A year ago, I was in the little village of Hannington, the spiritual home of the Baggs family, an hour west of London. I’d had organised a family reunion for about 70 of us, at which we wandered around the thatched cottages that had been the homes of our forebears and discussed our family history, which has been traced back to a Will Baggs in 1422. That the first record of a Baggs was in court, being had up for being drunk and disorderly Explains a lot.
Then off to Oxford and Manchester, theatre shows with Bill Bryson before heading back to Australia for the fourth edition of L’Étape Australia by Tour de France and dozens of pre-Christmas corporate events.
What blissful lives we lived before the pandemic. How important it is to recall how life was before the pandemic, how life will be again, at some time in the future.
After we cancelled 95 events in March and looked out at the bleak horizon ahead of us, we thought, ‘we’ve got strong cash reserves, we’ve got business locked in for 2021 and 2022. This pandemic will take six months tops, and by September, we’ll be back with live events. We’re good!’
We kept the staff on full pay and worked on the 2021/22/23 events. No immediate cash earned, but we’d have to do the work sometime, so let’s do it now.
We had more registrations for our Tour de France cycle race in November than we had ever had before. They kept coming in until we had to announce a postponement of the event to March 2021. There was no way we would be allowed to have 6,000 riders at the start line in Kiama in 2020.
Virtual, you say? Yes, we have a few. We are working on virtual programs in fashion, cuisine, mindfulness, yoga, sport, and the arts.
But back to live events; the Prime Minister announced the RISE Grant to reinvigorate the Arts & Entertainment sector, as we claw our way out of the pandemic depression. Inspired by this, the Lateral team headed to Balmoral Beach for lunch at Bather’s Pavilion to allow the creative juices to flow. We wanted to spend our hiatus creating a new significant annual event that could benefit from the RISE Grant.
Over the next weeks, we researched events in Iceland, Spain, Italy, France, and South America, searching for a spark of an idea around which we could build a new event for Australia. We commissioned research after research into audience trends. We did deep dives into some festivals in the UK to see what made them tick.
We came up with nothing.
Then, the epiphany moment. An extraordinarily simple idea that played to our strengths, was unique, had breakthrough, and would be truly significant event on a national scale. Venues, budgets, operations, more research, consultations with experts under NDAs followed. The Lateral team were swept up in a euphoric maelstrom as we tested our ideas and honed the event concept. Megan Peters battled with the grant application process, feeding our reams of visionary concept, research data, and numbers into the required formulas. Now we wait. Will the Federal and State Governments support our event that will employ 450 people and inject millions to reinvigorate the industry? If they will, Lateral will invest our funds and underwrite the event. And we’ll have a new annual marquee event.
Our next live events are scheduled for March (L’Étape Australia) and April (Aston Martin). But there is a hint, a mention, chance, that we’ll see some smaller corporate events brought forward to November in Perth, Brisbane, and Sydney. Fingers crossed.
And opportunities? Perhaps this is a good time to bolster the PCO side of our business. How can we acquire the management of a dozen conferences of over 1,000 delegates over the next three to four years? Do we hire people with the right relationships and skills, or do we partner with an existing PCO with the clients and the team?
One day, we’ll look back on this plague period and wonder if we did everything we could to survive and thrive. If you see me drunk and disorderly, like my ancestor Will Baggs 600 years ago, you’ll know that I didn’t. Or that I did.