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July 8, 2009

Toby Lewis:Planning for a crisis

The managing director of the Live Group says technology could be the route to keeping people meeting during the swine flu epidemic and other such threats in the future.

With the cases of swine flu in the UK increasing, the importance of contingency planning is high on the agenda for events teams. Plans by key health spokespeople to contain the virus now that it’s been declared a pandemic include cautions about unnecessary travel and action to close down buildings if cases are suspected.

Cancelling an event costs time, money and plenty of stress for those involved in the planning process. While the swine flu pandemic is receiving a lot of media attention, there are a number of other situations – from venue flooding to terrorist threat – that can impact on a meticulously organised event.

Advancements in the events technology market mean that the prospect of moving away from the traditional idea of delegates meeting in a single venue is now a realistic option. Video conferencing can provide contingency solutions by offering powerful remote mechanics, so delegates can stay in their local areas. Combined with the web and audience engagement tools, the benefits of interactivity and increased motivation are also realised.

Cutting physical contact
If swine flu does spread as seriously as predicted in the autumn, technology in the events arena will enable people to stay at home or participate in local regions. This means less contact with people at mass gatherings and less interaction on public transport en-route.

Alternatively, where a crisis such as fire, flooding or a gas leak puts a venue out of action, video conferencing as a tool makes sourcing a new location easier. Splitting locations means that lower capacity venues can be selected or work-based boardrooms can be brought into action.

Multiple sites
Natural England, the government advisory body on wildlife and the environment, held its annual conference for 2,500 people this way across seven venues. GreenGageLive, a multimedia event solution, linked the regional venues through video conferencing, and delegates could offer opinions and feedback in real time via audience engagement tools.

A further level of productivity was added with a bespoke website that offered delegates networking opportunities and access to materials to prepare prior to the event. It then became the platform for the sharing of best practice post event.

Reducing travel and emissions
Dividing events across locations also offers savings in the cost of travel and accommodation, plus carbon emission reductions.

Event technology can generate fresh options for where an event is held and how people can participate. At the same time, it contributes to cutting carbon and reducing travel. Swine flu may be just one more reason to review contingency plans and get up to speed with event technology innovations.

Toby Lewis is managing director of event communication specialists The Live Group plc.

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