Though it started off as a banner year, 2020 quickly slid into the ditch as COVID-19 hit. The economic fallout of the pandemic hit the special events industry particularly hard, as you know all too well. But special events professionals are nothing if not flexible, forward-looking, quick-learning survivors who, as Aleya Harris, CPCE, Owner, Flourish Marketing says, “Change is neutral. How we relate to that change determines if it is ‘good’ or ‘bad.’”
Harris is just one of the 22 top industry thought leaders we asked to share their perspectives on what they have learned through these extraordinarily tough times for this industry—and what they are looking forward to as we round the corner into what hopefully will be a much better 2021. From building a side hustle into a new revenue stream, to retooling both products and services and how they are delivered, to developing new business models that may just completely transform their businesses for good, here are just a few of the ways they have coped, and the ideas, trends, and positive perspectives they have for the future.
Every other week we will be brining you just a few of the ways our industry peers have coped, and the ideas, trends, and positive perspectives they have for the future. Check back on January 15th for part 2.
Aleya Harris, CPCE, Owner, Flourish Marketing
While 2020 was a year of great challenge and change across the industry, it was also a catalyst for collaboration, community-building, and cooperation. The new business lines and bonds that began this year will manifest into more dynamic and flexible operations in 2021. We
have learned tough lessons and gained resiliency that will propel us to thrive when combined with our innate ingenuity.
Change is neutral. How we relate to that change determines if it is “good” or “bad.” The way we do business has been profoundly altered. Those who see that as an opportunity to serve clients in new and creative ways while diversifying their income streams will see an exponential reward for their effort.
Brian A.M. Green, CMP, CMM, CEO & Creative Director, By BrianGreen
By far, the most significant trend for 2021 as we look toward a new year living with a global pandemic is creativity. As our world changed so drastically, events planners and our vendors will need to reinvent how we inspire our clients and engage their guests. Simultaneously, we still need to be doing all the necessary things to keep us safe until a therapeutic or a vaccine is widely available.
We may never return to the way we used to hold special events. I think that may turn out to be a blessing in disguise because it has presented us with an incredible opportunity to dive deeply into our creativity and break barriers around what we do and why we do it so exceptionally well. We will see exciting new thought processes of how we can all bring our events to life in ways we wouldn’t have done before. With research saying that people are prone to travel but are more comfortable if it is closer to home (within four hours), feel safer in outdoor spaces, with technology to ensure safety, and smaller crowds—the possibility of flexing our creativity is endless.
Luxury is not going away. We will reimagine it in exciting new ways, from private island getaways to beautiful outdoor weddings with a festival vibe that allows guests to craft personal experiences while enjoying the singular event safely!
There is no question that COVID-19 has been terrible in many ways, from the infection rates and death tolls to the loss of many events and businesses. But we are a resilient industry, and our clients depend on us to help them navigate through 2021 and beyond to celebrate their special moments and milestones still while keeping them safe and engaged. I am so ready to bring on the creativity in 2021!
Brit Bertino, CSEP, CGSP, Event Producer and “Side Hustle Specialist,” Event Excellence
Everyone has always dreamt about a side hustle and for those in the special event world, the COVID-19 chaos of 2020 gave many of us doers and dreamers opportunities to go big and get things done! Even if one would find oneself in a tight bind, with the stereotypical world at our fingertips, as long as you know how to tap into the vast number of opportunities found in the digital paradise of cyberspace, you can earn some extra income. Many of us realized during this time that our hospitality skills could be applied to several other activities in and outside the special event industry.
One thing to look forward to in 2021 is that many of our industry friends may be starting a new business, launching new products, discovering new strategies in the new era, and making some career changes which will only broaden our network and make us even more creative than ever before. Don’t forget to reach out, support, and congratulate those that made the decision to create their side hustle. I can’t wait to see what 2021 has to bring for everyone in the special events realm.
Ty Kuppig, Founder & Creative Director, TYGER Event Design + Production
As we approach 2021, we look forward to getting closer to emerging from the COVID pandemic. I am confident that together we will rebound and return with greater wisdom, new strategies, and a heightened appreciation for the luxury of being able to gather together.
We are in a new age. Virtual interaction and exchange have become normalized during 2020 for fundraising galas, corporate events, and weddings. I wholeheartedly believe that nothing compares to the sensory experience of an in-person event, so virtual will never be a replacement. But when we do return to in-person events, I see the importance of maintaining a virtual component as a valuable supplement to further reach and amplify messaging—allowing events to become more engaging than ever before.
I also see a positive takeaway stemming from the trend of micro-events. For small gatherings during COVID, we created experiences aimed to be equally as immersive and impactful as a larger version would have been, but on a more intimate scale. In a large event, exaggerated elements create the biggest impact, but in micro-events, the power comes from very small, intricate details and customization. When we return to full-scale in-person events, I look forward to continuing to create immersive experiences for our clients and their guests, infused with even more unexpected detail!
Morgan Montgomery, CPCE, CMP, Co-Owner, Paisley & Jade
For 2021, we’re really excited about the increased personalization of events and weddings. Even though creating a unique guest experience isn’t anything new to our industry, as a reaction to this year’s postponements and event adjustments, we’re hearing from clients that they want to make an even bigger impact with their future events. As a specialty rental company, this is energizing us for the future and we are thrilled to be using our creative talents to explore how we can expand our products and services to help our clients achieve this goal. We’re designing and building new pieces that can be customized to theme and style, bringing on new services like vinyl printing and application for lettering and decals, and reimagining current pieces in new ways to help our clients create memorable and impactful events in 2021!
Lon Lane, Founder, Lon Lane’s Inspired Occasions; Chairman, International Caterers Association Educational Foundation
Communication is critical. As many businesses are in the throes of continually adjusting their business models to meet the needs of the constantly changing marketplace, top-of-mind brand awareness has never been more important.
Not only are our business needs changing but our clients’ needs are changing weekly, if not daily. It is critically important to stay in touch personally with your core clients. They need to remember who you are, what you do, how you have served them and how you can continue to be of service to them and met their culinary and entertaining needs.
Reach out with phone calls. Tell them you are checking in. Ask how they’re doing and inquire if there is anything you can do to help them and their families.
When we emerge from this crisis, the business owner who stayed connected with their client base on a personal level will reap the rewards.