It’s a reality we are facing across our industry: the coronavirus does not discriminate. Weddings, corporate events, and social celebrations are all being cancelled or postponed in order to practice safe social distancing and help to “flatten the curve.”
There’s no doubt that this situation has caused hardship for many business owners, as well as their clients. Every day brings new headlines and challenges.
Needless to say, the big question is how the “new normal” will play out in a post-COVID world. The truth is that we will never return to how it once was; there is no path back to those days. Yet, this knowledge presents the opportunity to transform the future of our industry in a way that ripples across other sectors and makes a worldwide impact.
The special event industry will be scrutinized to determine how to usher in these new changes. So many companies, organizations, conferences, weddings, and life celebrations are counting on us to rise from the proverbial ashes and bring joy back into the spotlight. After all, we are humans and, thus, we are social creatures who need to gather. Stay-at-home orders have made it crystal clear how much we took togetherness for granted. As we prepare for recovery, it’s time for us to create the “new normal” in our way. Let’s dig into a few things to expect in a post-COVID world and how we can come together to thrive as an industry at large.
New tech solutions are here to stay.
Jump on social media and there is no shortage of screenshots from virtual get-togethers. Programs like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, Facebook Messenger, and Houseparty have all provided us with channels to connect with our friends, family, colleagues, and clients while we stay at home. Don’t expect this to change on the other side of this crisis; if anything, expect technology to take us to new, unprecedented places.
What does this look like? Think hybrid events that merge a live celebration with digital platforms. Imagine a fundraising event for a group of 50 to 100 people (to stay within post-COVID norms, for example), but we add some massive screens where thousands of attendees can dress up and join the event virtually.
This can open up opportunities for fundraising, silent auctions, and award ceremonies, allowing those from near and far to attend from the comfort of their homes. It’s not new—destination wedding couples have been livestreaming for loved ones for some years—but it’s something that we’ll see become a mainstream strategy as we adjust to smaller gatherings.
Our customers’ needs will change.
We’re not the only ones living through this; our current and future clients are, too. Thus, they will likely have their own opinions and preferences when it comes to doing business on the other side of this pandemic. We must think about how their needs will change post-COVID. Selling will no longer be about touting accolades or awards; it will first become about instilling a feeling of safety for them and their guests.
Will they prefer video consultation meetings? Do they want virtual tours of their venue instead of going in person? Are they condensing guest lists? Do they want to elope instead? Will they be slower at putting down deposits?
Perhaps your servers may have to be replaced by a beautiful display of intricately designed box dinners to limit unnecessary contact. It could mean seating only three or four people per table with appropriate distancing. There’s a lot to consider, but you should expect to make some internal adjustments in order to ensure your clients are feeling safe, secure, and respected.
We don’t know yet how this situation will play out from month to month, but it’s important to realize that “reopening” the country doesn’t mean events will go on as usual. People will still be concerned about whether their event guests must wear masks or get temperature tested before they enter. The guests themselves may be wary about traveling on airplanes, trains, and other public modes of transportation. Weddings, corporate events, galas, and other gatherings will not be back until guests feel safe at events—and that’s up to us.
The solutions aren’t always there in front of us, so we need to be more creative and inventive than ever before. Let’s not forget that there cannot be darkness without light; together, we are stronger and growing closer every day. This is, without a doubt, a tragic crisis—but it is also an opportunity to take action, reflect on what’s important, and invent new solutions to take our industry into the next chapter and beyond.