By Megan Peters
It has been just over seven months now since the fateful Friday the 13th that saw the industry I love fall to its knees. What has unfolded since that day has been an absolute roller coaster of emotions.
I feel like every single self-help tactic taught by the conference speakers we have all heard many times over has been used by me this year – with varying success!
At the start I think many of us were in denial and couldn’t really understand the emotions we were feeling – mainly because they changed multiple times a day – sometimes multiple times an hour!
For me, it helped when I aligned the experience to the seven stages of grief – and this mindset was what gave me permission to ride the emotional wave. I was grieving the loss of what was shaping up to be a killer year, the loss of my colleagues and clients and our casual interactions, the loss of my sense of knowing exactly what was happening and what I was meant to do about it, and the loss of some amazing events that were being cancelled and postponed around me.
Looking at the industry as a whole – certainly here in Sydney anyway – I feel like we have maintained a pretty supportive atmosphere. We have watched and listened to each other’s various podcasts and videos, we have defined our relationships and we have reached out and checked in with people, and we have celebrated success stories of businesses who have created something for themselves to work on.
For me personally, I went into hibernation initially and definitely had an element of denial in my mindset. I thought this would all be over and done within a couple of months and life would be back to normal – not a new normal; but the good old normal we all loved.
As time went on, I started to realise that the good old normal was a long way from returning. But at the same time, I also started to realise that this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Like many of us, I had a hectic schedule and I wore my “to do” list and my stress like a badge of honour. I started to look at what my definition of success was – and just recently I am starting to think that definition has changed irreversibly for me.
The best thing to come out of Covid has been the time that I have spent with my daughter and family. Clearly this goes without saying! However, it is a really weird paradigm to be so grateful for that on one hand; but desperately missing my old normal and wanting it back so badly on the other.
Looking forward is still a really difficult thing to do. I find the stop-start nature of the rebuilding of the industry one of the hardest things to deal with – having no end date, no clear plan and no deadline to work towards goes against every grain of my being as an event planner! Every time I get excited about the return of events, something in the community happens that puts the brakes on that excitement again.
I think as an industry, we have really grown through this experience. I have seen competitors now showing nothing but respect and support for each other, and I feel like when we do finally get back to seeing each other in real life, and not on a Zoom call, we will enter those conversations with far more intent and purpose.
I caught myself a few weeks ago sitting at my desk at the start of a day with a few phone calls to make and an email to respond to and I thought to myself “I have a bit on today!” And that was quite scary. On what planet is that a lot to do! The thought of returning to the pace at which we used to work is daunting.
My hope for the return of the industry is that the support and respect we are all showing for each other will continue. We will celebrate our successes, and those of our competitors, and we will all work together to maintain the professionalism of our industry. My biggest hope is that it doesn’t become a price cutting race to the bottom.
I feel like we have come such a long way as an industry in the last 15 years at placing value and charging fair rates for the skills we offer and I hope that this doesn’t come undone as people start quoting events again.
I know we aren’t all in the same boat, but we are all in the same storm. If you are weathering the storm in a solidly built boat which is riding the waves, reach out to the people who have found themselves in a dinghy and see if you can help them over the next wave. Remember, helping the boats around you rise doesn’t mean yours won’t rise too.
Megan Peters is general manager of Lateral Events. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org.