Chaos on the high seas

Last weekend I competed in a sailing event called the Round The Island Race. 1,200 sailing boats of varying size, speed and crew skills racing around the Isle of White. Chaos.

As we raced, we turned the race radio up to full volume so we could hear what was happening in the race. “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday” rang out on multiple occasions. Sailors going overboard, head injuries, boat collisions, lost rudders….the list was endless. I didn’t know, but before the very drastic “Mayday” call goes out, there is another call: “Panpan, Panpan, Panpan”. These calls are messages sent when situations are urgent but do not qualify as distress. The term Panpan derives from the French word Panne which means broken down. An example would be that a vessel has broken down and requires a tow. There is no imminent threat to safety.

On the other hand, Mayday indicates that a vessel or a person is in grave and immediate danger and that immediate assistance is required.

Most people have heard of Mayday, but I’d wager that few (non-sailors) are aware of Panpan.

Our boat took a whack from another boat. Technically we were in the wrong (sailing rules), but the boat that hit us could easily have avoided us but chose not to. It hit our stern…hard (minor damage), and I reckon we were 4 inches away from Mayday. Our rudder would have been sheered off, and we would have been totally out of control, in full sail, with 30knot winds and boats and rocks all around us.

We survived.

On the way back the next morning, after 16 hours of sailing in 2 days, we were 20 minutes from home. Our captain took his eye off the ball for a second, literally a second, and the boom (big stick that holds the main sail) came swinging across at lightning speed and nearly took his head off. Literally. It clipped his ear. How it missed his head, I do not know. But it did, and we (he) survived.

So many boats

When I look at the data in Venue Performance, I feel like the skipper of a boat. Constantly assessing what’s happening all around us. In the market.

Can I see the headwinds? What is the data telling us? Do we need to take action? Is there nothing to see, or are we close to Panpan or, heaven forbid Mayday?

The data suggests neither, but that’s not to say there are no choppy waters ahead. I’m looking at the weather charts, the current and the shoreline and can see that all M&E businesses will need to be on high alert if they are to navigate those choppy waters. The M&E venues’ sails will need constant adjusting and, if necessary, a change of course.

Venues can’t take their eye off the data for a second, for fear of danger. Just like our captain.

So, what do the VP charts tell us:

First, the numbers. The facts. The truth:

For the period between Jan ’22 and the end of June ’23. (18 months), the average Price Per Head (PPH), which includes Hire, F&B and ‘other’ revenue, rises by 47% 

F&B rises by 41%

Venue Hire increases by 68%

Yet when we compare delegation sizes to 2019, they are dropping.

In the first half of ’22, compared to the same period in ’19, the drop was 22%. 12% for the second half of ’22 and 1.7% for the first half of ’23.

That data suggests that event sizes are getting smaller.

So, events (at the point of recording) are getting smaller but more expensive. It will be interesting to see what those numbers are like in January ’23, but there’s no doubt it’s a trend.

Now for the anecdotal evidence from our clients and various trade bodies, we’re members of:

Customer satisfaction is dipping. Quite significantly. 

Various sources say that delivered events are often below acceptable levels of service, or at the least below what the client deems to be acceptable. 

Is that because of the resourcing levels mentioned earlier, the training of new staff members or even the food that can be sourced (or not)?

Either way, the customer is not always delighted when they are finally back in the room.

To conclude:

The M&E waters are choppy, and there are stormy waters ahead.

How will you navigate those stormy seas?

Will you use the charts and the weather apps, and are your crew on high alert? Or will you do what you’ve always done and react when the eye of the storm hits?

Will you use external M&E data, or will you rely solely on sticking to the course you plotted before the weather patterns were forecast to change?

If you’re not looking, you won’t know. And there is danger ahead.

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