August 18, 2021 | By Joyce DiMascio
It’s been another tough year for event organisers. Just when the light was shining through, they’re now in the trenches again with lockdowns across the country and in some cases between state borders.
The stop-start to recovery has hit a new low especially for national events. While some events that attract state-based participants only are still proceeding, all events that rely on the confidence or permission to travel are non-existent. And, of course, international events stopped in March 2020.
Managing relationships with stakeholders, staff and clients in these uncertain times is critical. Some leaders and organisations are better at it than others.
Throughout the pandemic, David Longman, Managing Director of Diversified Communications Australia, has had engagement with his team and community as a top priority. He has a genuine commitment to communication and so do his managers and staff. It is key to their recovery, he says.
The June 2021 COVID outbreak in Sydney and the earlier outbreaks in Melbourne have put a big dent in the recovery plans of Diversified Communications.
The company’s diverse portfolio includes energy, design and build, food, travel and marketing events – and their shows rely on interstate travel, so it has had its fair share of hurdles.
Longman says there’s been a lot of adapting, shifting dates, working with venues on postponement strategies and working with major partners to bring everyone along. The hope is that when shows can run again, they will be “the best they can possibly be”.
And Diversified Communications has had satisfying outcomes with the events that were able to go ahead in 2021. AOG Energy in Perth, Naturally Good in Sydney, and the recent Mumbrella Awards virtual event were successful. And a boost to morale.
But the stark reality is that Diversified Communications had hoped to run its major expos in Sydney in the second half of 2021.
Longman said they had a made strategic call to schedule a lot of their events in Sydney in the later part of the year, but these plans too have had to be changed.
There’s a lot involved in making a call to postpone events as you want to bring your whole community with you and that takes a big commitment to looking after the relationships and communicating with clarity and decisiveness, he says.
After the success of AOG in Perth, the first “post-2020 pandemic” show, Diversified Communications was buoyed “that events were back”. They had demonstrated that events could be run safely, and that the client experience was positive, despite the absence of international exhibitors. Though a smaller show, the event was a roaring success given all the challenges of the pandemic year.
But that all changed due to lockdowns in both Melbourne and more recently Sydney – shows like Australasian Waste and Recycling Expo, Total Facilities, Design Build and Fine Food Australia have all been rescheduled – in some cases, twice.
He says it has been tough on the staff to be on the threshold of running events, only to have to push them back because of lockdowns or the threat of border closures.
“It feels like we’ve run the events, without the satisfaction of actually running them – they get kicked into next year.”
But despite the current setbacks he is confident about the long term because of the backing of his Board, the outstanding team and the support of exhibitors.
“There is a ‘long game’ here, events will be back. After the GFC the industry came back strongly.
There is still a strong appetite globally for investing in the sector and the big players know the industry will eventually come back, he says.
“I am lucky I have a supportive Board that takes a long-term view. I am blessed really.
“And I am surrounded by people who are so committed, and I’m humbled by the amount of work they put in.”
Longman says that clients have been supportive too and appreciative of the decisive action that Diversified Communications take about show postponements.
He says the feedback is that the exhibitors and partners “will be back” as soon as Diversified Communications can run their events.
“That’s the silver lining for the team,” he said.
And in all the stop-start-stop phases that Diversified Communications has been through, Longman says communication has been of utmost importance.
“Communication is critical. The way you communicate, even when there is no news, it’s so important. He says his sales team have worked hard to stay connected with their clients.
“People want certainty, in the absence of that, they want confidence. Communication is the key.”