Just like millions of organisations across the events industry and the UK more widely, a lot has changed at Hire Space since the pandemic’s arrival in 2020. So much so that until now, we haven’t really had the chance to step back and reflect on just how far we’ve come in the last year and a half – let alone write a blog about it!
Now that the world is slowly returning to some semblance of normality, we thought we’d take the chance to share a bit about what’s been happening. And maybe, to blow our own trumpet just a little bit (forgive us, we’re feeling sentimental!). So, here’s our attempt to get you up-to-date with all things Hire Space – where we’ve been, where we are and where we’re going.
Adapting our Offering for a New Era in Events
On finding out that our bread and butter was effectively now illegal at the beginning of the first lockdown, we were faced with two options: go into hibernation, or adapt. And not being ones to bury our heads in the sand, we chose to adapt!
As well as spending time making SEO gains, we turned our attention to virtual events. And this resulted in us creating three brand new products for event professionals (alongside our in-person event offerings such as venue finding!) that will continue to form a key part of our offering moving forwards.
Arena is a beautiful new virtual event platform designed by event professionals (us!) for event professionals.
We noticed that event organisers needed more from their tech than what video conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Meet could offer. But the tools that were out there tended to be expensive or to require a monthly subscription. So, we decided to design a solution that would give event planners everything they needed while only having to pay per attendee who actually shows up on the day. Arena was born!
As time goes on, we’re continuing to launch feature after feature on Arena (such as our latest addition, registration tech) to make it even more powerful and useful for event organisers. Watch this space!
Let’s set the scene: it’s Autumn 2020 and Christmas is fast approaching. Businesses up and down the country are desperate to throw a Christmas party for their employees to thank them for their hard work in what’s been a challenging year. But how can they do that without meeting face-to-face?
Enter our unique Christmas party experience, Big Top. Big Top takes the form of a clickable party map with up to 30 breakout rooms, all hosted by world-class performers of your choice. And it really works – not only did we host over 70 Christmas parties worldwide last year for over 10,430 guests, but this festive extravaganza garnered praise from the likes of the BBC, FT, Wired, Metro and The Times. It was even shortlisted for 'Best Creative Concept' at the micebook V Awards 2021.
Now, we continue to offer Big Top as a solution for all sorts of online parties throughout the year, from summer parties to virtual festivals. And of course, we can’t wait for Christmas 2021!
Hire Space 360
Hire Space 360 is a subscription product that offers everything a modern event planner needs. Since the arrival of the pandemic, event organisers have had to become experts in a diverse range of skills, ranging across in-person, hybrid and virtual events, and that doesn’t look likely to change.
Hire Space 360 was designed in response to these new pressures facing event planners. For just a small monthly fee, it offers venue and supplier sourcing, access to our state-of-the-art virtual event platform Arena, on-demand staffing from event and live stream experts, help with contracting and payments, and a dedicated relationship manager.
In short, Hire Space 360 allows event planners to save time, expand their team for special events and gain expertise throughout the year wherever and whenever they need it.
Supporting the Industry
As we all know, the arrival of the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020 decimated the events industry, leaving many event venues and professionals with futures uncertain. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been doing our best to support the events industry, including starting a Coronavirus industry news page, opening an online shop to give events professionals access to PPE and safety equipment, and sending out daily updates by email.
Our efforts even got us shortlisted for not one but two categories at the Conference News Agency Awards 2021 – 'Rapid Response Team' and 'Community Support.' However, there are three initiatives that we’re particularly proud of.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, we were committed to campaigning the government for a return to in-person events.
We sent out surveys to our community of event organisers and venues, to learn more about what our industry needed, and made sure that this information was communicated to representatives from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). We also started petitions and regularly consulted with the DCMS to make sure that our industry’s needs were heard.
One crucial goal for us was proving that when events were ready to return, they could do so safely. We created a Safer Events white paper, laying out a comprehensive set of requirements that would reduce transmission at an event using the latest government and scientific advice.
We also created a CPD Certified Safer Events accreditation for venues and event organisers. The online course was designed to help event professionals ensure they’re taking all reasonable safety measures, as well as to increase delegate confidence by reassuring the public that a venue or event is safe to attend.
The training was built in careful collaboration with event planners, venues and delegates and continues to be updated to take into account new learnings from other countries and updates in government guidance. It even got us shortlisted for 'Best Event Supplier Safety Product Development' at the Exhibition News awards.
Back to Business Events
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve been very conscious of the fact that, as event professionals, we need to stand together, share our experiences and learn from one another in order to get our industry back up and running. That was the spark that led to our Back to Business event series.
Back to Business was a fortnightly live stream that took place throughout summer 2020. A panel of event professionals would discuss and debate new developments and share their perspectives. In this way, members of the events industry were able to understand how others were tackling the issues they were facing and to get a better idea about what they could do to prepare themselves for the new normal.
Although the need for our Back to Business series has (thankfully!) waned, we continue to host events designed to support event professionals in navigating the changing events landscape, such as our Adapt with Arena virtual event series and our yearly EventLAB flagship event, which will be hybrid this year.
Events are all about bringing people together, so it’s no surprise that we’re passionate about gathering our colleagues to celebrate key achievements, boost morale and ensure that Hire Space is a truly great place to work (even when we’re not physically in the same place!).
Here are some of the ways that we’ve been adapting to new life, both during and after the pandemic.
Like the rest of the country, at Hire Space, we were suddenly and unexpectedly thrust into remote working at the beginning of the first lockdown. As an organisation that thrived off the buzz of collaborative working and that had an active team social life, it came as a shock, to say the least!
However, our founders and social committee recognised the importance of keeping up team morale and nurturing our team spirit, despite the physical distance between us. We enjoyed sharing the odd gift (personalised hand sanitiser dispensers was a favourite!), as well as gathering over video call to take part in a range of social activities. Just a few included mead tasting, wine tasting, gin tasting (are you noticing a pattern?!), drag bingo, a pancake day cookalong and a regular running club.
We were also very aware of the strain that the pandemic could place on our health and wellbeing. Throughout lockdown, as before the pandemic, the whole Hire Space team had access to our in-house mental health coach. We also supported the team with their wider mental and physical health through a range of activities, including a workshop on how to improve posture while working remotely, a session on avoiding voice fatigue on Zoom and optional extended lunchbreaks to encourage everyone to get outside and enjoy nature.
Now and in the Future
Although working from home is no longer required, we asked Hire Space team members how they wanted to work moving forward. The answer? People wanted to be able to see each other face-to-face regularly, but they didn’t want to return to the office full-time either. They wanted flexibility!
We now work remotely four days of the week, with an optional in-office day on a Thursday, in a cool London location. Every Thursday, we have a weekly bar tab so that the team can properly enjoy spending time together. And on the first Thursday of the month, we have a proper team lunch (paid for by yours truly, of course!). As a thank you for everyone’s hard work over the last year and a half, we’ve also introduced a shorter day on Fridays and we’ve even added two extra Hire Space Bank Holidays!
On top of that, we’ve been enjoying a mix of virtual and in-person socials so that everyone has the chance to have fun as a team in whatever way they feel most comfortable. This can be anything from games run by members of the team to activities that are a little bit different – we recently re-inaugurated our annual in-person sports day and enjoyed a virtual pizza making class led by Pizza Pilgrims (yep, it was as yummy as it sounds!).
We've also started attending in-person familiarisation (fam) trips again, which are a great way to sample the best of what our venues have to offer while having fun as a team. Last month alone, we've played cricket, bingo, football, and even tried clay pigeon shooting!
As you can see, it’s been a busy year and a half here at Hire Space. And, although it’s been a tough one, there are so many things that we are grateful for that just wouldn’t have happened without the pandemic hitting our shores! We now have a really complete offering for event professionals and are looking ahead to an exciting period of growth.
We’re always looking for people to join our close-knit team here at Hire Space and are recruiting for a wide range of job roles. If you like what we’re about and you can see yourself helping us to shape the future of the events industry, we’d love to hear from you. We've also written a piece on a day in the life of our sales team, so check that out for more insight into the team.