It’s been four and a half months since I let most of my team go. It’s been three and a half months since I sat on the floor of my office and cried at the stress of applying for direly needed government assistance – wondering if I submitted everything quickly enough for a first-come, first-served program. It’s been three months since my last zero revenue month.
To say the last 5 months (and counting) have been a struggle is an understatement. Watching my industry come to a screeching halt and seeing the broader human toll and the very personal impact has been devastating.
Yet, I still feel hope and joy. For example, I attended CEMA Summit 2020 last week. It was scheduled to be in Nashville, but became a virtual experience. I got to hear how industry leaders had changed business models, reinvented themselves and innovated to meet new challenges. I found that inspiring. But, I have to say, the most inspiring moment for me was watching a panel discussing the state of the industry. So much of the conversation had been forward looking – what has changed, what is next. Then, Angie Smith said, “My heart is broken.” That moment transcended the computer screen barrier and I felt a real connection. An industry-leading corporate event planner at a huge multinational company is feeling this pain just like me, a small business owner. No one is alone in this. Thank you, Angie, for being vulnerable enough to share when we were all putting on a brave face.
I am so proud of the work that my team has done – innovating technical solutions to allow us to meet with each other and share important information while geography keeps us apart. It’s been invigorating thinking through the next challenges — how to bring virtual and in-person together in new ways that we never imagined.
Change is hard and painful. It’s an easy thing to say, but a hard one to live through. I so appreciate all of the relationships I have developed and grown in these last few months that have allowed me to bear the excruciating speed of change. And, at the same time, I have loved the spirit of invention and experimentation that few industries will ever get to experience.
As the length of the stay at home orders and travel bans grow, the future is far from certain. But I am going to lean into the fun and excitement of reinventing. I know my resilience will be tested many more times in the coming months. I feel strengthened by our collective resolve to acknowledge the struggle and carry on. This might be a love letter to the events industry. It’s definitely a reminder that the phrase, “We are all in this together,” is not only meant to keep you going in your own struggle, but to remind you that your friends and colleagues are strengthened and inspired by you.