

So when you’re planning events this year, make sure you work with a vendor who understands these new demands, and can respond quickly and flexibly to your needs.

Aggreko Event Services