In our January article, we talked about five trends we were expecting to see in the events industry in 2022. One of these trends was that shortages would impact the way events are designed. Global events have conspired to increase the strain on the supply chain as we witness more product shortages and greater difficulty for businesses to hire staff. Of course, the events industry is not spared.
Early on, everybody hoped this issue would be solved quickly enough. Unfortunately, we are now in July, and the impact of shortages on the whole industry is intensely felt.
In this article, we will talk about labor and supplies shortages, why they happened, and give you a few tips to help you deal with both.
The labor shortage is probably one of the most blatant consequences of the COVID pandemic. Everybody can experience it daily just by witnessing all the “Help Wanted” posters on restaurant or store windows. While event planners are experts at making any kind of shortage go relatively unnoticed, at some point, the strain is felt when fewer people are available to keep the same level of quality in the work that still has to be delivered.
Why it’s happening
As conferences and in-person meetings got canceled, event venues closed, and people in the events industry were furloughed or laid off. As a consequence, some had to take new jobs in other sectors.
The pandemic has also forced people to reevaluate their priorities, and jobs offering remote work possibilities have been the biggest winners. Unfortunately, while some actors in the events industry can indeed work remotely (e.g., event planners), there are a lot of jobs that can’t be done remotely (e.g., servers or truck drivers). The hospitality sector, for example, doesn’t typically offer many opportunities for remote work, which explains why workers have left that industry in droves (see the “Great Resignation” of 2020–2021). It also has a bad reputation regarding how employees are treated: low wages, long hours, few benefits, etc. Indeed, it has been reported that 47% of people who work in the hospitality industry have either quit or are expected to shortly.
Tips to deal with the problem
Tip #1: Review your process when choosing suppliers and partners.
Start working with companies that value their employees and pay them fair wages. They will usually provide you with a better quality of service even though the price tag is higher. Maybe making sacrifices in other areas will prove that you don’t need a lot of the fluff when it comes to organizing a high-quality event and that your attendees don’t care about it as long as they have a good experience. And if you need ideas to work on a lower budget, we have what you need here.
Tip #2: Accept the changes.
Complaining about the labor shortage will not solve your most pressing problems. Instead, accept that this might be a new reality and start making plans to address the issue. It could mean raising the wages of the people you need to hire, providing more flexible hours, more benefits, etc. You might have to hire fewer people at a higher rate, but they might perform better anyway. You might also have to raise your prices to compensate and remain profitable. In short, change your perspective.
Tip #3: Communicate, communicate, communicate!
Prepare your attendees for reduced services by communicating heavily. Explain what’s going on to your attendees and what they should anticipate regarding services. Let people know ahead of time if some of the services they were used to before the pandemic will not be available anymore (such as daily cleaning of the hotel rooms, for example) or if they will be reduced (fewer options for food, for example).
Tip #4: Be creative.
Why not try and find new pools of workers by looking into older people or people with disabilities? You could be surprised by the talents that are available if you’re willing to get off the beaten track.
Supply chain problems and materials/products shortages
It’s evident to everybody that there’s been a supply chain problem since the beginning of the pandemic: empty shelves in the stores, significant delays when dealing with home renovations, skyrocketing prices, etc.
This has significant impacts on the events industry, which has to deal with an increase in food or materials prices and transportation costs, but also a shortage of microchips which affects hybrid and virtual meetings.
Why it’s happening
The 2020–2021 lockdowns caused many disruptions, which are still felt in 2022 in the events industry. However, now that the lockdowns are no longer in effect, people are eager to go back to normal, and demand has exploded while supply chains are still struggling to recover.
While the pandemic originally created the supply chain disruption, it is now impacted by global events such as the war in Ukraine, staff shortages, or shipping issues (shipping a container from Asia to the U.S. costs now five times the amount it was pre-pandemic). This causes increased prices and distribution delays.
Tips to deal with the problem
Tip #1: Get more reliable partners.
Work closely with your suppliers and extend your network, as working with different suppliers could help you avoid disruptions. Communicate with them as early as possible in the event planning process and be transparent. Also, heed their warning about extended deadlines.
Tip #2: Be even more proactive.
Plan way before you used to, especially for all items that will be difficult to source. Build up your inventory and buy more than you need when it comes to freebies, vital event essentials, etc. And don’t count on providers to provide the impossible quickly or to be able to deliver the next day. Also, add at least 10% to your budget to account for surprises.
Tip #3: Conduct a thorough assessment of your event.
Assess all areas of your event to see which ones will be the most impacted by the supply chain problems. Design alternate plans. You might need more than just a plan B! It could be the venue you like so much will not be able to host your next event until late 2023. Just in case, plan for a secondary venue and even an online option.
Tip #4: Be transparent with your attendees and exhibitors.
They are aware of supply chain difficulties as they experience them in their everyday life. So keep them updated on what is going on and what that might mean for your event.
The COVID-19 pandemic and more recent global events have all conspired to make life more difficult. Unfortunately, the events industry has not been spared. It is facing an increase in labor costs, venue costs, production costs, accommodation and travel costs, and tech and safety expenses while dealing with a lower level of service.
At the same time, attendees are eager to go back to in-person events and are more or less expecting the same level of service they had before the pandemic. It’s, therefore, more important than ever for actors in the events industry to be highly responsive and able to adapt to changes. Partnering with suppliers that communicate and create realistic expectations and deadlines is one of the ways events professionals can ensure the event’s success when disruptions are inevitable.
At totm exposition, we believe in communicating heavily with our clients to ensure the success of their projects. We also work with an extensive network of reliable suppliers worldwide who help us make things happen.
Contact us today if you have a project you would like to talk about.