High hopes for Highways UK 2020 going digital as physical event is cancelled
The sad news breaking this week is that the flagship industry event of the year, Highways UK, is no longer taking place as a physical event. A message to all exhibitors received on Wednesday morning confirmed the last hopes of any exhibitions taking place for the highways industry in 2020 were gone.
As a silver lining, the event will now take place digitally and there are hopes that it will match the scale and quality of the traditional show, which is normally held at the NEC in Birmingham. The reason for the radical overhaul has been put down to ‘boards issuing directives to their teams not to attend events (of any kind) and especially not to pursue exhibition type activities. Their views are that it’s just too risky.’
As a regular exhibitor at Highways UK, the Re-flow team are not alone in being saddened by the loss of the physical event this year, although Managing Director Michael Saunders conceded; “It’s not surprising that companies remain cautious about sending their employees to an event on mass at this time. As a remote working software provider for the industry, we have seen a spike in interest in our highways workflow management software, because it enables the very same companies to continue operating while supporting lone working, social distancing and eliminating unnecessary contact.”
For the digital event, the team at Highways UK are pulling together ideas of how attendees and exhibitors can interact with each other, there’s a new programme of events being launched next week and there’s even optimism that the engagement levels will actually surpass that of the physical event this year.
The level of uptake in new technology in the UK’s highways and civils sectors has kept them among the most resilient businesses during the lockdown, and able to make a fast return to work as restrictions were eased. Hopefully, the enthusiasm for adopting new ways of working to support a physical return to site will continue with everyone virtually taking part in the Highways UK keynote sessions or event Q&As. The whole industry is going to have to pull together to support this event in 2020 to ensure we still have events to go to in years to come.
Communications manager at Re-flow, Ollie Christophers added “We put a lot of focus into making people aware of our highways software, so that we can show it off in person at an event we know everyone attends. We’re especially disappointed not to be able to take part in a physical event this year after unveiling a major development in our highways workflow management software over the summer that we wanted to demonstrate to the attendees. We’re keen to see how this event will now play out and remain hopeful that it’s as successful as in previous years. This must be a very difficult time for the event organisers.”
During lockdown, across the UK people embraced online shopping, family zooms quizzes and video conferencing, but whether we’re ready to get on board with digital exhibitions remains to be seen. One thing’s for sure, we’re all looking forward to a safe return to normality and a decent pint at the next live Highways UK event.