How Have You Adjusted Your Business to be Ready When Events Begin to Open Back Up?

Women around a wooden table with a tablet and notebooks brainstorming ideas

As different regions begin to relax “stay at home” policies, businesses have begun the process of reopening. We asked event professionals from all over the map how they have modified their businesses to accommodate the new considerations brought on by the pandemic.

My goal has been to take a deep inhale, pay attention to what has been happening, and to see what the proper pivot needs to be in the event world.

Andrea Adelstein, NYLUX Events, New York City, NY

My goal has been to take a deep inhale, pay attention to what has been happening, and to see what the proper pivot needs to be in the event world.  We have to be smart and protect both ourselves and our clients, while we move forward into the ‘New Normal.’  We want to make sure we can plan exciting and safe celebrations, in both the short and long term.

I have been doing a review of where we are and how we want to move forward. See below for the long list of what is being evaluated at NYLUX Events.

Evaluating Events:

  • Square Footage – Number of guests on the dance floor, number of guests at each table, matching up new events: guest count with venue square footage
  • What we need from our vendors – what precautions are they taking?  what precautions do we need them to take?
  • What we need from our venues – what precautions are they taking?  what precautions do we need them to take?
  • What are they requiring of us to host events? Key – what are they requiring of clients and their guests?

Evaluating Overhead:

  • How much product were we storing to use in the future?
  • How much money was going out in small charges without us realizing it?
  • Should we be more digital than we have been?  Paperless in a world that uses paper (invites, escorts, place cards, menus, etc.)

Evaluating Marketing:

  • Revised marketing materials for key venues and solidifying relationships
  • New templates for invoicing, budgeting, letterhead, and client proposals
  • Updating website with event photos
  • What marketing has worked and what has not?
  • Where will new clients be coming from?

Evaluating Social Media:

  • Making a new plan overall – evaluating what has worked and what has not
  • What do we want to say to clients in the new normal?

Reaching out to touch base:

  • Clients
  • Venues
  • Vendors

Andrea Adelstein, NYLUX Events, New York City, NY

Headshot of Andrea Adelstein, NYLUX Events, New York City, NY

“I am working to increase my expertise as a virtual event planner to better support clients – not only as they transition from in-person events temporarily, but also to provide better solutions moving forward.”

Heather Herrig, Every Last Detail, Atlanta, GA

I am working to increase my expertise as a virtual event planner to better support clients – not only as they transition from in-person events temporarily, but also to provide better solutions moving forward. I truly believe we will see some sort of digital/hybrid component for in-person events into 2021 and beyond, and I want my clients’ meetings to be as effective, engaging, and inclusive as possible. To that end, I am preparing as much as I can now to learn all I can.

Heather Herrig, President & Chief Event Strategist, Every Last Detail, Atlanta, GA

Interested in learning how the EventMobi Virtual Event Platform can help you create an engaging online or hybrid event? Read More

“This experience has forced me to restructure and reevaluate my business.”

LaKisha James, Events by LaKisha

I have updated all my social media platforms and other platforms my business is associated with. I have implemented a new scheduling program. I have tweaked my client questionnaire and updated my digital databases.  I have purchased new decorative items and linens.

I’m super excited about how the event industry will take off when everyone is ready to engage person to person again. This experience has forced me to restructure and reevaluate my business. This is a great thing. We can not become comfortable in business; we have to always adapt.

Let’s start planning some events!!!!

LaKisha James, Owner, Designer Events by LaKisha, Conyers, GA

Headshot of LaKisha James, Owner, Designer Events by LaKisha, Conyers, GA

“I have armed myself with education – I am more than ready for the industry professionals to resume doing what it is that we love.”

Lori Rizzo, Lori Rizzo Events

I have both adjusted AND invested in my business. I am in this for the long haul as this is my passion and life’s purpose.

 I have done a lot of reading on what the new look will be for meetings, parties, conferences, food, etc. Additionally, I have collaborated with many other industry people in an effort to brainstorm ideas. I am prepared to service my clients in a safe and healthy way in order to meet their needs.

I have invested in online courses and webinars relative to virtual meetings for some of our clients who may want them and I have adjusted and tweaked my marketing efforts with my staff. Due to these efforts, I have made some improvements in my business in an effort to serve my clients better in this new climate.

Celebrations, meetings and get together’s are all coming back – this was temporary and I knew it was.  I have armed myself with education – I am more than ready for the industry professionals to resume doing what it is that we love.

Lori Rizzo, CEO & Creative Founder, Lori Rizzo Events

Head shot of Lori Rizzo of Lori Rizzo Events

“We’re working closely with our hotel partners to stay up to date with all the upcoming changes including: new technology, hotel operations, testing and training for employees, access to PPE, new guest check-in flow, as well as specific cleaning guidelines, f & b handling and sanitation policies.”

Dorie Beacham, Echelon Events Group, Las Vegas, NV

Event planning in a post-COVID-19 world will require some adjusting across the board. At Echelon Events Group, our #1 priority is the health and safety of our clients and their attendees. We are closely monitoring local, state, federal, and CDC guidelines and mandates. Las Vegas is dedicated to paving the way when it comes to reopening strategies and safety precautions for hotels and meeting facilities.

We’re working closely with our hotel partners to stay up to date with all the upcoming changes including: new technology, hotel operations, testing and training for employees, access to PPE, new guest check-in flow, as well as specific cleaning guidelines, f & b handling and sanitation policies. We want to be knowledgeable and prepared to answer any questions our clients may have as they are trying to navigate through this unprecedented time.

The next few months are going to be challenging for our industry as we adjust to this “new normal”. We all look forward to the day we can reopen the city and welcome our guests back. In the meantime, our team is committed to being educated, vigilant and a trusted resource to our clients.

Dorie Beacham, VP of Sales, Echelon Events Group, Las Vegas, NV

Headshot of Dorie Beacham,
VP of Sales, Echelon Events Group, Las Vegas, NV

“My weeks are actually busier than ever. I am taking several classes and spend time each week discussing ways to innovate within our industry with caterers, rental companies, entertainers, and fellow planners.”

Heidi Hiller, Innovative Party Planners, Baltimore, Maryland

It’s been over two months since we executed our last live event. In mid-March, we were postponing our spring events to the fall to give us time to flatten the curve, stop the spread, and hopefully get back to “normal”. By now we all hoped we would be on the downslope of the curve. In the meantime, the outlook has gotten worse and we don’t anticipate in-person events for quite some time. Without an answer to the BIG question – just when will it be safe to celebrate again in our hotels, venues, barns, mansions, and museums? – we are all planning without parameters. One thing we do know, our industry can’t survive by waiting this out. We must use this time for innovation and our clients so desperately need to celebrate.

My weeks are actually busier than ever. I am taking several classes and spend time each week discussing ways to innovate within our industry with caterers, rental companies, entertainers, and fellow planners. Now is the time to come together as an industry. While events haven’t been happening, our clients have found DIY ways to make them happen and a new trend called Zoom Mitzvahs is taking shape. We cannot postpone celebrating life right now. We as an industry need to use this time to be creative and come up with new ideas to make these makeshift online celebrations grander.

I hop on webinars and town halls to get updates from area politicians and doctors who are discussing possible reopening plans. I read the latest health warnings, and worry a lot. One thing is crystal clear; when events start to open up, they will not look like the events from the past. Tables will have to be positioned for social distancing. There likely won’t be dancing as they are finding that this environment will promote super spreading. Caterers and hotels are laying out plans for strict food handling with safety measures in place so guests don’t handle or touch more than their own utensils and food. No more self-serve stations or grand displays of hors d’oeuvres.

Events will be smaller and food safety will be strict. Cleaning and disinfecting between each group will become commonplace until there is enough testing and a vaccine. One infected guest has the potential of infecting all the others. There will likely be someone at the door taking everyone’s temperatures and turning away anyone who has one, guests and vendors alike. It doesn’t sound much like a celebration.

While tight restrictions for gathering remain in place in the state of Maryland, we are hopeful we can gather in small groups outdoors in the warmer months ahead. I’ve spoken to many venues with outdoor spaces and we’ve laid out plans for ways they can host micro-events and allow others to safely attend, or drive through. So the wedding planned for late June can happen, just differently. With restrictions changing weekly, the plans we make need to be fluid and creative.

Our team has been immersed in learning all about online events and coming up with incredibly creative ways to celebrate while respecting physical distancing, health, and safety of our clients and their guests. So rather than waiting for events to begin, we are anxious to let events continue despite being in the midst of a pandemic. This is a tall order that we do not take lightly. We are asking all our clients to consider celebrating now, just in a different way or we fear many event professionals and businesses won’t survive while we wait to meet again on the dance floor.

#DontPostponeCelebrate

Heidi Hiller, Owner & Creative Director, Innovative Party Planners, Baltimore, Maryland

Headshot of Heidi Hiller, owner and creative director, Innovative Party Planners, Baltimore, Maryland

“We have created a post-COVID-19 events plan that outlines protocol that we must take in order to protect not only our team but, our clients and their guests. The event’s plan has been discussed with some of our frequently used vendors and venues to ensure we are all on the same page.”

Andrew Roby, Andrew Roby Events, Washington, D.C.

The plan ranges from sanitation to how long events should last prior to getting a COVID-19 vaccine. It’s an in-depth plan that is also shared with our clients to give them as much reassurance as possible.

As it relates to weddings, we know there won’t be any large weddings like events. To supplement that, we have introduced a DC Micro Wedding all-inclusive package. The concept is really unique. Up to four couples have the chance to get married on the same day at the same venue. In doing so, they share the cost of all the big-ticket items like the decor.

The micro wedding concept is awesome because it still allows intimate DC weddings to take place until we can have larger events that are safe. The package comes with a bouquet, boutonnière, champagne toast, wedding cake, photos, video plus a live stream, digital invitation, and a few optional upgrades.

We anticipate the DC Micro Wedding concept will take off as we already have couples registered for the event.

Andrew Roby, Event Storyteller, Andrew Roby Events, Washington, D.C.

“The general public will have to trust that others around them are following suit & staying hygienic; that businesses & retailers are ensuring safety & health at all times.”

Daniel Davisson, Davisson Entertainment, Phoenix, AZ

We recognize that unfortunately, the reality of it all is going to prove devastating for months & potentially years after the country “opens” back up. It will not only take testing, tracing, etc, but it will also take trust. The general public will have to trust that others around them are following suit & staying hygienic; that businesses & retailers are ensuring safety & health at all times. Without trust, nothing can return. In my opinion, of course.In the meantime, some ways that we have adjusted our business to be ready for when businesses open back up are the following:

  • Following all CDC, WHO & OSHA recommendations on health & safety in the workspace.
  • Created policies & protocols for ensuring health & safety for all.
  • Deep cleaning and disinfecting our headquarters as well as our warehouse.
  • Providing cleaning directives for pre & post event cleanliness using the recommended grade of products.
  • Providing PPE for staff and requiring it to be worn when out in public by all staff, crew, performers & contractors/vendors when on a job site.
  • Daily health screenings & check-ins for staff, crew, performers & contractors/vendors.
  • Providing our staff, crew, performers & contractors/vendors with wipes & sanitizer while on a job site.
  • Requiring our staff to be trained & certified on Covid-19 awareness as well as PPE before they can return back to work provided by online training services by OSHA & 360training.com.
  • Limiting the types of gigs & events that we provide support for. Taking into account accountability for health & safety, attendance/audience size, timeline, as well as learning what & how we the venue/client is providing action measures to ensure their venue is sanitary.
  • Communicating with our clients on our transparency & how we are handling the situation and what our expectations are.
  • Limiting the amount of overhire crew, performers & outside vendors/contractors as necessary.
  • Utilizing our FT staff in more capacity to ensure we have a safe team that can be easily traceable if necessary.

It is very troubling, to be honest, given that we are heading into our summer season slump out here in Arizona. It’s hot and nobody would be throwing events regardless of the pandemic. So to have our last quarter of the season be halted has really stopped us in our tracks. It will be not only a miracle to survive the summer, but to be able to continue in the Fall for if/when events slowly trickle back into the world. One thing we have not explored much is virtual events. I know the industry as a whole is evolving towards that, however, it is hard for me to get on board. Coming from a life working in the theatre & performing arts industry, we are used to the live moments and full houses to create excitement and energy for each performance. We are used to go, go, go!

Having to now do virtual performances and events I think takes the majority of the enticement and excitement out of the equation. Not to mention, how do we handle PPE when it comes to performers & actors. Nobody wants to go see The Wizard Of Oz with Dorothy wearing a face mask 😉 but you know what I mean. I think it will show over time that there will be custom challenges for every facet of the event & entertainment industries. For example: A live one-person-show in a 99 seat theatre vs. a food festival in an outdoor park with 6,000 people vs. a non-profit Gala in a 500 person capacity ballroom.

It will take the coordination of venue managers & operators along with event managers & planners to ensure they are working in unison to provide their client with the best possible experience given the present situation.I just really think that the industry as a whole will be one of, if not the last industry to re-open. We are in the business of entertaining crowds of people. The very thing we are being told not to do.

Daniel Davisson, Davisson Entertainment, Phoenix, AZ

“The best way to be prepared is to have honest and open conversations with my clients.”

Jamie Joffe, Jaime Joffe Events, Chicago, IL

I have been doing regular Zoom meetings with other party planners and industry vendors. This has been a great forum to share information.  We realize we are all in this together and thus willing to help each other out.

The best way to be prepared is to have honest and open conversations with my clients. We have to stay positive because most everyone is frustrated.  There is a lot of date changing going on. Some clients are on their second date change with the likely hood of fall events not happening.  We just don’t have enough information. 

There are no guarantees right now.  Every event is always customized to match the personality, vision, and budget of a client.  Some would be fine with 50 guests wearing their masks.  Others would prefer to wait.

A toast to happy occasions ahead!

Jamie Joffe, Owner& Planner, Jamie Joffe Events, Chicago, IL

Headshot of Jaime Joffe, of Jaime Joffe Events, Chicago, IL

“I’ve read and sat through many webinars dealing with the effects of the regulations as related to social and business events.”

Jackie Rowell, Jackie Rowell Events, Birmingham, AL

I am adjusting daily to be ready to go when given the ok for events.  Our State today gave the ok for gatherings with no limit as long as the six-foot distancing rule can be enforced.  I have listed a few of the ways I’m preparing:

  1. Maintaining constant communication with my clients to assure that we are all on the same page with adjustments that need to be made.
  2. Communicating with my venue managers and vendors regarding adjustments and the expectations that I have regarding their service adhering to all regulations.
  3. Making face masks to provide my staff and any vendors that may need them.
  4. Keeping a supply of gloves, hand sanitizers, and other sanitizing products that may be needed at the event.
  5. I’ve added an addendum to my contract releasing me and my staff from any liability if a guest or vendor gets sick, that my clients must sign.
  6. Making sure my clients know that we must adhere to the six-foot distancing rule with each floor plan and seating arrangement.
  7. I’ve ordered digital, touchless thermometers that we will use to check temperatures of guests and vendors if required.

I feel certain that there will be other factors involved which we will deal with as needed.  I’ve read and sat through many webinars dealing with the effects of the regulations as related to social and business events.

Jackie Rowell, Owner & Creative Director, Jackie Rowell Events, Birmingham, AL

Headshot of Jackie Rowell, Owner & Creative Director, Jackie Rowell Events, Birmingham, AL

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This post was created in partnership with EventPlanner.com; some interviews have been condensed.