NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau has joined forces with other English cities in an industry first, to support the conference and events industry as it continues to navigate the Covid-19 pandemic.

The conference industry has been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, with questions still hanging over us as to when the industry will start to meet face-to-face or in a live environment. In a solution to rebuild confidence within the industry the Core Cities (NewcastleGateshead, Birmingham and West Midlands, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield) and their convention bureau teams are working together in a collaborative effort to help facilitate national business events to take place again, when out of lockdown and it is safe to do so. A convention bureau offers free advice to businesses or organisers looking to hold an event in a certain area, helping with such things as sourcing a venue, accommodation and social itineraries for delegates.

Alongside other convention bureaus from across the UK the NewcastleGateshead team has been involved with the creation of the Hybrid Events Solutions UK (HESUK), an initiative open to all business audiences that will provide a solution for delivering national hybrid events. This initiative provides a single point of contact for event organisers who want to organise national and regional conferences once we are out of lockdown. .

HESUK will allow delegates to attend the same national event at different Covid-safe venues within those regional hubs, enabling delegates to network and meet those within their field. Through live-streaming technology, each hub can be linked together, so speakers and contributors can be in different cities whilst still attending the same event and any delegates who can’t attend in-person will still be able to experience the event in a virtual way.

Paul Szomoru, Director of Business Events at NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau, said: “It is great to see business events professionals from around the country collaborate to launch Hybrid Events Solutions UK. The service is free of charge and aims to make life as easy as possible for organisers who are keen to hold events both in person and virtually.

“While virtual meetings and events have kept the industry going, we know that there is a real desire for people to get back to face-to-face meetings. HESUK will give organisers confidence that the industry is working together to overcome the current challenges and that we will be ready to meet again when it is safe to do so.”

Recognising this fundamental shift to the way organisers will be approaching event delivery, the eight convention bureaus of the English Core Cities have come together to create this innovative solution. In what is believed to be a UK industry first, the bureau teams will be working together operationally. HESUK brings a fresh, out-of-the-box concept created to help the industry overcome the hurdles that lie ahead. Through one contact, the organiser will be able to secure covid-secure venues across the network of Core Cities. Organisers will also be able to secure hubs in destinations outside of the Core Cities group, as the convention bureau teams have contacts in all UK city bureau teams.

On the initiative, Heather Lishman, Association Director of the Association of British Professional Conference Organisers (ABPCO) said: “The Hybrid Events Solution UK is a glowing example of how the conference and events industry is innovating and working together to support each other through this damaging period. It’s wonderful to see this level of collaboration from the English Core Cities.

“Live conferences and events have ceased as we continue the fight against COVID-19. Going into 2021 there is a strong desire to get live events back, to have people meeting face to face, networking, sharing and learning together. Creating a hybrid event is a solution to enable this, as the world navigates its way through the pandemic with rapid testing and vaccines on the horizon. The biggest challenge is confidence; organising a series of live event hubs across several destinations is a big logistical challenge, therefore we welcome this solution which seeks to make the process easier for organisers, which should get people meeting as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Simon Hughes, Chairman of Business Visits Events Partnership (BVEP) said: “The Hybrid Events Solution UK is a fantastic concept, and it is inspiring to see these cities working together to help instil consumer confidence and get the conference and events industry up and running again.”

Any organiser interested in using the service simply has to contact any one of the Core City convention bureau teams: NewcastleGateshead, Birmingham and West Midlands, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Sheffield.