Businesses are navigating the COVID-19 public health crisis one day at a time. It is impacting every market sector across the world and the event services industry is feeling the effects with travel restrictions and constraints on large gatherings. Many meetings and conferences have been postponed or even cancelled. But, members of Event Service Professionals Association are working creatively and proactively with their planner clients to help strategize, share needed resources and show support, using technology to keep business moving forward.
Event service professionals are resilient, compassionate leaders who get things done efficiently. During this time of social distancing, they continue to be supportive resources, outlining a path forward.
“As service professionals, we are called to be there for our clients,” says Paola Bowman, CMP, CMM, destination services manager for the Arlington CVB, who is also an ESPA board member. “In this unprecedented time of uncertainty, we’ve shifted our focus from selling to support. Amid cancellations and postponements, I’m spending my days calling clients, offering encouragement and reassurance and simply being a compassionate listener.”
At Arlington CVB, the services and sales teams are responding to COVID-19 by reaching out to planners on a daily basis and coming up with innovative strategies for upcoming events.
“Being a friendly voice that empathizes goes a long way,” Bowman adds. “Planners have welcomed our outreach as we work together to come up with creative solutions to reschedule events and avoid cancellations.”
Julie Brakenbury, CGSP®, director of services at Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau, who is also an ESPA board member, agreed and said, “There’s so many platforms for virtual meetings and that convenience allows us to maintain a sense of normalcy. We are staying connected with clients and coming together as an industry. We are sharing ideas on conference calls, attending webinars and keeping up on the latest news so that we can confidently advise our clients throughout this crisis and also be prepared for recovery in the near future.”
Visit KC is sending targeted eblasts to industry partners and local community members, positioning the organization as a “go to” resource during this uncertain time. “Even during challenging times, it is still my job to connect clients to community resources to help them navigate the area by enhancing and supporting their meetings at every level,” says Esther Walker-Young, senior services manager at Visit KC, who is also an ESPA board member.
“Right now, that means using technology to perform site visits and virtual tours.”
Jamie Huckleberry, ESPA president and director of event services at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh agrees and says, “Although our building is closed, we are still operating. Our sales team has been proactively working to secure secondary dates with clients who had events scheduled through July and the good news is that most are electing to postpone rather than cancel.”
When recovery comes, budgets will be impacted for a while. Events will need to be financially successful and that means there will be a demand for savvy and resourceful event professionals who can coordinate attendance promotion, including messaging about safety, as well as the food supply chain.
“Events will need to be well planned and seamlessly executed because the attendee experience will matter more than ever,” Brakenbury says. “Budgets will be tight, limiting travel and attendance.”
That means there will be even more of a need for event service professionals to serve as a planner’s partner and lifeline on daily logistics, ensuring events run smoothly.
“Nurturing relationships and forging human connections is what we as service professionals do best and we’ll continue to do that to support planners,” Bowman adds. “We are in this together. More than ever, it’s vital to come together as an industry.”