On Being an Event Planner During a Pandemic

Hi. I’m Hazel and I’m an event organizer. Things are generally not great at the moment in the wake of COVID-19, but look into the eyes of anyone working the world of events and you’ll see a special kind of sorrow. The kind that says… do I cancel that event tomorrow? What about the one in June? How long do I wait to call that sponsor for my September event to see if we’re still on? It’s rough out there.

I work in marketing here at The Events Calendar, but in my other life, I run an organization called LB Littles that hosts family events in Long Beach, California. Our main event of the year is a “Coachella for kids” called Littlepalooza that takes place on Labor Day. Well, it took place on Labor Day in 2019, but who knows what 2020 will hold.

This age of uncertainty is less than ideal. I’m no expert, but my anxiety with a side of TMJ are giving me a mean case of insomnia with lots of times to ponder our new reality. During that pondering I’ve come up with a few ways to cope with the madness of the COVID-19 crisis, aside from copious amounts of chocolate.

Move forward

Yes, you had to cancel your event. And the one after that. And the one after that. After the trauma of calling vendors and staff and attendees has worn off, wipe the red wine stains off of your laptop and get back to work.

Most of the folks you deal with while planning your events are in the same boat as you, so now is as good a time as any to strengthen those relationships. Reach out to your DJs and caterers and speakers and ask them how they are doing. Plan a virtual happy hour with them and brainstorm ways you can all weather the storm.

Learn to love uncertainty

Everyone is waiting for the grown-up in the room to come and tell us how to deal with this crisis, but it’s clear now that we’re in a real Kevin McCallister situation. Let’s be real: You’re only going to be able to plan ahead so much. In my case, the hospital that sponsors most of my events certainly isn’t interested in conversations about future events right now. So I’m trying to embrace the uncertainty.

Be open with your attendees and let them know that you’re working hard, but it’s okay to tell them honestly that you’re as uncertain as everyone else in this situation. Your audience will appreciate the sincerity.

Now that social distancing is a part of our everyday vocabulary, we’ve got to pivot and plan for it.

Plan for social distancing

Remember when “social distancing” was just a warning sign for depression, rather than a government-mandated activity? Oh, how young and innocent we were! So, now that social distancing is a part of our everyday vocabulary, we’ve got to pivot and plan for it.

I’ve been thinking about what people get out of my events and how that value might translate online. For instance, a sense of community is what attendees are seeking at my smaller events, whether it’s an Unbirthday Party or a LEGO night. With the bigger festivals, entertainment is the biggest draw for attendees.

How do those values translate online, and what medium makes sense for each type of event? I wouldn’t want to host a webinar where I’m one-way broadcasting to people when the main draw of the event is coming together in a community. For those events, I’m planning on interactive online events hosted on Zoom. For entertainment-based events, a livestream on YouTube or Instagram makes perfect sense.

Use the time for other tasks

Since you may not be actively planning logistics for your next event, use the time to do some background tasks you don’t usually have time to tackle. Spruce up the calendar page on your site with the super useful Events Calendar PRO features, create an email drip campaign for your next event, clean up your CRM… or just be like me and wallpaper your home office because that’s where you’re spending all your time now.

The world will still need events once social distancing becomes a thing of the past.

Keep on planning

While it’s probably one of the worst times to be an event organizer, I’m confident the world will still need events once social distancing becomes a thing of the past. People are going to be more ready than ever to get back to events after the virus is contained and life starts to settle into a new normal, and us event planners will be here, ready to return to what we do best: Creating experiences that bring people together.