e4m Red Carpet 2020: Need of the hour is to talk about ‘Guest Social Responsibility’
A panel of industry heads shared interesting insights on how the experiential industry was adjusting to a new normal
At the e4m Red Carpet Experiential Marketing Summit 2020, an esteemed panel of top industry leaders presented their views on the topic - Adjusting to a new normal, the social distancing way!
The panellists for the virtual event were Rituraj Khanna, CEO, Q Events; Gunjan Bansal, CEO, L’amore Weddings; Sebnem Mardini, President, Sebnem Event Design and Sidhhartha Chaturvedi, General Secretary, EEMA & CEO, Event Crafter. The session was moderated by Ruhail Amin, Sr. Editor, exchange4media.
Speaking about the challenges caused by the pandemic and the stakeholders’ response, Chaturvedi shared, “In July, when we had the first NEC meeting, I immediately presented a plan as we all knew that we needed a very solid plan of going forward to be in place. And for that to happen there was a document required, which should tell our ecosystem how to work in this new normal, and what kind of became a talking point between us and the government for opening up because the sector was completely shut down. We formed a Covid task force at EEMA. And within 20 days, we had this whole documented way in 300 pages plus document, which kind of went across the streams, whatever work we represent, and what kind of work we do, the document covered it all.
And when we launched it on 20th August through a webinar, we were not ready for the kind of people who were coming in and wanting to be a part of that webinar. We had a zoom thing of 500 people, we had 2000 registrations overnight. Eventually, we had 80,000 people viewing that webinar. And the document actually began the whole conversation. There are two folds - one is convincing the government and the second is educating and making sure that the stakeholders are following it. So it served both purposes.”
Advising not to hurry up, Khanna said: “I did not start taking any events since two weeks back. Thanks to Siddharth’s 300 pages SOPs, I've been trying to be a little careful because I have a huge task force at the office. And I didn't want to expose them to my clients or somewhere until I felt a little safe. So I started my meetings alone with one or two of my staff members, we are full up, we have 3-5 weddings in a row, there's still plenty of work in the market. So I would suggest not to hurry and follow the SOPs. I have been moving around a lot now for about two and a half months. We did something in Jaipur too and today, we opened up our JW Marriott office also. So I will take it really slowly.”
Explaining about the ground reality and working under the new guidelines, Khanna shared, “I don’t think it has become challenging on the ground. I came back from Udaipur last evening from a meeting and the clients are expecting 350 guests and they are very adamant about the numbers. They are having eight functions there and were not really concerned about social distancing. I told them I’ll send a document to them, which they have to follow and if they don’t follow it then we won’t work with them because I’m answerable to the 200 people working on that. So the new normal has really changed things.”
Bansal highlighted the types of clients and their demands during Covid-19. “There are two types of clients - one is who understands the gravity of the situation and tries to adjust with it and is very accommodating. And the other is those who are not that adaptive to reality, they just want to enjoy and celebrate. We are getting both kinds of clients and so, we have to make them understand that this is a serious situation. And first of all, I’m not taking a wedding of more than 300 guests because it becomes more and more difficult for us to manage that kind of crowd keeping all the SOPs in mind. Second is that we have to educate our clients that these are the things and you have to take these things seriously, because if something happens, the planner will be responsible, So, we are going slow and not taking every wedding because the budgets have also been reduced. The clients want to take advantage of the Covid situation by reducing the fees and demanding good deals from the hotels but they're not realising that our work has increased. We need more staff to regulate everything and we have to be very careful even for our vendors. Our work has become twice.”
Elaborating on the term ‘Guest social responsibility’, Chaturvedi further shared, “Wedding is such a huge industry out there and the end user might not be responsible at all. If one goes through wedding SOPs, there is a term called Guest Social Responsibility and that needs to be talked about. There’s a social responsibility of guests coming to these events, which they tend to forget.”
Speaking about how the event industry in Turkey has been coping up with the challenges, Mardini shared, “We have social distance and we are trying as a company to inform everybody before and during the event. And for the corporate events we have been more successful than the wedding. Because in weddings and social parties everybody knows each other and they want to hug and kiss, so we are trying to remind them. We are doing pretty good, we have up to 300-400 people. For social events and ceremonies, we just inform them and they know how serious it is. So they keep the social distance. We have never heard from the educated people that somebody got COVID-19 because of the wedding. But anyway, the weddings and ruler side of Turkey, the weddings become 1500 to 3000 people. This is the risk. So, because of that it may have been cut down to two only ceremonies, but we can have 300 people.”
Corporate events to me have been very successful. And most of the time we are doing the hybrid events and greenbox events because the clients are so afraid of getting all together. Instead of 500, we do 100 and people get into it with zoom and the conference in the same way, but of course we are not very happy with the income because it has been spread out and the numbers have been cut down. So we are not happy.”
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