If you made it through the last two years and still have your company and team intact, then you are still standing and are ready to take on what is happening in our industry. The work is coming in harder, faster and with staggering momentum and we will need to learn to ride the wave.
Our team decided early on that we would never call (whatever was to come) a tsunami, but that’s exactly what it is. For more than 700 days our industry was on fire and we only had a drip as our water source to fight it. We intermingled droughts with drips, waiting for the lifesaving source (or vaccine) that would allow us to go back to work. Now we are drinking water from a fire hose at an exponential rate.
This “return to live” is happening fast and furiously and after the “great pause” and all that time of reflection and life balance, we face the reality that if we thought we were working hard pre-pandemic, we are driving headlong into the fiercest struggle of making back what we lost while staying healthy and balanced. This wave is hitting us hard and as we find ourselves catching up, are you allowing yourself to be nailed by the tsunami, or are you riding on top of the wave?
Here are a few things to keep in mind for surviving the next big wave:
1. Save yourself (and your people) first. COVID was a great pause, a time for balance and reflection, fear and stamina and among it we faced the greatest challenges professionally, personally and financially. We promised ourselves that when COVID was over we would retain this balance of family time, self time while living leaner and (obviously) working less. What did you promise yourself? Reflect on that as you consider the work coming and what work you need to take, the world needs us now, we are in a unique situation where we have control over what happens to us in this storm. Save yourself first.
2. After the starvation of the past two years, sure we are hungry, but we can’t deep dive into the buffet with so much gusto that we gorge ourselves into a type of fulfillment coma. Be client and project selective; set your calendar, most importantly block your vacation time; and set levels of capacity and be ready to say no. Create and USE vetting criteria and stick to it. Truly understanding your capacity (and that of your team, partners, and venues) needs to be your first priority.
3. Hug a friend or phone a stranger. Partnering and collaborations are more important now than ever. We all need to lean into old relationships and forge new alliances with everyone, including competitors, to ensure we all thrive and survive through this. There is plenty of work, we are not all the right fit for every client, and my dream is that this coopetition works out in the end. I have faith in our industry. There are less of us, let’s be a better us. All the clichés will reign in the next few years: “we are better together,” “all for one,” “one team”.
4. Supply and demand does not only pertain to “things and products”, our industry also has a HUGE supply and demand challenge. There are simply not enough qualified professionals to fill the current and future need. There are less staff in hotels, in teams, less people to answer calls and provide outcomes. It takes longer to do everything. This needs to be reflected in the promises we make to our clients, the pressure we put on our partners, the outcomes of our products and the pricing dictated by the demand. If you used a 5 per cent contingency model in your budgets pre-COVID, try 30 per cent now. Too many variables will derail projects swiftly.
5. Money matters. You need to charge more, no question. We can’t survive on mass quantity for cheap. We need to thrive on quality and high value. Take the projects you want and know you can execute within the standards of your brand and charge your value accordingly. Charge more on fewer projects and let’s ensure that when we come out of this that our collective value and pricing is where it should be, and should have been, pre-COVID.
6. They are coming: those that see this wave as an opportunity to join the industry, start an event business, make some quick cash. This is a pivotal time for our entire industry. We have seen it all over the industry, the great exodus of live event professionals, hospitality teams, moving to other industries, in essence leaving us with (best guess) 1/8th of the resources we had pre-COVID.
With supply and demand issues we will see a surge in new, up and coming event planners and vendors. We need to lean into this and offer our expertise, mentor and teach, invite them in, rather than allow a substandard product with potentially dangerous outcomes. We all worked hard to survive this, now we need to protect it and nurture it.
Finally, look the storm square in the eye, do the right work, charge for it and take care of yourselves.
Keri Miller is partner and creative strategist at e=mc² events where she leads events and creative and marketing initiatives.