The pandemic has seen swathes of talented event professionals find themselves out of work and, in many cases, feeling out of options when it comes to staying in our wonderful industry. So what can we, as a community, do to retain this talent, not just for the benefit of our sector, but for the real-life people that the word ‘talent’ often doesn’t do justice to? Because that must be the root of all of our efforts - helping the people who have grown events into a $1,100 billion global industry (Allied Industry Research, 2018) through blood, sweat, tears, and sacrifice.
As we should all be aware by now, virtual is here to stay, either as 100% virtual events or as part of hybrid events which complement and expand our reach beyond that which our purely physical products have historically achieved. There is an opportunity, in this moment, to use this medium as a means to help the people who built our industry. Upskilling has been a key theme throughout the pandemic, with numerous initiatives being launched to enable and support those who are using their unexpected ‘free’ time to arm themselves with skills that will give them the best chance at finding another job.
Beyond courses from providers such as VEI, an area to explore could be an ethically-run, legally-compliant volunteering scheme. Event professionals are in need of opportunities to learn and use their skills in real-life situations, and companies who have been hard hit may survive that little bit longer, or recover that little bit sooner, if they have knowledgeable professionals to support their businesses. These volunteering placements can, of course, be done completely remotely if needed, utilising the virtual platforms that have enabled event organisers to stay in touch with their verticals, and giving valuable experience to volunteers that will help them secure a future, permanent role.
Whilst a volunteering scheme could indeed benefit many people, it mustn’t be ignored that not everyone is in a position to access it - those who cannot financially afford to give their time for free, for example - and so, again as a community, how can we support those who are at risk of being pushed out of events altogether? That’s beyond my imagination, for today anyway. At the very least, when the dust has settled we must, as employers and recruiters, look at Covid19’s impact on EventProf CVs with compassion and open minds - if someone hasn’t taken the right courses or attended the right industry webinars, if all they’ve managed to do is survive, we must still listen to their story and help them rejoin our fabulous industry.
Not wanting to close on a downer, let this be said - as we reopen across the globe we have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to elevate events into a pioneering industry which influences every sector it serves. Which, by the way, is EVERY. SINGLE. SECTOR. We have more power than we have ever realised, it’s time to grow into that power and to carve out a better future for the world. Let’s start by supporting as many event professionals as we possibly can in as many ways as we possibly can.