In this joint interview, Catherine Neumann, co-founder and associate director of TERRES & Cie, and Charlotte Caliouw, founder and project director at AU-DELA Événement, explain how and why to organise a business event in a post-Covid world.
In this post-Covid context, in which uncertainties still remain concerning gatherings, despite strict compliance with health protocol, we wanted to seek the advice of event industry professionals.
In a normal context, Bordeaux Events hosts nearly 150 business events each year, including seminars, team building events, general meetings, evening and cocktail events. We have taken all the necessary health precautions in order to allow our clients to meet together with their teams and partners. We are working together with event organisers to resume these vital meetings for business development as early as September.
Catherine Neumann [TERRES & Cie] and Charlotte Caliouw [AU-DELA Événement], agreed to join us for a Q&A session. They explain how and why companies should organise business events this autumn.
Why should companies organise a business event this autumn ?
Our interviewees made a distinction between in-house events with staff members, and external events organised with clients, prospects and partners.
Catherine : The purpose of in-house events is to remotivate teams by presenting forward-looking perspectives for 2021. These past two months have been difficult. It is very important for companies to give their employees renewed hope and reassure them by communicating on the measures implemented for their safety.
In-house events represent 80% of our activities. In my opinion, business events planned for this autumn will serve three purposes: they will enable teams to meet after a long period of isolation; clarify the situation for the company’s future, explain organisational aspects and retain employees; create fresh energy and pursue a proactive approach.
Employees need to see each other in-person after weeks of video meetings, which did not always give them an opportunity to express themselves.
Catherine : External events can be used to show customers that the company is in sound health. It is important for them to witness an active presence and let them know that the company is ready for recovery. The goal is to create a desire to work together again and restore trust.
Charlotte : It is appropriate to plan an event to show your clients and partners that the company is still here, that the managers and teams have come together to reflect on the road ahead and possible changes. It provides an opportunity to present the company’s strategy for rebound.
Which format should companies use?
Catherine : For the time being, in the short term, I advise prioritising brief meetings in order to reconnect with staff members and clients. This could take the form of a lunch, cocktail or evening event. These formats allow for a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Then, a little later, around October, it will be possible to organise seminars and gatherings lasting one or two days. For example, we are assisting a regional company that had planned a trip to Marrakech to celebrate its 10th anniversary. At the last minute, they had to make a quick change of plans!
The new project is divided into two separate events. We first organised a dinner with the employees in June to mark the occasion. We then planned a second 2-day gathering for September in a unique natural setting along the Atlantic coast.
We are seeing increased interest in connecting with nature, a desire to bring teams together through a meaningful experience, and to rediscover all that we have right nearby.
Charlotte : The format is dependent on several factors, including the type of event, size of the organisation, and number of employees. For organisations seeking to plan a motivational seminar this autumn, and for those with teams spread all over France, one option is to organise a hybrid event. We are organising a common event of this type for a client with teams in 10 different locations.
The entire event will last 48 hours. The first part will be more formal, with a plenary meeting attended by employees at the company’s different offices. Then a second phase will feature activities at the different sites. The management teams will travel to the various locations. Until this autumn, team building events should be held outdoors. Outdoor events are a lot of fun and make it easier for everyone to comply with social distancing requirements.
It is already possible to start organising larger-scale events, like conferences, with a mix of in-person and digital formats. This is a practical solution for preventing an impact on the number of participants. The hybrid concept involves maintaining the original format, while also opening the event to others via digital technology. Participants who are not present in-person can watch the conferences and participate in workshops from their desk by using a live streaming system or virtual rooms.
However, it is important to realise that organising fully digital events can be expensive due to the financial and technical constraints involved. We have already had clients change their minds after taking these aspects into account.
Charlotte : We are currently prioritising small, in-person meetings or segmented events (as mentioned earlier), with teams split into groups and a single being held over several days.
How do you go about organising this type of event ?
Charlotte : When organising an event, it is of course important to pay careful attention to health measures. Each venue implements the protocol in its own way, with rules that are more or less strict. It is therefore important to seek information about these regulations, which may represent an additional cost on the final invoice. Organisers must also inform all staff members of these regulations in advance.
The simplest option is of course to work with an event agency! We have the advantage of providing a single contact person for the entire organisation of an event. Simplicity and reliability are guaranteed! Agencies see the big picture, including all service providers, and their experience in the field gives them the ability to negotiate. This is a significant advantage in the current context.
We are perfectly aware of all the health precautions and changes in governmental measures. Working with an agency allows you to organise your business event with the highest safety standards, while saving valuable time.
Do you have any news you want to ?
Catherine : At TERRES & Cie, we are currently working to develop and launch new team building offers, with products designed in-house.
The first is an indoor option in the form of a digital escape game and virtual police investigation. The second is an outdoor activity focused on corporate social responsibility. We would like to offer a fun, meaningful and interactive activity called a “hummingbird” rally. A hummingbird rally is a team building event that uses the same logistics as a rally, but features practical community actions, such as waste collection.
The event has positive impacts on both the environment and staff members!
We are also working with the Reforest’action organisation to develop eco-responsible activities.
Charlotte : At AU-DELA, we are currently working on several client projects, including an international, hybrid business event. Initially planned as an in-person event for October 2020, it has now changed into a mix of in-person and digital event (the fully in-person event has been postponed until 2021). Over 150 employees from ten different countries (from every continent) will gather together for a live plenary meeting and workshops. In order to address time zone constraints, the plenary meeting will be recorded at a studio in advance. Our role in the organising this event is to advise clients on the implementation and coordination of the event. We are also in charge of making the content more dynamic and clearer for all participants.
Interview conducted in June 2020
TERRE & Cie is a reception and event agency based in Biarritz and Bordeaux. Its team is made up of eleven people who work daily to produce customised programmes for your business events.
AU-DELA Événement, based in Bordeaux, is committed to supporting clients as they prepare their business events by remaining attentive to their identity, history and values.