by Jennifer Sharp
The event planning season was set to begin in May with memorable experiences like weddings, graduations, concerts and music festivals. But, due to COVID-19 many event planners are having to find new ways to engage audiences with new options for event experiences.
Two notable event planning and coordinating companies, Cynthia Daniels & Co. and LEO Events have great reputations for planning notable and memorable events. They both share how they are navigating the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has affected both companies in various ways. Business came to a halt as events were canceled or scaled-down along with emergency meetings and calls about safety precautions occurred for Cynthia Daniels & Co.
“At first, I was completely devastated because I did not have anywhere to go and I felt lost,” said Cynthia Daniels, chief event strategist for Cynthia Daniels & Co. “Event planning is my passion, and even though events were canceled, this pandemic did allow me to create stronger relationships with my vendors, have regular check-ins, and create personal relationships with my clients.”
LEO Events, a destination management company, has also felt the impact of COVID-19. The pandemic has affected work in several different ways as some events were canceled and other events were luckily postponed to later in the year or 2021. They have been working through new possible space requirements that are expected for events and transportation.
“We are expecting venues to start drastically decreasing capacity for events in order to keep guests at safe distances throughout the night. Tables that normally seat ten guests now might only seat six. The capacity for a vehicle that normally holds 56 guests might decrease as well,” said Jon Brown, events operations manager for LEO Events.
“We have been working alongside our wonderful partners to reimagine different spaces and capacities in order to keep guests safe, but to also to ensure they are still receiving an engaging and memorable experience.”
In the event of the pandemic, both companies strategized their event planning and have utilized technology to help people connect and create memorable events.
Daniels created two digital series: What’s Next Series and Network After Work Series. The What’s Next Series focused on topics to help people figure out their next moves. Some of the topics included Business Growth & Strategy, Life Insurance & Financial Planning, Goal Setting and many other vital topics. The Network After Work series connected attendees with game-changing speakers that covered everything from transitioning careers to transforming money habits.
“Memphis is full of wonderful entrepreneurs and speakers,” said Daniels. “I have received so many messages and thank you emails from people saying that they felt rejuvenated and excited after each event.”
LEO Events has moved meetings online as a strategy. Their internal digital division has created a specialized, secure virtual platform, which creates an engaging, celebratory, interactive event for their clients.
“I’m pretty fortunate to work for an agency that is constantly thinking about “what’s next,” so many of the strategies we are currently implanting were already in motion even before the pandemic,” said Brown. “Although we know face-to-face meetings cannot be replaced, with the current climate, we know the digital platform is the best way for people to gather together.”
After COVID-19, Daniels wants to continue to elevate the morale of the city by hosting the Explore Edge Festival, which will allow attendees to explore the Edge District and fellowship. She is also currently writing strategic plans and a curriculum and digital courses to train staff.
LEO Events will possibly see a shift towards hybrid meetings and events – a mix of in-person and virtual is changing the way attendees interact by using varying structures, such as “in-studio” environments, breakouts, virtual expo halls, and even couch talks with executives.
They have also been diligent during this time in order to start adapting to the new social distancing standards and providing more sterile environments through limiting or removing all buffets, incorporating hands-free drink dispensers, hand sanitizing stations and even touchless registration at events.
“Anything you would do at a physical event can be represented virtually – even headline entertainment and keynote speakers,” said Brown. “Like many of us, artists are staying home and looking for creative outlets to support their furloughed crew members and bandmates. This means artists are more willing to work with restricted budgets and can perform customized, virtual concerts from the comfort of their home studios or living rooms.”
Daniels and Brown have some valuable advice for event planners and coordinators on how to coordinate and plan events in the event of a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Have lasting relationships with vendors and clients. If you have a digital event idea, do it. This will allow you to continue to celebrate milestones, scale down your budget, and reach people from all over the world,” said Daniels. “The silver lining in all of this is that this pandemic is giving us event planners and coordinators time to be more creative.”
“The best thing to do is to first take a deep breath and realize that we are all going through this together. Many of the new strategies will be “trial and error,” so find ways to get involved in industry webinars and learning opportunities to discover new concepts that have worked for other partners in the industry,” said Brown.
“Cancellation does not have to be your first option. Really think about postponing even if the new date isn’t confirmed. As event planners, our job will be to make the “new normal” feel as seamless as the “normal” we are all accustomed to.”
Jennifer Sharp is a freelance writer for Writing by Design Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.