It’s recently been announced that the Republican National Convention will take place in-person. So not virtual, not hybrid, but fully old school. Understandably, this has been received by people all over the country with mixed reactions. Some are in chock. And some are in agreement. Others simply don’t know what to think anymore. But what we want to discuss today is how we should feel from the perspective of event professionals. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
Obviously, the pandemic is still going strong in the States. Cases are steadily rising, so the return of in-person events doesn’t sound like a reasonable expectation. But now that the RNC is taking that step, should the industry rejoice? Should we be hopeful about the announcement? Or should we be wary of the consequences? Well, that’s exactly what the Brew Crew will be talking about today. So grab your favorite drink, press play, and join Will Curran, Thuy Diep, and Nick Borelli for another amazing episode of Event Brew!
RNC Goes In-Person: Now What?
“I personally had an immediate knee jerk, almost an angry reaction when I read about this”, says Will. “Because I feel that in a time where we’re all talking about closing and staying far away from each other, an event professional just now decided “hey, we’re going to bring together thousands of people in one single spot”.
“I can’t believe people are actually going to be putting a thousand, couple thousand people in one single room together in a time wherein Arizona, we’re at the largest day-case numbers we’ve ever had. And that’s obviously Arizona. I’m sure Florida isn’t doing quite hot either”, he adds. Florida, President Trump’s state, will be home to the RNC this year.
Nick stops to consider all of the logistics involved in moving the event from Charlotte to Jacksonville. “There are all these small little political groups that come and have their events in town at the same time. So you’ll have your dead center event. And everyone in town at capacity from a supplier standpoint, every single event company, historically, when it comes to the RNC or DNC, is absolutely at capacity. And everybody brings in people that they know from other cities to help them accommodate for it”.
“These purchase decisions and staffing decisions were made for Charlotte a year ago. You know, people started gearing up for this and making these relationships, and then that’s been moved. Number one, that’s a crazy thing with contracts and everything else. Number two, the people that are going to scramble to have that happen in Florida, outside of a pandemic, would already be an insane story. And then you layer the pandemic on it. I don’t want to see anyone get hurt, especially at a live event, you know? But this is going to be loud either way”, he adds.
You Win Some, You Lose Some
The Brew Crew considers the possible scenarios that could come from the whole RNC goes in-person ordeal. On the one hand, if by some miracle cases don’t spike, the mayor of Jacksonville becomes a hero. “That guy, he came in at the last second, figured it out and brought hundreds of millions of dollars into the local economy, especially now when most businesses really need it”, says Nick. But on the other hand, if things go bad…
“Who’s the mayor who killed X amount of people? You don’t walk that back. That’s playing dice with people’s lives versus playing dice with people’s money”, he adds.
What’s The DNC Up To?
The conversation shifts into the opposing political faction and their own convention. According to Will’s research, the Democratic National Convention might even adopt the hub and spoke model, but nothing is set in stone yet. “They’re still weighing in on what they’re going to do, whether it’s going to be a hundred percent virtual or if it’s going to be hybrid. But they know it’s going to be smaller. Biden said he was comfortable with what was safest to do. That he would much rather address a large convention, but it may be a relatively small space instead of 50,00 do 5,000 and have events and other venues”.
Nick voices his disappointment. “I am kind of disappointed in the DNC for not making a decision now too. Because I think that it leaves a lot of event industry people in Milwaukee kind of stranded, not knowing what’s going in there. They could potentially figure out a way to work with the law, work with the CDC to create an environment that would be safe. If they’re going to do it anyway, maybe responsible people working with the best might be able to find a way to make it work”.
It’s impossible to remain apolitical with this discussion too. As Nick puts it, “I think that there is something mission-centric about both of these choices, to some extent. But I think that we can’t just say let’s stay out of the politics of it. And I think that politics are kind of guiding this decision-making process in enough that we can’t ignore that”.
RNC Goes In-Person: What It Means For Events
Will has an interesting prediction surrounding the RNC goes in-person debacle. “This is going to be a turning point for events this year, a turning point for holding safe events”, he begins. “And I think that if it ends up happening and it’s so successful, it’s going to mark now the return of in-person events. But I think that even if it even goes really poorly, it’s still gonna mark it”.
“Look at all the people that aren’t national conventions related to politics. They’re going to go, oh, well, if they did the RNC with 10,000 people in Jacksonville, I can do my convention with only 2,000 people. I’ll do my convention with only 5,000 people. And always be like, why not bring in as many people as them?”.
“Everybody’s looking for that glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. And they are now going to see it. And it’s almost like the mirage when you’re on a deserted island. But I think that it’s going to create a really dangerous slippery slope. That’s going to start happening. Whether we like it or not, this is going to potentially mark the return of in-person events. But it might be a bad reason when we think it shouldn’t happen right now”.
At The End of The Day…
“I wish we had more things that we’re not partisan. And you would think safety would be a nonpartisan issue. But politics are complicated”, says Nick. “I think from the events industry perspective, many of us have taken money from different groups. There are certain groups you would never do, but other ones you have the ability to say, I’m not a hundred percent on board with that but I’ll still be a professional in this way”.
“I think that event groups have to make that decision in Jacksonville. They have to do their due diligence. If somebody’s out there working on these events, you have to say, okay, if this is going to happen, then you need to do everything within your control in order to make it as safe as possible. And if you can’t because your hands are tied, I would say walk away”, he concludes.
So, what’s your take on RNC goes in-person? Let us know and come back next week for more Event Brew!