A stage is pictured inside Luxexpo The Box ahead of the Fedil new year reception in January 2020
Photo: Matic Zorman/archives
The pandemic has forced businesses built up around events and networking to rethink their activities. Six industry actors explain their short-term response and outline their long-term expectations.
Morgan Gromy, CEO Luxexpo The Box
"Every single event cancelled since mid-March, COVID-19 has not only hit us hard, it has severely disrupted and shaken our business to its foundations. Subject to the condition that we can soon resume operations, we will miss 70% if not more of our projected turnover by the end of 2020. While waiting for restrictions to be gradually lifted, we primarily focused on establishing a detailed operational plan with 26 measures to guide us through this transition period and help Luxexpo The Box offer safe and pandemic-proof events. In the medium run, larger events we used to welcome and organise can no longer take place in the same way. Consequently, we have had to rethink and reinvent our procedures and strategies to manage the balancing act of keeping physical distance whilst staying emotionally close and pursuing our ultimate goal of providing even better event experiences than before. New innovative collaborations with prominent designers and other venues will help us regain strength and envision the future. Hybrid events, immersive experiences, inspiring encounters, greater comfort, and better entertainment, is what you can expect in the months and years to come."
Smaller scale events
Luxembourg for Tourism CEO Sebastian Reddeker
"Live events in the past years have become more targeted, promoting specific themes such as hiking or gastronomy. LFT’s strategy and trade promotional activities had shifted accordingly, and changed even more significantly when ITB Berlin, the world’s largest travel trade fair, was cancelled, closely followed by other tourism networking events. In general, fairs have been gradually losing their lead, but the pandemic has accelerated this. It will continue to impact large scale live travel fairs for the foreseeable, whose major selling point has been bringing together huge numbers from all over the world in one place: not exactly what the market wants right now.
"Physical interaction and networking will remain important though, and a question for LFT will be how to integrate live events in our future strategy and in what format. It is clear that when events pick up again, it will be on a smaller scale. The tourism sector will have to steer away from mass events and be more precise; pay more attention to customer’s needs and look more closely at the relationship between the destination and the final customer.
"LFT has been going in a customer-centric, less is more direction for some time. We have a role to play on a regional level, the benefit of a smaller destination with a strong regional network. A targeted customer approach is key to future success, which is why we are developing alternative ways with new partners. Sustainability is a big part of the question for our partners Luxembourg Convention Bureau (now Business Events Luxembourg), who who support the development of Luxembourg as a MICE destination."
Archive photo show Paperjam Club director Julien Delpy speaking at an event in May 2018. Photo: Patricia Pitsch/Maison Moderne
Julien Delpy, director Paperjam Club
"We’ve turned this into an opportunity to create digital events as of now, we’ve organised 70 digital events in three months. If it were a regular month we would have had 12-15 events per month. For a normal event we’ve a technical provider and caterer. This is something we don’t now need. Virtual events allow us to have speakers we wouldn’t normally have because they are abroad for instance. But, what is complex is that we have to make sure people who come to speak have the correct internet connection and the correct device.
"We have tried many different platforms to offer a networking alternative and we’re now using a new platform after events where people can network called remo.co. It’s fun because people speak by voice and video at tables where they have 10 minutes and then move to the next table. It’s quite interesting because the device you’re using allows you to connect with LinkedIn and your agenda so you can book a meeting directly with someone. It’s different but sometimes you get in touch more efficiently than if you met physically.
"We’re now creating a solution to mix physical and digital. For the next 10x6 all the speakers will physically all be in the same place and we shoot from there. If the situation doesn’t change, at the next one we will have 50 people attend. Little by little we will go back to physical events and be able to return to full digital if required by the health situation."
Amy Amann, The Network vice president and interim communications director
"The heart of The Network is bringing people together for networking and professional development. We had to decide early in March how to conduct our AGM, before there was much information about covid-19. We decided to be prudent, err on the side of caution, and so we went online. Safety for our attendees is priority. Luckily, our presenters have adapted well to an online format. We’ve had to be creative and prepare well in advance in order to provide engaging sessions that maintain our hallmark energy, interactivity and spirit. We’re happy that we’ve been able to continue to offer quality workshops as well as provide the opportunity for small-group networking.
"We’ve held successful online events since March and will hold our July Summer Drinks and Networking online. At this point we are anticipating going back to in-person events in September. While we know we can offer events online, the in-person format is definitely the preference for us, our members, and the community."
Amy Amann is pictured in this May 2018 archive photo. Photo: Jan Hanrion/Maison Moderne
Finding ways to grow
Laurent Graas, Business Events in Luxembourg
"Our aim is to bring all of the events in Luxembourg on one platform. We’re building the internet site and launched the beta version last year. We have been deeply impacted by the pandemic. But, the event sector is finding ways to grow back. What we’re seeing is that people are still very interested—we don’t think that events are dead. We’ve still more than 1,000 events right now that are going on and it’s growing each day because everyone is doing webinars. I don’t think there are fewer events than before, but the events are different because everyone has to go on and everyone is searching for solutions. There are also more free events because organisers want to see how they can attract an audience and they are testing their business model. We want to restart in September. If we have a second wave, we will have to see what comes of that."
Exploring other value offerings
Maya Joshi, co-chair Australia and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Luxembourg
"Networking is almost as valuable as talks and roundtables. When can we have that back? If you want some sort of seminar that now has to be managed with social distancing. But, standing around after and having a drink, that won’t be possible for some time. I think that no-one knows when it can happen again. For the Australia and New Zealand Chamber of Commerce Luxembourg the challenge is to look at other value offerings. We have access to the network of webinars of Australia Business in Europe (Abie). That’s one of the ways we will try. Some seminars open up for a chat half an hour prior to starting. It’s not the same or as a nice cocktail, but it’s still a chance to talk."
Maya Joshi, pictured, says networking is almost as valuable as talks and roundtables. Photo: Mike Zenari