The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on many businesses – forcing closures and layoffs around the world. The restrictions on our social interaction have been dramatic with stay-at-home orders, isolation, quarantine, and social distancing. Naturally, these restrictions have hit the events industry the hardest.
But event planning businesses have found different and innovative ways to still bring people together to share experiences. The adoption of technology and the steady rise in the number of virtual events have helped many businesses to survive.
According to Alex Bickers, president and creative director of Reveal Events Group, the pandemic has posed many challenges but it has also provided an “opportunity to roll up our sleeves and dig into a whole new world of what is possible not only for our clients, but for us as a team.”
When done right, virtual events are ideal for any company or association to reach a wider audience, share ideas, network and make meaningful social connections safely and securely.
“Virtual events also strip away many of the common barriers to attendance, such as travel constraints, and enable us to expand a event’s reach cost-effectively,” says Bickers. “However, they also come with their unique challenges. With shortening attention spans and digital burnout, virtual event need to engage the audience and provide them with an interactive experience that goes beyond simply clicking a link and passively watching an online presentation.”
His company has produced many successful events over the years including recently in the virtual and hybrid world: World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference, The Canadian Society Of Hospital Pharmacists Conference, and Realising a Compassionate Planet for Stanford University and The University of Edinburgh.
For the industry veteran, a successful event is about “creating joyful experiences for others.”
“Our business is founded on that philosophy. Every time we interact with a client, suppler, or team member, we always keep that front of mind. We are in the business of delivering experiences that create long lasting memories. The most fulfilling part of the job is seeing the joy on people’s faces when they see the room for the first time, taste the catering, or experience the many surprises we always have in store for them. When you get that look of wonder, you know you have it right,” says Bickers, who has been recognized as one of the top Canadian event professionals by various organizations.
Most recently in April 2021, Bickers was listed for the second time as one of the top 250 Canadian Event Professionals by BizBash, and the top 30 Canadian Event Producers and Designers.
Tell us how you got started in event planning.
I have been blessed to work with some amazing companies throughout my career that have given me the opportunity to gain hands on experience on some of the world’s largest productions. Freshly armed with a BFA in Theatre, I started my career producing film launches for a Canadian film distributor, which led to a career as an in-house conference and event planner with a global travel firm. I moved on from that to spend 12 wonderful years with the largest Canadian supplier of production labour as the North American director of sales and marketing, which gave me the exposure and experience that opened my eyes to this great big world of possibility in event management, design, and production.
What types of training/education has been helpful for you?
Staying involved with industry associations such as MPI, ILEA, and PCMA, even in times of uncertainty. There is a wealth of not on only online and in person learning opportunities, but the face-to-face connections (even if over Zoom) you make at conferences and events is imperative for all event professionals to keep our industry alive and the juices flowing.
What advice would you offer others entering the industry?
Get involved with the association that is best aligned with your career goals, whether that be MPI, PCMA, or ILEA. Work that membership by going to events and sitting on committees. Seek mentorship from industry leaders early in your education. Volunteer. Be ready for 2 AM load outs and long days. Don’t be afraid to push cases and get your hands dirty. Knowing the hundreds of hours and what it really takes behind the scenes to make an event look flawless is invaluable knowledge for anyone choosing this career path. This is not easy work, so be ready…trust me, you will be rewarded.