At this time of the year leading up to Christmas, we at EMFD are usually knee deep in events of all sorts - corporate Christmas events, annual events, Christmas weddings, installations at hotels and restaurants etc. Leading up to the final quarter of the year, most are busy gearing up for the festive season, a key trading period for many businesses but also a prime time for enjoyment and spending time with loved ones.
The year 2020 has unfortunately been like no other, with unprecedented lockdowns and measures in place, restricting and limiting all forms of large-scale events. Before lockdown 2.0 (the second national lockdown), there was a common misconception that all events were cancelled, when in fact, that couldn't have been further from the truth. Events were not cancelled, in fact they still aren’t. What many people fail to realise, as with most changes across the nation, the events industry landscape has also adapted to the ‘new normal’.
With so many changes flying around, we sat down with Clifford Rosen, Director of Communications for Leading Venues of London (LVL), and our Founder Liz Marsh, to gain an understanding of some of the changes that they have witnessed over the last few months, and what the future looks like for the events industry on the whole. LVL’s portfolio offers exceptional venues for top level corporate conferences and meetings or exclusive social events. With a growing reputation for innovation and unrivalled expertise, they are the specialist of choice amongst event planners worldwide. EMFD and LVL have worked very closely over the last few years on numerous events, sharing the same values, work ethics and style of working.
2020 has been an unprecedented year for all industries, but more so for the events and hospitality sector. How badly has Covid 19 affected LVL during this phase, and in what way? How will it change the way you work?
Clifford: Covid has decimated the events business, and there is no doubt about that. With a halt to all large scaled events, the sector has had to pivot to novel ways of functioning. Many venues have transitioned to a greater or lesser degree to virtual events i.e. digital conference setups and intimate weddings with large screens to broadcast digitally to other non-present family and friends. Thankfully, with the advancement of technology, we have still been able to continue some form of normalcy, and we are all very grateful for that. It’s been a very difficult year and continues to be so of course. LVL is here to help venues get more events booked, so if it’s virtual then we can and will market this to our database.
As a floral design company that is deeply involved with events all year around, what are some of the changes you have faced since Covid 19 within the events industry?
Liz: Well, to put it bluntly, the events space is currently closed! Having said that, we are used to pivoting the business according to the peaks and troughs and storms of the modern commercial world. Hence, we quickly started to offer digital events and virtual workshops where flowers were delivered to the customer beforehand, followed by an online masterclass with a designer to teach them how to arrange those pretty flowers into gorgeous floral arrangements by themselves. We believe events in these formats are likely to be very popular for, and throughout Christmas, where people really want to connect with the season, and with each other, in some way or another. We have also witnessed ‘real’ accompaniments to virtual events. For example, a client ordered two identical sets of flowers to be delivered to them and their dinner guests for a zoom dinner party, just so they can enjoy the feeling of being in the same set up together.
Regardless of the restrictions, what are some of the recent events that EMFD have worked on? And what changes have you noticed around floral design and installations overall?
Liz: We are still doing photo shoots, small weddings and more somberly, funerals. Sadly, many of the florists seem to have given up even though there has been no ruling to say that florists cannot work, and what we do has such a huge impact on people.
Over the summer, funeral directors were desperate to get flowers for their clients who were heartbroken at the thought that, not only could they not be there to say goodbye to their loved ones, but they could not even shower them with flowers in their final farewells. Amongst many other factors that we have had to adapt to, one of the most intriguing has been the contactless delivery - it took some thought and practice at the beginning but we are now accustomed to it, and somehow it has now become second nature. It is simply amazing how quickly something starts to seem ’normal' and this pandemic has taught all of us to never get too comfortable with one particular way of working.
During lockdown we were fortunate enough to work on one more installation for QEII where we took down the floral displays and replaced them with plants, as a way of creating more spacing between people in the corporate world.
As someone who is known for creating magical weddings, are there any changes you have noticed in 2020 with bridal requirements and wedding floral design?
Liz: It has been a frustrating year for weddings as couples have had to make some tough decisions about their wedding plans. Many cancelled or postponed their weddings, whereas a large number of couples still continued as normal. The ones that did decide to take advantage of the window in July and August were then disappointed with the sudden changes in restrictions, so it has definitely been trying. However, at EMFD we try not to focus on the negatives and to lean into the positives of which there have been many this year. Firstly, the weddings that we have done recently have felt much more meaningful because of the context, and we have found that brides are spending more on the decorations they want to compensate for the negatives. This is a trend that I believe will continue into next year as people’s values have shifted slightly from wanting to impress, to showing their love for their guests in their choice of decorations. Secondly, I think brides are feeling emotional at this time; if they manage to go ahead with their wedding plans, they know they have succeeded despite the odds and this is potentially driving the trend towards softer flowers, cascading bouquets rather than trim, rounded ones, and a more relaxed approach to the floral decor. And I must admit - I have been surprisingly enjoying the current trend for nude shades of flowers tinged with elements of black and burgundy for a retro, understated, romantic effect. And whilst it has been frustrating on so many levels, we have enjoyed using flowers to create distances between groups of guests, so they can enjoy themselves without being constantly reminded of the crisis we are living in.
What significant changes do you foresee for the events sector going forward into 2021 and beyond?
Clifford: Of course, this is a very difficult question to answer. We all sincerely hope that things get back to some kind of normality by early next year. This year has been a trying time for many sectors, but most definitely events and hospitality have taken the biggest hit yet. At a festive time like this, corporate Christmas parties and events are in full swing and it is the perfect time and opportunity to make new connections, celebrate big wins and finish the year on a high with the best teams. This year all that has come to a standstill. Instead, we are currently in the process of promoting a virtual Christmas party package - giving companies a chance to celebrate Christmas in some way, and allowing everyone to be a part of an event to mark the end of the year.
Going forward, I believe there may well be an ongoing market for virtual events or at least hybrid events in the same way as for normal business; online meetings will be a much greater part of everyday life. In fact, the events that do take place in person will also most probably witness many changes - such as social distancing measures and mask wearing, I believe, will continue for a longer time despite the progress of vaccination. Physical barriers will still be in place, the number of people per event will be drastically reduced, contactless processes will become the next big thing, and health and hand hygiene will be a practice that is potentially here to stay for the foreseeable future.
What trends do you think we will see with events and floral design on the whole going forward, especially during the peak festive season?
Liz: Several of our clients have asked us to organise large-scale Thanksgiving or Christmas-themed workshops online this year, as a way of enjoying some form of celebration. As many people are still working from home due to the government guidelines, many businesses have cancelled their Christmas parties for fear of spreading the virus. Hence, by giving them more funds to organise high-quality virtual events they can bring staff and their families from all over the world together in a way that has never been experienced before. Which is why floral-based workshops such as wreath-making classes where fresh flowers are sent beforehand, have been in great demand as a fun activity for teams to experience together. Even though our planting schemes have come into their own in relation to softer, more inspired social distancing barriers, and create a sense of intimacy and individuality for larger groups that need to be broken down into safe clusters, this new event format avoids the technical difficulties of implementing social distancing measures; once again, it is all about finding the positives in the current situation rather than the negatives!