Originally from Paris, Valerie Bihet has more than 20 years of experience in the management, design and production of special events. She founded Vibe, an event design and destination management company, in Miami in 2004 and has since grown the company to eight employees, more than $7 million in annual revenue and produced more than 1,100 events throughout the world.
5 Steps for Post-COVID Success as an Event Planner
COVID-19 came up quickly and took our industry by storm. We had to shut down immediately with no clear return to the “business as usual” that other industries are now getting to experience. There are some businesses that have been able to return to a semblance of normal with new adjustments to their procedures. The event industry, however, is being forced to do what we challenge our clients to do on a regular basis: Be inventive and creative.
With no set date, or even a solid prediction, for when we’d be able to return to in-person live events, we now must focus on what we can control — and that is our response and plan forward.
Step 1: Education
We must focus on educating ourselves on what the next phase of events will be like so we can, in turn, educate our clients. Our industry has changed completely and the process we had previously will not be the same. The technology will not be the same. What we had been used to doing and the knowledge that came from many years of experience is now completely upside down.
The burden before us as planners is to now recheck the processes our go-to vendors are utilizing and learn what they are doing for safety. This also potentially means finding a new vendor because who you've been working with is no longer suitable for this new direction. There could be others out there who are more well versed in the next step —for example, a company doing broadcasting for their virtual events, which requires skills and technology your past AV partner may not be able to provide. You need even more specialized help now.
Sure, some AV companies have done these types of event formats before, but others are just trying to figure it out, and when it comes to that live spot, you want experience on your site as a planner.
I think it's much more risky to do virtual events. It's more complicated as a producer than in-person events, which allow you to have everyone running the show in the back of house together. This is a whole new way of working together and you need to make sure you have the right technology to make sure it runs smoothly. (Side note: ShoFlo is great for this.)
Step 2: Be solution oriented.
Those of us who will survive and also thrive in the post-COVID world are the ones looking for solutions to the barriers we’re faced with, not waiting for someone else to come up with and hoping it works for our clients or businesses too. We must be proactive in order to stay ahead and truly solve problems our clients, and their clients, are not prepared to handle.
The more we can provide those solutions, the more you will stand out both for decision makers and against your competitors as they try to find a way to offer an option for meetings. These all still need to happen, so the best thing an event pro can do is be well educated and well versed so they can address the pain points of their clients.
Step 3: Focus on unconventional creativity.
Designing a live experience that will translate virtually requires a different level of creativity than many planners may be used to. It’s a different focus for the creative brain. Many times, what we do in person doesn't always come across the same on a screen. You have to think more uniquely about how to convey that experience when the audience is not in front of you or your speakers to give feedback that they can work from.
Step 4: Be ready to be goal driven.
You need to be able to showcase the true KPIs of an event and how they are impacting your client’s business. Be more data-driven in your decision making and our design. When you can clearly convey the way money you spend in an event translates to revenue, either in the succeeding month or 6 months, decision makers will be more apt to continue to execute events with you and be more open to other creative ideas you present to keep their event programs going even when the format/concept/venue is unfamiliar to them.
Step 5: Cultivate resilience.
We need to prepare our industry to withstand new hurdles and be more resilient. We will not have events like we used to. Virtual events are outperforming events now and hybrid events are not the same. We need to recheck our business models so we are more resilient to growth. This will further help ensure that the way we were surprised with COVID-19 does not happen the next time our industry is threatened and we’ll be able to respond faster, the way we would if something goes wrong on event day.