Nothing could have prepared the events industry for the COVID-19 pandemic, but we rose to the challenge. As an industry, we innovated overnight and reimagined what’s possible in the virtual space instead of the physical one. We pivoted.
Sixteen months later, we are on the verge of a second massive shift. This time, it’s not a sudden 180-degree swing; it is a series of small pivots to get us not back where we used to be, but rather where we need to go in the future.
Hotels, conventions centers and venues nationwide are fully reopening after months of shutdowns and restrictions, and the events industry is poised to make an exciting comeback. Here’s what our entire industry should be doing to prepare.
Teach New Talent
Our industry is facing a talent shortage. It’s estimated as many as 12 million live event workers and nearly 4 million leisure-and-hospitality employees lost their jobs due to COVID-19 shutdowns. While we’re beginning to see some of those jobs return, many of the highly experienced and long-time professionals — from hotel staff to audio specialists to projectionists — have left the business and found more secure jobs elsewhere.
Over the next several months, we’ll be hiring at both The 180 Group and industry-wide and introducing a slew of new talent to our business. Initially, this influx of raw potential might be daunting. We may no longer be able to walk into a venue or space and assume everyone who’s working on the event knows how to do everything.
The learning curve may be great, yet this poses an exciting opportunity for us as an industry — we can teach our business to new talent, and in turn, learn new ways of doing things from them. But first, we have to be prepared to train and develop this new crop of workers in order to help our live event production business get back on track.
We can’t just go back to doing what we did pre-pandemic. We are now working with new audiences who have different expectations, and we need to meet people where they’re at. We’re not going to see a shift from virtual events to in-person events overnight, so we’ll need to cater to our clients’ and audience’s evolving logistical and safety needs.
One way to do that currently is through hybrid events. They provide all attendees an opportunity to feel comfortable and connected, as well as communicate face to face. At The 180 Group, our productions focus on the shared human experience, so we develop creative ways to keep our audiences connected to the message and each other. Whether it’s via group discussions in breakout rooms or timed one-on-one interactions, our goal is to give every single person the same quality experience, whether they choose to be in-person or remote. As an industry, we’ll need to continue to creatively adapt our events while still prioritizing intentional communication and connection.
Be the Duck
Ducks are the perfect example of remaining calm on the surface and paddling like crazy underneath. It’s a skill I encourage my team at The 180 Group to practice every day. Be the duck.
We work in a stressful industry, but no matter what happens, we have to remain calm, cool and collected at all times. The pandemic pushed us all outside of our comfort zones, and even when things return to “normal,” the unexpected will still happen. It’s the nature of live events; there will be hiccups. Moving forward, we, as an industry, must be ready to think on our feet and adapt for our clients and our audiences at the drop of a hat. Our team is always innovating, always delivering flawless execution even when the unexpected happens and always providing exciting and engaging experiences for groups of all sizes — all while keeping a level head and an eye on the prize. To be successful, we as an industry must all be the duck.
Our wonderful industry is going to be back, and hopefully, better than ever. It’s not going to be easy, but if we plan accordingly now, we can build a brighter future together.