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Expressions of interest – Preparing for pandemic

Sunday September 20th, 2009

By Toby Lewis, The Live Group plc

Toby Lewis offers guidance on how to keep meetings and conferences running despite the threat of swine flu this autumn.

Swine flu has gripped the nation, and as it spreads across the country its initial impact on both day-to-day life and the business world is being widely reported. In this climate, the importance of contingency planning is high on the agenda for government bodies and UK businesses to ensure minimum disruption.

The Government is preparing for an expected surge of the virus in the autumn by issuing guidance on social gatherings and travel restrictions. With reported cases on the increase in recent weeks, a second wave of swine flu could be on its way. While UK gatherings are as yet unaffected, international gatherings are already facing cancellation if participants are travelling from an infected area. 

While swine flu has made its presence known across the globe, there are many other scenarios that can prevent government business from operating as usual. Terrorist threats, SARS and fire, snow or flooding at a venue are all unexpected developments that have the potential to upset a seamlessly planned event, conference or meeting.

Remote but not removed

If swine flu does have the impact predicted this autumn, innovations in event technology have the potential to minimise disruption to meetings, conferences and roadshows.  A pioneering solution called GreenGageLive combines video conference, the web and audience engagement technologies to power meeting communications in a new way. The video conferencing element means that participants can stay in their workplace or local region, minimising the spread of germs and cross-infection. Furthermore, the internet facility means that participants can also stay at home or at their workdesk and log on to join a meeting or event with no travel required. By removing the need to travel, the risk of infection from public transport is also reduced. Finally, the bespoke audience engagement aspect of the solution ensures participation and inclusion of all delegates. Regardless of where the delegate is, they will have full interactivity to ask questions, vote in polls and engage with the speakers.

Use of video conferencing is already on the increase, with reports that sales leapt by around a third between 2007 and 2008. This figure is set to rise again in 2009 as the green merits of video conferencing are applauded; and even more so now with the threats from illness on everyday working life. 

The power of event technology in action

Natural England, the government advisory body on wildlife and the environment, recently used the GreenGageLive solution to bring 2500 employees together sustainably over seven locations for its annual conference. Video conferencing was combined with the web and audience engagement technology to gather opinions from delegates before the event, engage people on the day and continue dialogue with peer-to-peer networking once the live event was over. More importantly, it brought people together without them having to meet at a single venue while maintaining audience participation and interactivity.

Natural England found that, as a result of spreading the event across several locations, the cost of travel and accommodation was cut and the agency achieved a carbon reduction of 31 per cent, supporting government targets. Had a crisis been thrown into the equation, the multi-venue concept would have ensured proceedings could continue as usual. 

If we are faced with a major outbreak of the swine flu virus later in the year, government needs to adapt. Event technology can be an important element of contingency planning, providing more flexibility on where an event is held and how people can participate. It also ticks the boxes to reduce travel, cut carbon emissions and increase interaction. 

Further information

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