As we all know – whether from personal experience or from the perspective of our clients – the event planning process is full of stressors on all sides. And in the era of COVID-19, we’re seeing firsthand how high emotions can run when cancellations and postponements are suddenly thrown into the mix. While we may have dealt with similar happenings in the past with unforeseen circumstances, this is truly a unique situation that takes skill and empathy to navigate.
What clients are feeling right now
For weddings especially, there’s a general level of sadness for couples that their wedding is not able to happen as they planned it. Digging into that a bit more, they’re experiencing grief in all five formal stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. That said, there’s also a feeling of guilt for being sad, considering that the pandemic on a global scale is much more serious in comparison to a postponed or cancelled wedding. Nonetheless, the emotions they’re going through are still very valid.
Join Catersource on June 26 for the Rebuild & Rise Webinar "Can Buffets Survive COVID?" Learn more and register by clicking here.
When you think about it, many people have never gone through anything of such a scale during their lifetime as adults, so it can be difficult to compartmentalize and see the light at the end of the tunnel. Right now, everything is amplified – specifically, feelings of anxiety. The bizarre thing is that we don’t know when this is going to end, so it’s natural that clients are fearing the unknown of what other changes will come about as a result of COVID-19.
Why it’s important that we understand this and how we can help
No matter what, we always want our clients to feel as though we’re in their corner. Despite the rocky road thus far, this time is going to allow us to offer a better level of service in the end. Empathy particularly will help us to connect and build a deeper bond, and our clients will look to us to help guide them through this.
Just as we would normally take the reins and lead clients through the planning process, event professionals should be there to process this emotional experience right along with them. Offering a sense of normalcy and stability is so important right now, whether that’s lending a shoulder or working ahead to continue to pull off their dream event – whenever that may be.
The majority of us don’t have any formal training in therapy or psychology, but that isn’t to say that we can’t do our part in other ways. I’ve made sure to tell my clients personally, “It’s okay to be sad. You can be equally sad and concerned about what’s happening on a larger scale and not be selfish about it.” We have to acknowledge what they are feeling and give them permission to feel those emotions.
How this will affect future events
The reality is that, although our clients will be thrilled to finally celebrate their event, they may not feel 100% comfortable and secure in the beginning phases. Their event may even look different than they originally planned. For instance, family-style meals might be paused in order to uphold social distancing standards and health precautions. Because of this, we’ll need to step up to offer alternatives and be as transparent as possible, despite not being sure what the future will hold.
One way to do this is to talk with other vendors in your industry and stay in tune with what they’re doing in your market. Not only will this give you a good idea of what you can offer to your clients in terms of advice and other options, you’ll be able to be on the same page as those you collaborate with. Brainstorm about what protocol you intend on putting in place.
The truth is, things will not go back to normal for quite some time, even when we can make the return to events. However, we should be mindful that our couples and other event clients are going to be following our lead, and we need to be a reliable source for them. Taking the time to understand the psychology behind the effects of COVID-19 will prepare us for what’s to come.