How were you able to adapt during COVID-19 when the meeting and events industry got disrupted?
I’m a Certified Meeting Professional and Events Manager with over 10 years in the events industry. My role involves planning a variety of corporate events; from sales meetings to convention exhibits and customer receptions.
When the pandemic started, my initial approach was to simply reschedule events into the fall. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long to realize that COVID recovery would be long-term. This forced me to make a choice; nix all 2020 events, or find a way to host them safely. After officially canceling my large [inside] events, I started researching and submitting RFP’s for virtual platforms. I also turned my attention to modifying smaller shows that could still be hosted safely outdoors.
Since I plan events nationwide, this meant I had to track infection rates and safety rules for each individual state, too. This was no small task. In fact, it felt like my workload doubled overnight. In addition to keeping up with the state of affairs, each event also required multiple backup plans; most of which were scrapped before they could be put into action. Even plans for a drive-in event were abandoned after an outbreak was discovered just miles from the venue.
After several failed attempts to organize a show, I decided to create a “2020 Live Event Safety Guide.” This was a combination of requirements for in-person gatherings, as well as an approval process for those wishing to host an event. Since golf was deemed a safe activity, I put a special focus on making tournament guides, too. I developed rules for COVID golf safety, which included the PGA’s recommendations for things like cart capacities and food service. These new guidelines allowed me to create a safer environment, as well as accountability for hosts and attendees.
I’m proud to say that I successfully hosted one small [outside] event in 2020, with no safety issues or infections reported. I also converted several internal shows to virtual platforms. A key factor to my success in digitizing these events was updating the show title. Recasting the usual live event as a “virtual series” allowed me to set a realistic expectation for the audience that matched my own. Ultimately, there is no true replacement for in-person events, but rather; some safe alternatives we can offer in the meantime.
This post is part of the HopSkip Planner Spotlight Series where we celebrate the positivity and optimism shown by planners across the industry when navigating the turbulent waters that COVID-19 has brought to the meetings and events industry. Keep an eye out as we release more stories like this over the next few months.