By Patrick Riley

Obviously, the world has changed significantly since March as we adjust to living in the age of Covid-19. We’ve all learned so many things that it feels difficult to pick only three. But here they are:

Plans change. Plans may change again. It’s ok to throw out your entire plan.

We’ve had to make some cataclysmic shifts in order to be adaptable. In March, we were rescheduling events to the summer of 2020 and trying to develop coronavirus mitigation plans like handwashing. But as more information was known about the virus, we adapted to reschedule to the Fall and added more plans like social distancing and wearing masks. Finally, we had to throw out all of the plans. Frankly, to do that means you need to psychologically grieve all of the work you’ve put into the planning. At this point we recommend making a very flexible plan that can scale. I’ll get into that more in my next point, but the main thing I want to get across is that it’s hard, as event planners, to let go of the plan. We’re all really good at being flexible and adjusting — it’s a part of event work. Recognizing that it’s ok to kill a plan will give you time to pivot. And one day there will be nuggets from those original plans that you’ll dust off and use again.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

Really, it’s taking control of the narrative and at this point giving that control to participants. While many of our colleagues are having success with virtual events, there is no need for me to go into detail about virtual events here, as I’m sure every one of you has been invited to 15 different webinars presenting a lot of the same information. We think participants will grow weary of the virtual event models at some point, so we wanted to think ahead to the next step. We’ve been focused on developing a flexible event model that can scale and could be implemented next week during this time of the pandemic despite hundreds of different state and local guidelines. Our best model is self-serve as much as possible. This looks a lot like an enhanced DIY program where we provide a very minimal infrastructure and the participants do the rest. Just like the drive-in theater is back with just a parking lot and a projector, strip things down to the minimal infrastructure you can provide for participants to do the event on their own and yet still feel like they are a part of a bigger group. Certainly, the use of technology from Strava to Boundless Motion is a first step, but we know participants want to see something in the real world. They are looking for a tangible touchstone back to normality. How are we combining these real work elements with virtual self-service and technology? Give us a call and we’ll provide some free consulting on how you can do it, too.

People crave a physical community. Events are not going away

I’ve worked from home for almost 20 years and during most of that time, the technology for video conferencing has been widely available. The number of video calls I attended increased some in 2019 but generally most of my meetings were phone calls. The Zoom call is now a standard joke or meme. Even calls I make one-on-one to my own team members these days are conducted by video. I can tell work has changed and we’re not going back to our old ways, and the reason is that we’re socially starved. We need more than a voice; we want to see people’s smiles behind the mask. I wave hello to strangers more on my weekly run than I’ve ever done before. The drive-in movie is happening everywhere. We’re all excited to drive to a parking lot just to see a cult film next to someone else’s car not because we couldn’t watch at the same movie at home on Netflix but because of the shared experience. Yes, we can all have that shared experience in a group chat or on Twitter watching Hamilfilm on Disney+ but it’s just not the same. Tangible real-world experiences make a difference. Maybe I’m running a 5k on my own at 10 am and later that day my friend Jillian is running the exact same course at 2 pm. Even in this setting, I can ask her if she saw the turtle at mile 1.8. It feels like we had the same experience. How do we continue to ideate on creating tangible experiences for our participants during the next year? This is the thing we’re focused on. How about you?

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