With a quick pivot to virtual formats in 2020 and integration of hybrid meetings trending this year, various roles within the meetings and events industry had to evolve along with the times. At BCD Meetings & Events, our Experience and Event Solutions team had to quickly adapt in order to continue delivering unique and impactful experiences for our customers.
In this post, we speak with our Head of Production in the UK, Al Howard, to learn more about the evolution our teams have had over the past 18 months.
Q&A with Al Howard:
How Covid Has Changed Event Production Roles
Tell us about your career journey
My time at BCD M&E is a story of two halves, really. First, I started off as a Senior Project Manager back in May 2010. I had a great time travelling the globe and working on some really exciting events. I then left the business, but it was only about 6 weeks before I re-joined, this time as a Project Director working on live events with a Production bias. It was around that time that a more formal Production Team was set-up and I then worked my way up to Head of Production.
More recently my role has changed to Director of Production in the UK and I sit in the Experience & Event Solutions line of business. We are now a team of six which is supported by a wider global team. I am accountable for Production delivery on our live/virtual/hybrid projects as well as supporting with new business opportunities. I count myself very lucky to have an amazing team behind me and we are in fact looking to grow the team again in the next 12 months.
How has Production changed in the last 18 months?
To say Production has changed quite a bit over the last year and a half is an understatement! We have all been on a steep learning curve with the transition to virtual. Although there are lots of similarities with live delivery, virtual presents lots of challenges which we’ve had to work through. We are in a really good place now and supported by a great supplier network who we have developed excellent partnerships with. I’m delighted to say we have delivered some fantastic, and complex projects for UK and global audiences.
Talking of challenges, what do you think the biggest recent ones have been?
I think the hardest thing for us has been the education of our clients in terms of what virtual/hybrid is and the justification of costs. Helping them to understand the level of technical support and crew required to deliver these events, even though they can’t necessarily see the people involved, has not always been easy. People have got so used to Zoom & Teams that they think that virtual must be simple, quick and cheap! To do a properly produced virtual event takes time, expertise and specialist technology like the right platform and broadcast capabilities.
The team working remotely has also been interesting but to be honest all of us feel that we have been so much more productive, which has been needed as we have been even busier than pre COVID.
What else has changed for the team?
The Production Team has changed quite a bit over the last few months due to the volume of virtual business. We have brought in a full-time Production Operations Manager to take on the day-to-day running of the team. Cathy looks after resourcing, line management and processes for Production, as well as delivering the occasional project. This has freed up my time to support winning new business, speaking to clients as a SME for all things Production, plus I still look after a number of clients.
How are you feeling about the future & why?
I am feeling very positive as there is so much activity in the industry right now. We are getting lots of significant opportunities for 2022 already, which is a sign that things are going in the right direction. Lots of agencies are in the same position and initial concerns are around resourcing as everyone is wanted at the same time including our tried and tested freelancers, so there’s lots of head scratching.
I think virtual will always play a part in clients' event calendars from now on and we will see more hybrid moving forwards but for me, you can’t ever replace the atmosphere and emotion of an in-person event. We are now fully set up to deliver all event types with lots of experience under our belts. COVID has brought us closer as a team and I personally feel more connected to the leadership team and other departments within our division. Everyone is always willing to help out and we have always got each other’s back.
Finally, what are you most proud of from the last year – professionally & personally?
I am definitely most proud of my team. Everyone on the team embraced a challenging and stressful year and worked tirelessly to make things a success. It’s been a journey of ups and downs but looking back we learnt so much on the way and we now have a really robust proposition for our clients that we can all be proud of.
Personally, I am so proud that me and my wife got through home schooling! Very challenging when trying to work and keep the kids on track, but we managed it!