Live events see a healthy return
I often read interviews where some of the most successful musicians and footballers in the world explain that they still feel nervous before big matches or gigs. This is often due to uncertainty about what will happen next and expectations.
I felt a bit butterflies as I jumped from the DLR at Custom House on Monday night and made my way up the long walkway towards ExCeL, a venue where so many shows have been a success.
It was time to host HeTT21. This conference and exhibition is our first since the outbreak of the pandemic that has caused so much turmoil, uncertainty, and pain in our sector. It has taken a while to plan this show and it was fitting that the healthcare community would be there early Tuesday morning (28 th), in order to reunite and share their stories over the past 18 months.
My nerves soon dissipated, as thousands began to go through the registration desks, fill in the content theatres, and network with the more than 100+ exhibitors who had been there the day before. There was an exhilarating buzz at the ExCeL. It was likely a mixture of relief and excitement.
My first stop was to attend the fireside chat of Matthew Gould, CEO of NHSX, which focused on digital innovation and elective recovery. After explaining that it was an unusual experience not having spoken to real people for over a year and half, he told the audience it was “brilliant to meet you all”. The show was kicked off by him sharing the key priorities of his organization as they recover from Covid-19. He also explored the development and future prospects for the NHS app, which is the exact app that Covid-initiated delegates used to gain entry to the show.
Over the two days, the content was amazing. Many delegates thanked us for our boldness in bringing the community together, and stressed the positive impact it will have on UK digital healthcare. It was a clear sign that many people stayed until the end of Day 2. It was actually #HETT21 that was the most popular hashtag topic in London on Twitter for much of the event. This is a clear sign of how eager people were to share their live events experiences again.
The most striking thing about the event was how much everyone loved getting back to face-to-face. The drinks reception was a success. No one wanted to leave early. People were eager to meet up with old friends and make new connections. Sponsors reported that they had had the most productive conversations in the past two years. As the events industry grows, we hope that this will be the case at other conferences in the weeks and months ahead.
Our HETT team deserves our congratulations. Their hard work and dedication during this difficult time was truly remarkable. While they hosted many valuable webinars and virtual events throughout the pandemic period, it was so satisfying to see them plan an incredible live event. Our ops team deserves a huge thank you for being back in their natural habitat doing what they love (not to sound too David Attenborough), and all GovNetters who were available to assist.
Don’t let nerves get in the way of event managers and directors across the country who are busy preparing for conferences and shows. Live events are back if your team is focused and determined to create compelling content and provide the right experience for your communities.