The only thing that is constant is change.
That has definitely been the mantra for our industry in 2021, especially in the last 16 weeks for the meetings and events industry.
November: Events are back on. No, wait. Something called Omicron? We need to back up.
December: Christmas parties are not recommended. And neither is gathering with family at Christmas. And your kids can’t go back to school when classes return. Feeling sick? Take a rapid test, or five. Unless you’re in B.C. You don’t get rapid tests.
January: All sports tournaments are cancelled, but individual games are still on. Tournaments are a go, just not school tournaments. OK, now we can have school tournaments too!
February: Cotton masks won’t cut it anymore, only N95 masks will work. Gyms are still closed. Gyms are OPEN! So are theatres! And arenas! And B.C., you’re still waiting on your rapid tests (where are these things coming from anyways?)
March: Congratulations B.C., you now have rapid tests (but only if you’re over 70 years old). Just in time for all restrictions and testing to be lifted.
This brings us to this week. This week, as meeting and event partners, we are back in business! Meetings and events are back to full capacity with no gathering restrictions. Social distancing is recommended but not enforced (how can you enforce that, anyway?) and some provinces are doing away with vaccine passports as well!
So, my meeting partner friends, we are back to normal, but are we ready for it?
We’ve spent the last two years aching to get back to normal, but now that it’s here, don’t you feel it crept up on us rather quickly? Planners and their delegates are still feeling anxious going back to full capacity and still looking for floor plans that allow for social distancing. Hotels are still dealing with requests to reduce contracts and bump meetings into future months.
Back to normal? Not quite yet…
The next year could see another clash of sorts in our industry – the “get back to normal as quickly as possible” camp versus the “let’s take it slow and ease into this” approach.
To be honest, I’m not sure what camp I’m in. I mean, I haven’t been sick for more than two years because of all the hand washing, social distancing, and mask-wearing. I haven’t needed a rapid test because I’ve been living in my sterile home office environment and picking up groceries I’ve ordered online. Now we’re back to normal and you want to throw me in a room with 300 people from all parts of the country? How do I know if they’ve washed their hands, or taken a rapid test earlier that day?
Back to normal? We need to think about this…
Can I still wear my mask at meetings and events? It’s become part of my wardrobe. And what about my vaccine passport? Don’t you want to see it?
Back to normal? Normal is still being defined…
Local, provincial, and national restrictions are going to continue to change. Planners will wrestle with the decision to go in-person, virtual, or hybrid. Delegates will be fickle – not ready for in-person, but too tired to do another virtual meeting. Hybrid is a wise choice, but this option has planners scrambling for ways to manage them without breaking the budget, and designing the event so both audiences are invested.
Back to normal? I hope not!
The industry redefined and redesigned so much in the past year, I would hate to go back to normal, and lose all of that ingenuity and creativity. I’ve stood in awe of all the partners that found new ways to engage meeting delegates. I’ve learned more in the past year with all the virtual offerings and social media content than I have in my 20 years prior.
Back to normal? We’re redefining our normal.
All of us will have a different take on what’s normal, and we’ll need to normalize respect for one another’s normals when it comes to planning and attending meetings and events. We’ll all have a different code of conduct, and respecting one another’s code will go a long way. Your normal may mean no vaccine passports but wear a mask. Another person’s normal may be no mask, but take a rapid test each morning.
As for my new normal? I hope it includes a mix of everything that is so great about our industry. A healthy dose of in-person events that are re-imagined and deliver high ROI, a sprinkling of virtual events that allow me to connect with people I normally wouldn’t be able to connect with, and the continued introduction of new ideas that elevate our industry and professionals.
The only thing that is constant is change. That is my new normal, and I for one can’t wait to see what changes next!
Leanne Calderwood, CMP, is a personal branding and LinkedIn trainer for the meetings, events, and hospitality industry. She believes our industry is built on experiences, and that experience should start with our professionals.
She serves hospitality professionals and teams through her online courses and consulting services to help guide #eventprofs out of the shadows and into the spotlight using their branding strengths and stories.
When she’s not talking shop, you can find Leanne drinking tea, making jam, and gardening at her home in Kelowna, B.C. with her husband, two teenage sons, and her dog, Farls Barkley.
You can learn more about Leanne over on her blog at www.leannecalderwood.com