I Am Sorry, but We Are Not All “Fine”


I was inspired by a post by Lisa Cowley, CEO of Beacon, who penned a moving article entitled “It Is Okay Not to Be Okay.” I recommend you read her moving story and then come back.

Some days, I can relate!

Application for Associations

It’s getting harder and harder to see the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. Prognosticators and industry cheerleaders keep telling us that things will get back to normal…but who can say what normal is? Or if we even want to go back to the way things used to be. This has been an era of intense change and adaptation in our industry. Many of us have learned to be more flexible and innovative. We’re being challenged to produce breakthrough events that deliver both member value and much-needed revenue to our organizations.

My friends, clients and industry suppliers privately share that the pressure on them is enormous! Event teams are in danger of burning out with little lead time for planning virtual meetings, the desire to be nimble and the challenges of creating revenue, relevant content and community. The truth is, many associations that depend on annual meeting and tradeshow revenue are cutting event positions and in some cases entire teams. It is particularly sad to see amazing leaders and staff who were highly valued by their organizations just a year ago being forced out. The long-term implications of eliminating event roles in associations are massive and heartbreaking.

I further suspect that organizational silos have either started to disintegrate or become even more dysfunctional as the stress and pressure mounts. I keep hearing comments like “marketing can’t get anything out,” to “the events team furloughed more team members than other departments,” or “my team is under water.” It is definitely not a fun time for many in the association world right now.

And Our Supplier Partners

Many long-tenured industry business partners have suffered from the lack of business, furloughs and permanent job cuts. The “lucky” ones who still have jobs often have mountains of work to accomplish and nervous clients demanding answers they just don’t have right now. Our industry is hurting on all sides and there is not an immediate end in sight.

We miss live events and want to be part of a revitalized and thriving industry. Between now and then, a lot of really talented people will have changed careers, retired or abdicated and taken jobs for benefits and lower salaries. Will young people see the events industry as full of promise and opportunity some day? I do hope so but it will also look extremely different from how it looked a year ago.

How are you doing? Feeling stressed or feeling fine? Does your organization or boss acknowledge the stress and challenge of working amidst the pandemic? Could they be doing more? 

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  1. We are scrubbing our $6 million annual conference. It grew 20% YoY for seven straight years, up to 2,750 attendees. We were going to have Martha Stewart, Jay Leno, Jerry Rice & Steve Young in April 2020. That, of course, did not happen. We then toyed with rescheduling to October 2021, but we don’t even see that as a real viable option anymore. There’s just no point trying to plan an event during a pandemic, so we won’t even bother. We are just getting out of the events industry altogether — a decision that has produced enough tears to fill a bucket…

    We will remain a viable company, surviving on one fourth the revenues we once had. And we won’t be laying anyone off. So yeah… a “victory” I guess.


  2. Bruce Rosard says:

    Virtual/Hybrid events are revolutionizing the industry and are here to stay.

    If you read this post and are wondering when you can run live events again, you need to change your thinking immediately and develop your plans to be experts at virtual and hybrid events.

  3. Sandra Wood says:

    We have moved to on-line with revenues half of what they were. But expenses are down too so net revenue is what I’m interested in learning how others are impacted? But the loss of community and connectivity from not having f2f is harder to measure. It has forced us to explore other engagement tools which isn’t bad, eggs in one basket is dangerous as we know. But a younger demographic will say they’re already connected and don’t need an association to do that virtually for them. So my concern is not short term, but rather long term. I am reaching out to other associations to collaborate on programs and services to strengthen value. I think the festivals industry will bounce back because those events are 100% in person experiential by design. But the meetings industry is changed permanently. In my 25 years in the meeting industry, almost everything I’ve learned is obsolete in the virtual world. I think we will see fewer f2f meetings in the future overall as we get better at virtual. It’s a change for the industry on the magnitude of when we got the Internet. Time to toss out the old formulas and redesign our industry.

  4. Vicky Betzig says:

    Yes – my team and I transitioned 3 meetings to fully virtual and executed all 3 within a less than 4 month span of time, after losing 1/2 of out team and negotiating out of the F2F versions without losing our shirts. Late nights, 80-100 hours per week, all/nighters, no days off for our small 3-person team – so stressed and burned out but pulled off extremely engaging and innovative virtual events and exceeded budget goals by a lot! Results were very good, but at what cost to the 3 of us. Not sure any of us want to go through the experience again!

    1. Sandra. Please email me at Dd@diannedevitt.com regarding industry change. Dianne

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