As we come out of the slowest season in industry history, many event pros are dusting off the cobwebs and preparing them for a tentative year ahead. With vaccine distribution hinting at a full return of events in 2021, it could very well end up being quite a busy season as the industry makes up for lost time.
Between postponed events and those already scheduled for 2021, successfully navigating this year will require attention to detail and an organized approach to client management and internal operations.
Here are some words of advice from seasoned industry experts about how to streamline your business and take on whatever comes your way in 2021.
Organize your SOPs
Building a system of policies and procedures ensures that your business—and its services—remain consistent and effective off the board. That’s why Shannon Tarrant, founder of WeddingVenueMap.com, recommends creating standard operating procedures and manuals for your business: “This will allow you to hire staff members as soon as you have enough revenue coming in and the training will be easier with the how-tos already created. Think through everything you do and start to use tools like screen recording and talk through the steps. You'll thank me later!”
Consider hiring support
Many event pros might be starting the year with a smaller team due to layoffs and financial hardships. With a hopefully busy season ahead, it might be time to consider rebuilding your team to avoid being short-staffed when business picks up.
Mara Mazdzer, founder of Fuse Weddings and Events, suggests: “Take the time now to take a look at your team and decide if you have enough people to support you in the second half. If the answer is no, run numbers and find ways to adjust or add staffing and support to ensure you’ll have all bases covered once it’s time to rock and roll in the second half."
Optimize your onboarding process
If you do plan on hiring, you certainly don’t want it to be a long and drawn-out process to ramp up your new employees. “Right now the biggest process we are streamlining is our onboarding for new team members,” reveals Kristin Wilson, owner and CEO of Our DJ Rocks. “One of the most exciting things we are looking forward to is digital online training. We have one goal in mind with this—reduce the amount of time it takes for our team to train new employees each season. We are also working to make our onboarding paperwork digital. Not only will this help us quickly bring on new employees when events start to really pick up, but it will continue to allow us to maintain social distancing while upholding our standards!”
From onboarding to client management, you’ll find the best solutions are typically digital programs and apps designed specifically for event professionals. Nora Sheils, co-founder of Rock Paper Coin and founder of Bridal Bliss states: “If COVID has taught business owners anything, it is that they have to offer tech solutions to keep their clients happy! Whether offering video conferencing, or virtual contracts and invoicing, making the booking and communication process easy for clients is a must! Gone are the days of written checks or printing out PDF's to book services. A software solution for integrating all parties is a necessity moving forward.”
According to Kevin Dennis of Fantasy Sound Event Services, this is the best time to perform a tech audit, especially when it comes to streamlining for future events. “Client and staff feedback is going to be your go-to when it comes to adding new tech to your workflow. Think about how collaborative your processes are for planning and team efforts. If there are any pain points, now is the time to iron them out before we resume weddings and events.”
Experiment with new programs
Of course, any new tech offers unique features, so you’ll need to play around a bit to find the right fit for your needs. Juls Sharpley, founder of Bubbles & Bowties, elaborates: “It takes a lot of time and trial and error to do the research, find the programs, get the systems in place, test the systems, and refine the processes, so don’t wait until the last minute. Ask your peers what they use and like, look into it, and jump into the one that’s the best fit for you. The best thing to do is to pick the best software for the task that you need it to do, and don’t worry about being spread across too many platforms.”
Practice time management strategies
In some cases, you might not need any fancy new platforms to overcome your challenges. It might be as simple as building in some smart time management strategies to keep you productive and efficient. Samantha Leenheer, principal planner and designer for Samantha Joy Events, explains: “A great tool to help simplify tasks is time-blocking and batching as an event planner. I like to have two days a week for client meetings, a half-day for marketing and education. Break up the week however you need and then only focus on those tasks during their time slot. It can be fun to give them nicknames like Money Monday or Teaching Tuesday, but by staying on the same topic, you will increase your productivity and be able to focus better on your goals.”
When people are busy, they tend to get caught up in the madness and lose sight of their boundaries. However, it’s those limits that keep you running without succumbing to being overwhelmed. “Protect your time and energy so that you can stay healthy and at your most productive,” urges Lynne Reznick, owner of Lynne Reznick Photography. “Do this by setting a few hard boundaries for yourself now. Focus on setting boundaries that will help you reset and recharge so that you can maintain the high levels of energy and focus you’ll need when work kicks into high gear. Turning your boundaries into habits now will make it easier to maintain them no matter how busy or stressed you may get.”
Reznick shares a few examples from her own experience: “Some boundaries I’ve put in place for myself include: no screens for an hour before bed each night, one work-free day each weekend, and making sure to exercise at least three times a week. These boundaries help me stay well-rested, energetic, and positive throughout the week.”
Take care of your wellbeing
Boundaries are only one way of committing to self-care. Everyone has their own methods of taking care of themselves, whether it’s a favorite hobby or a relaxing habit that puts stress at bay. Whatever yours may be, give yourself the extra time to rest and refresh as needed. “After a season of uncertainty, be mindful of your mental health,” encourages Lisa Krumm Anhaiser, owner of Creating the Map. “Find those coping skills that work for you—meditation, breathing exercises, or an app on your phone that allows you to connect to a professional. Take care of the stress and fears before they overwhelm. Take a breath and know you will manage because you are a professional.”
There is still a bit of quiet time before busy season really picks up, so take this moment to evaluate where your business currently stands and where you would like it to go in 2021. Be realistic in your objectives, but don’t be afraid to set your sights higher than they were last year. A little bit of motivation can go a long way, so use it to your advantage and optimize your business while you can.