The sudden outbreak of COVID-19, and the travel and event restrictions that have resulted, has been hard-hitting for an industry built upon face-to-face gatherings.
In mere weeks, conferences, meetings and major events, some years in the making, were forced to postpone or cancel, leaving all facets of the industry in limbo.
For event hire and production company Harry the Hirer, the impact was immediate.
“The first couple of weeks of this crisis were really daunting,” says Harry The Hirer NSW general manager Matt Hancock.
With a 700-person workforce and a healthy inventory of event equipment across its 100,000 square metres of warehouse space, Harry The Hirer wasn’t about to close doors straight away.
Instead, they got in touch with state government and health departments to find out where they could help the healthcare sector in a time of great need.
Following these discussions, the last few weeks has seen Harry The Hirer develop a range of initiatives to support hospitals and medical organisations throughout the pandemic.
One initiative that has been successfully deployed is temporary drive-through COVID-19 testing stations for the general public in Sydney and Melbourne.
Complete with shelter, storage and furniture for healthcare workers, directional signage and fencing, the drive-through facilities have enabled more testing to be conducted and freed up in-demand hospitals and medical clinics.
In addition, Harry The Hirer is supplying general structure for COVID-19 testing within various hospitals and respiratory clinics across Sydney and Melbourne.
“These are projects we have successfully delivered and that we hope are making a difference to the community,” says Hancock.
The company has also designed a range of pop-up hospitals, triage facilities and ambulance bays, which are ready to be deployed if needed.
“Our hope is that this never has to be deployed but it’s comforting to know that we have a solution now that can be deployed if it is required,” says Hancock.
A learning experience
Adapting their product for the medical sector has been a new experience for the team at Harry The Hirer, and one that has been beneficial in a challenging time.
“We’ve done a lot of medical exhibitions, but this is a whole new ballgame for us,” says Hancock.
“We’ve quickly become experts on a range of different things. It’s been a learning experience.”
While a portion of the company’s workforce has been stood down during this time, the new initiatives have allowed Harry The Hirer to retain some staff and keep doors open.
“A key focus for us has been to keep the doors open and to be here ready when we’re needed,” says Hancock.
“And really, it’s given us something to focus on.”
In addition to medical projects, Harry The Hirer has also built studios in Sydney and Melbourne to facilitate virtual events, conferences, webcasting, press conferences and television.
“We’ve evolved our service offerings to help provide our clients a solution to still tell their story and engage with each other,” says Hancock.
Preparing for come back
While restrictions on events remain in place, Harry The Hirer is focusing on preparing staff and the
business for life after COVID-19.
“We don’t often get a lot of downtime, our calendar is usually really full with major events, so the two key
areas of focus for us at the moment are training our staff and servicing our product,” says Hancock.
It’s an opportune time to train staff across the many facets of the business, which include AV and technical production, marquees and flooring, exhibitions, furniture, design and custom-build.
“This is a great opportunity to give people that may specialise in a particular area, a better understanding of the other areas as well,” says Hancock.
“We don’t want to sit idle, we want to make sure we’re constantly moving forward and we’re ready to
meet the challenges when they come.”
Creating safe events
When things do turnaround, Hancock expects it will be a slow recovery for the events industry as a whole.
“As restrictions get lifted and events come back there may be other challenges around how to meet requirements for social distancing and testing within events,” he says.
In anticipation of the restarting of events, Harry The Hirer has begun developing solutions and technology to help clients ensure their future events are safe.
“We are really excited about the technology we are about to release to the market that will assist our clients to be able to host events,” says Hancock.
“They include a temperature scanning technology that can be used at an event entry point or an exhibition entrance, that has been developed in conjunction with the government.
“We have also developed a social distance alert lanyard that can give event organisers greater control over the enforcement of social distancing restrictions.”
“Life after COVID is a bit unknown but we’re trying to provide solutions for our clients so the event and exhibition industries can bounce back as quickly as possible.”
This article originally appeared in the Winter edition of Spice Magazine. Read the full issue here: