Three Cheers For Event Industry Freelancers! Adapting To A New Normal
There is a bit of tunnel vision in many of the articles we write about the freelance revolution. Too often, when we describe the talent economy, the focus is on two broad professional groups: technologists and independent (business) professionals; For example, independent management consultants, freelancers in finance and accounting or “creatives” in areas such as advertising, PR and marketing communication. If you’re a fan of that wonderful Broadway show, West Side Story, you can think of it as a story of two gangs: the Technicians and the Corps. In fact, HoneyBook, a well-known company that provides both software and consulting support to small businesses and freelancers, recently reminded me that the freelance revolution is far wider.
Honeybook completed a study that outlines the challenges faced by a group of freelancers that we often don’t write about: event professionals. This crowd includes event planners, photographers, videographers, and florists. These individuals are those who, during normal times, host weddings and other family or fraternal events, celebrate and commemorate important events, organize and administer conferences that bring professional colleagues together, or host corporate or government meetings in cities and nations around the world like the meeting of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland or the events of the UN General Assembly in NYC. For a moment, consider the revenue generated by something as ubiquitous as a wedding. Flowers for US weddings alone in typical years would cost an average of $ 2.5 billion. The wedding party industry in the US generated a total of $ 53 billion in 2013! You can find freelancers in the event industry in Upwork, Fiverr, Freelancer, and FlexJobs, as well as many smaller, more specialized platforms such as The Event Work and Event Pro Finder.
How did event professionals fare during COVID 19? According to Honeybook, Covid-19 was quickly and heavily impacting the freelance economy. Until the end of March 2020, service providers in the event industry were only 50% active at the level of February 2020. Then everything stopped together.
Event freelancers have been particularly hard hit in an environment where in-person events have been closed or delayed and continue to do so in most of the United States as other parts of the world reopen.
The planning remains uncertain for event professionals. The initially positive news was that 58% of the events planned through April were postponed for up to six months and only 10% were finally canceled. At the beginning of July, however, the proportion of newly planned events had dropped to 21%. And, according to Honeybook, almost half of the projects that have been postponed for or in July was postponed again for more than 6 months.
Corresponding to the uncertainty of when the physical events business will return, there is growing insight into event management and the freelance role in the post-Covid 19 environment. According to the experts, freelancers and other event professionals will face on their return to business :
Convene predicts that while Covid 19 has stopped meetings and events, there is great confidence that the physical events business will eventually recover. However, expect a “new normal” to borrow this phrase. According to Convene, the new normal will be included
- Improved virtual participation: “Smart organizers are realizing that budgets are getting tighter, so they can offer compelling virtual participation opportunities such as hybrids: live events with the option to participate virtually. “
- Satellite events: personal interaction with less danger: “Expect smaller satellite events to complement larger gatherings. For example, if there is a major event in New York, you might have smaller meetups in San Francisco or Seattle. “
Congrex adds a number of additional predictions about the future of physical events. They include:
- New seating arrangements need to be created to ensure adequate social distancing while increasing engagement and discussion
- Rethink registration, registration and registration: An alternative to registration lines or registration counters is required for secure registration. Participants expect to register themselves in advance, make better use of the technology, and scan themselves
- Meal Service: A new approach to meal service is needed that avoids avoiding eating and drinking “stations” that draw crowds and create potential social distancing problems. Many of us will be sad to see the end of the buffets, but few will miss long lines to have a snack during the meeting breaks
- Encouraging Responsible Interaction: Organizers will constantly try to find new ways to network and reinforce interaction by engaging in social activities that respect social distancing
- Hygiene stations: Meetings of all kinds offer easy access to hand washing and disinfection booths and practice frequent decontamination between events or courses
- Access to Assistance When Needed: There needs to be better access to triage or isolation rooms when guests or staff fall ill, agreements with local hospitals are made in advance, and a plan for caring for vulnerable populations is made
Socialtables.com offered a third, more strategic perspective that focused on these areas of change:
- Design for added value and time efficiency: “From smartphones to small houses, people these days strive to get the most out of all the benefits and uses. Think about how each aspect of the event can provide additional benefits. Think about every part of the event, from the content to the activities to making connections between attendees. “
- Celebrate different voices: “By and large, society has become much more open to different opinions and interests. People are interested in hearing ideas that are different from their own. Outside-the-box thinking will always be a hot topic for events. Make sure attendees are stimulated by bringing in speakers who challenge the audience to think bigger and bigger. “
- The Importance of Mindfulness and Wellbeing: “Leading experts agree that ‘brain fractures’ are critical to rejuvenating the mind and actually promoting greater levels of creativity. A packed schedule can be very demanding for conference attendees. Give participants time and space to breathe, reflect, and regroup. “
- Personalize: “Personalizing an experience is more than just using a participant’s name in conference communications. Before the event, ask attendees to consider which sessions will be offered. Build a conference app that uses preinstalled information to provide personalized suggestions for activities in real time. “
- Sustainability: “As an event planner, being aware of society’s increased interest in reuse, reuse and recycling can help you develop a thoughtful approach that demonstrates your event’s commitment to the environment.”
Honeybook’s reach reminded me of the vast and important role that freelancers play in events in the US and the global economy, as well as the challenge of reinventing a “new normal” in events. There are 134,000 event planners in the US alone, according to the BLS, and the field is growing faster than the average at 7% per year. There are 13,200 florists in the United States and an estimated 140,000 professional photographers and videographers. In addition, there is the large sum of the other freelancers who contribute directly to events or provide essential support: Printers, graphic designers, drivers and travel agencies as well as the gig employees, the logistics and delivery staff, the servers, the kitchen support staff and the cleaning staff together make up one very significant professional population. And we haven’t even begun to count the international event community, many of whom are beginning to see light as their economies open to business.
Keeping our events industry strong and protecting our event professionals is a must: Events make history by bringing historians together and play a vital role in the lives of businesses, communities, and families. It’s a difficult time for direct and connected freelancers in this industry, as it is for many other freelancers, but it won’t last forever. We need to ensure continued economic support as the US pandemic continues to spread. And it is clear that event professionals have to adapt to the new normal: It requires individual training and strong coordination and teamwork between the many freelancers and small companies that contribute to the success of events. The CDC recently released a planning guide that will come in handy as the event market is slowly but surely opening up. We are waiting for the event industry 2.0 and the opportunities it offers for freelancers.
Long live the revolution!