eventprofs Ben Whur

Frustrated eventprofs urged to be “solution-focused” and patient

Events professionals and suppliers – venting frustration at Government departments and the NHS because they feel that their valuable skills and equipment are not being used – are being urged to think of “solution-focused” ways to answer the needs of frontline services, and practice patience.

In the last few weeks, a number of initiatives have been created by eventprofs, including Events 4 COVID 19, People Powered, Brighton EPIC and EITF. Many suppliers and freelancers have signed up to these industry initiatives but there’s a sense of frustration that not enough requests are filtering through. In fact, some eventprofs believe that the events industry – with vast and transferable skills and equipment – is not being heard; eventprofs cannot “penetrate the system” and let the right people know that skills and exist.

Ben Whur (pictured), director of Proud Events, which is part of the Events 4 COVID-19 initiative, gave this advice: “I’m seeing a lot of people (not just within our industry) expressing frustration that they’re unable to penetrate the system to even let people know they exist and what they can offer.”

Whur states that there is no “magic bullet”. He suggests events professionals should switch their thinking to lessen the frustration and make connections easier, and register with the Crown Commercial Service so that you can be identified by Government/local authority procurement teams. Instead of asking frontline services ­– which are fire-fighting an immediate concern in front of them – what they need, offer – in a way that they can relate to – help and support which will make life easier.

Whur explains: “Events 4 COVID 19 contacted care homes in Manchester to ask what help we could provide. The feedback we had is that they’re so overwhelmed just dealing with the immediacy of what’s in front of them, it’s as far as they can think. The most useful purpose these calls achieved was to let some of the managers know there are people out there trying to help.

“That position is pretty much replicated across social care, health and much of the charity sector at the moment. People just doing the best they can to deal with what’s immediately in front of them. That’s not just nurses, doctors, porters and cleaners. It’s also managers, procurement and HR teams and everyone else that makes such organisations function.

“We then changed tack and called a few homes and made a different suggestion. We asked if we provided one of two services would it help? One was the provision of three tablets set up with Skype and Zoom and some information about how to keep them clean. The other was a pop-up space with some tables and chairs for staff to change in outside the care home.”

Such a move changed the response, says Whur. Rather than being put on the spot and asked to think, frontline services were offered defined service.

Whur continues: “Offering a solution to a potential issue we’d identified was much easier for them to engage with. It also enabled them to think about other things that could help them so one asked if we could find someone who could put some plants into the flower beds outside a care home so residents could see some colour.

“What this demonstrates (on a small and very unscientific scale) is that we need to be much more ‘solution-focused’ but also understand the market we’re ‘selling’ into. Telling the NHS and the care sector we’re really good at problem solving is only any good if they have the capacity to know what the solution is. Telling them we can deliver a whole range of services is only any good if they have the capacity to know how to engage and manage us. And frankly at the moment most don’t.”

So, for example, if you have marquees available, don’t tell an NHS Trust that you have marquees, offer to create a COVID-19 testing bay or a welfare facility or changing room for NHS staff. Could your furniture – that’s really easy to clean – be used within a sterile facility or relaxation lounge for tired NHS staff?

Whur concludes: “Using our undoubted ingenuity to offer solutions to problems that we can identify and framing them in a way that the NHS and care sector can understand them and ‘buy’ them is probably the best thing we can do!”