Ironic timing to be writing my first blog post as an event planner in a time when there currently are no live events! For a planner who works off a timeline for EVERYTHING in her life, we are now in an unprecedented time when nobody knows what the timeline is for anything.
I’ve been in the events and hospitality industry since I graduated from college in 1996. Looking back, I’ve been through some very good and bad times working in the industry. After graduation, I traveled with corporate clients all around the world as a Travel Director for four years with Maritz Travel Company. I was on the grand opening team as a Convention Services Manager for 5 Star Grand America Hotel in 2000. The hotel had 700+ hotel rooms and 100,000 square feet of meeting space. Shortly thereafter, I watched 9/11 unfold with my client contact on a tv in the hotel lobby and then worked with the sales team on the short-term changes and cancellations of groups due to the terrorist attacks. The Winter Olympics were then held in February 2002 and our hotel quickly converted to a 24/7 host to all of NBC’s major advertisers, while our sister property hosted the International Olympic Committee. Things “returned to normal” but with lots of new security measures! In 2003, I moved back to Missouri and worked with citywide conventions and conferences. Large conventions and meetings came back, and people traveled again. Then the recession of 2008 hit — budgets were tightened, meetings and events were scrutinized and often cut or, at least, became less extravagant. After the recession, events slowly started coming back and became important again. The industry was in a good place as 2020 started, but then the Coronavirus struck.
When I started working remotely from home in mid-March, I was determined to dive into all the webinars and keep up-to-date on industry articles and news. My calendar had been cleared of any upcoming meetings and events and finally, I would have time to learn more. Subjects like turning your live event into a virtual event, how to pivot or reimagine events in the future, hybrid vs. virtual events and even the best apps to use for working from home. But after more than 8 weeks, I’ve realized that webinars all sound the same and the speakers or experts pretty much know as much as I do about the future of events. There is still so much uncertainty of what the future holds for live events. We don’t know what tomorrow brings, when this will end, what the restrictions/guidelines will say about gathering sizes, etc. But the one thing that is certain is that events will come back. Nothing replaces face-to-face engagement and we look forward to celebrating soon.
So, we are starting to make changes to our event planning process by:
- adjusting to virtual events,
- adjusting client contracts,
- adjusting seating capacities (when we can gather again),
- adjusting food and beverage options,
- adjusting cleaning protocols and adding hand sanitizer—like everywhere! And,
- adjusting to the new norm of event planning!
The event planning process has not changed – there’s no magic, it’s all in the details. We will continue to guide our clients through this, host successful events (whether they are virtual, hybrid or live) and be their partner. And, I believe that there are real opportunities for the events industry to grow and expand. We are hardworking, creative, people pleasers and we will be better on the other side of this!