The future of veterinary events in a post Covid-19 world
Just like the rest of the United Kingdom, 6 weeks ago my calendar looked very different. Mid-February, my days were jam-packed with meetings and travelling. I was wearing lipstick and talking to vet professionals, suppliers and colleagues daily as I weaved together the intricate pieces that make up an event like the London Vet Show. And, like I’ve done for the past 6 years, I was loving it.
Working with the veterinary profession is fun. I’m sure all non-vets in the vet-sphere would agree with me. Vets are witty, intelligent, gracious, motivated and hugely inspirational. I was therefore not at all surprised by the amount of the love and support in the sector shown since the Covid-19 outbreak. You are used to be being responsive, adaptive and quick-thinking. Without a second thought, thousands of you have put your hand up to help the NHS. Then there is a host of vet-supplying business and bodies offering free, adapted, discounted services digitally – proving that our whole universe holds the same values as the vets themselves.
The gravity of the situation hit me when I was chatting to my neighbour over the fence (for the first time ever). We were introducing ourselves, and after I said I work in events, she looked at me with pity and said, “Oh dear…this could be the end of your job then?”. At the time I hadn’t processed how sad I felt about the amount of congresses, meetups and CPD events being postponed or cancelled. Don’t get me wrong – some absolutely brilliant webinars and online meet-ups have rolled out and have been vital in connecting the geographically-unconnectable. They are so good in fact it’s leads to the question – is there going to be a place for veterinary events in a post-covid-19 world?
So here is my humble, vet-loving, event-specialist opinion: Yes. Online CPD and interactions can be powerful and enriching learning experiences for many vet professionals. However, there will also always be live events. We will take what we are learning from the unprecedented digital interaction we are currently experiencing to improve live events which will run when its deemed safe.
Live events are an opportunity for us to flex senses. To listen to a webinar, choose which one you want, click play and you’re hearing and seeing. At the London Vet Show and other events, not only do you listen to lectures but you get hands-on in the exhibition displays, you smell (and taste!) the popcorn and coffee and sweets and other treats offered. Most importantly, you overhear intangible advice from the people you hadn’t planned on. You can even hug an old peer or a friend you’ve met on a Facebook group – releasing serotonin into your blood stream.
Secondly a huge proportion of veterinary suppliers rely on the sales and brand awareness generated at live events to keep their business afloat. The type of feedback and relationships they build in volume face-to-face can simply not be done any other way. Product improvements, research plans, order quantities, logistics, pricing strategies – all of this turns into practice transforming products and services. Without live events the future of many of your veterinary suppliers – small, medium and large - is in danger.
Finally - you cannot bottle the atmosphere of live events to repurpose online. This is why live events injects £42.3 billion into our economy. I know this first-hand because I love sports. Watching football on TV is fun (and a necessity with ticket prices) but it doesn’t replace being in a stadium and hearing your anthems echoing from wall-to-wall.
Vet professionals from all around the world bring that same spine-tingling electricity to the London Vet Show every year. You are proud and excited to be there. It’s dedicated time to wear your unique colours and wave your flag under the same roof with thousands of people who are on your team, who understand and respect you and know all the words to your songs.
Throughout lock-down, we aren’t missing parts of our jobs like commuting or stress – we are missing social interaction. Cinema changed theatre and now Netflix is changing cinema but we still go to both the theatre and the cinema because we buy the experience. Event organisers will use what we are learning from this second wave of digital revolution. Video-conferencing, live-streaming, safety features, connectivity, data mapping – all of these things will only enhance the likes of the London Vet Show – and hopefully make it accessible to even more proud, flag-waving vet professionals.
So, when life returns to “normal” if and when you can, support live vet events. These are key to the improvement of our industry. In turn, I’m making a promise to my vet-sphere, both the veterinary professionals and non-vets, this year’s London Vet Show will be the magnum opus of my events career. We will learn, laugh, cry, learn, teach, meet-up, network and reflect on a year none of us could have predicted – and it’s going to be one heck of a party.