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From Disappointment to Digital Event Success

Dr Rachael Ironside
Events Management students demonstrated incredible creativity, innovation and resilience when faced with having to cancel their Main Event programme. Course Leader, Dr Rachael Ironside blogs about how the students successfully transformed their events to a digital format.

We are at the most exciting time in the year for the Events Management course! Our final year students are in the midst of hosting a series of fundraising events with their charity clients. In 2020, our students have worked with seven different charities, hosting a variety of events from an Evening at Hogwarts through to a fashion show. We are also mid-way through our festival planning process. This year the students are planning four events celebrating community and culture in North East Scotland as part of the Aberdeen Student Festival.

This year is different. COVID-19 was bringing the events industry to a screeching halt, and it quickly became clear that even though our final events were only days away they could not proceed.

This was disappointing. In the years I have been teaching we have never cancelled an event. Having supervised our students through the trials and tribulations of event planning in the past six months, and seeing all of the hard work, communicating this cancellation was even harder. However, despite not being able to proceed as planned we decided not to concede entirely and to push ahead with a new plan – to go digital!

The events industry has dabbled in the digital for a number of years. The current circumstances have, however, thrown us into new territory. So, how can we help to lead the way on this, and move our student events online?

In March, our students hosted ‘Discover the Silver City’ through their social media pages. They transformed their original market concept celebrating vendors across Aberdeenshire, into an online showcase of local businesses including 10 vendor storyboards and a video masterclass with ‘Cat the Seamstress’. They raised just under £1000 for their charity Befriend a Child. Our final group hosted ‘Daffy Dreams’. Instead of hosting a dinner and evening of performance, they took their event online by celebrating the story of their charity, Marie Curie, through a series of video performances from local musicians. Their event also included a quiz, competition, and guidance on how to make your own mocktail! They raised just over £1000. On the weekend of the 1 – 3 May our Stage 3 students will host an digital festival celebrating community and culture in the North East of Scotland:

We are incredibly proud of the resilience demonstrated by our students in transforming these events – in less than a week – to a digital format. Despite the challenging circumstances, the students created an exciting online experience and still provided benefit to their stakeholders.

The circumstances of COVID-19 have been challenging. It has been a time of change, but also a time to shape change. The events industry has been significantly impacted by these challenging times, but it has also opened up opportunities for creativity and innovation in the sector. I hope that our efforts, alongside those in the wider events industry, will help to shape a more sustainable and adaptable industry in the future.

Dr Rachael Ironside is a Senior Lecturer and Course Leader on the BA (Hons) Events Management course.

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