As the wise Joni Mitchell wrote within the ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ lyrics, ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’, and I think for the catering equipment industry this is currently applying to physical events.
We are all so starved of face-to-face human interaction right now, that it’s going to be an absolute hug-fest when we can eventually get back to seeing everyone in person without restrictions. Though of course if you’re a true introvert, the last year has probably had its upsides! But in general I think this paucity of contact has underlined the importance of doing business in the flesh, particularly at conferences and trade shows.
Over the last few years there had been question marks about the value of industry trade shows, considering how many sales are now made online, but when we’ve all had to distance from each other, the tide seems to be turning. I’ve heard many in the industry saying they can’t wait to get back to events, and I have to say I’m feeling that myself.
Attending some very well run online events over the past month has been a welcome stop-gap, but I found myself yearning for a face-to-face conversation rather than via a box on a screen. Even the online event organisers conceded that they would like to get back to physical events. To me, nothing replaces the camaraderie that can be created by being in the same room with someone else.
And for awards ceremonies and conferences where you can literally as well as metaphorically break bread with others around a table, the internal hospitality for our part of the hospitality industry is vital. Shared experiences, inside jokes, in-depth discussions are all absent or vastly reduced with electronic contact only – or it feels a little flat or two-dimensional.
Online events are the best that we can do right now until it’s safe for mass gatherings again though, and many have been working very hard to put them together and refine them over the months. While they have done a fantastic job, they can never escape the underlying truth that we’re all just staring at our screens and not a human face directly.
The cautious notes of optimism that the roadmap out of lockdown and the Covid-19 vaccination programme have brought are now slightly tinged by the current vaccine supply hiccup and the row with the EU, as well as the prospective third wave of infections in mainland Europe. Whether our population will be inoculated enough to avoid another flood, it may either delay the reopening, or mean that we have to become fortress Britain.
This could also impact business travel and industry events attendance, both incoming and outgoing. So once again, as over the last 12 months, we have to cross our fingers and hope for more good news. I for one am champing at the bit to get jabbed and get out and about again.