Our family loves to vacation at the beach, and after three years, the ocean was calling us. For me, it wasn’t just a vacation but a time of reflection on what the past three years brought my way. I would never consider myself a parrot head, but it’s funny what songs can pop in your mind when you get away from work, the everyday ups and downs, and look out on the water,. So I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised when Jimmy Buffet’s introspective tune bumped around in my head.
Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes
Was there ever a song that described the last almost three years in the event industry—in our lives?– so well?
It’s these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
I took off for a weekend last month (okay, a week for me!)
Just to try and recall the whole year
All of the faces and all of the places
Wonderin’ where they all disappeared.
Nothing remains quite the same
In our last few newsletters, we talked about the changes we’ve seen: the pandemic followed by the “great resignation,” leading to the loss of many knowledgeable workers and an influx of people who need education about processes. Crazy timelines. Travel disruption. The disappearance of many companies that we’ve come to know. New venue regulations and safety standards. Masks.
Reading departure signs in some big airport
Reminds me of the places I’ve been
Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure
Makes me want to go back again
If it suddenly ended tomorrow
I could somehow adjust to the fall
Travel withdrawal. As much as we complain about travel–airports, hotels, and finding restaurants late at night—I can’t speak for you, but I missed travel. Living in Japan, where quarantine mandates were among the most stringent in the world, it was nearly impossible for me to travel. Actually, no, it really was impossible. Japan was slow to embark on a vaccination program, and our country’s isolation gave rise to real fears that we would be easy targets for Covid.
And yes, travel suddenly ended. For years. The impetus to go from one city to another, from one country to another, from one continent to another: Gone! Am I the only one who thought about the places I’ve been? I thought about people I didn’t and couldn’t see in person, the excitement of setting up in a new venue, and the camaraderie of working with a team that I’ve known for years.
And then, yes, “it suddenly ended!” Did you ever think we would shut down? For years? The toll on everyone’s physical and mental health was incalculable. Cities created food pantries for unemployed live event workers while those workers tried to find interim work to sustain themselves and their families. We learned to treat our colleagues with empathy and to be understanding of their situations.
As office life disappeared, we began to notice some cracks in the foundation of our businesses, such as salary disparities and hiring bias, giving rise to a call for diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Did we adjust to the fall? We did, and we’re back. We toughed it out. We commiserated with one another. There was anger and depression; suddenly, telehealth offered counseling to help us through tough times. We kept in touch with each other and offered encouragement. We adjusted. We survived. We’re back, and suddenly all of us in the industry realized what we missed. Virtual was okay to fill in the gap, but it will never replace face-to-face.
So I can’t look back for too long
There’s just too much to see waiting in front of me
And I know that I just can’t go wrong
With these changes in latitudes, changes in attitudes
What’s waiting in front of us?
Where to start? Labor shortages, bringing a new generation of trade show and event workers to the industry. Teaching these new folks and helping them understand our processes. Forming new teams and perhaps learning new ways to do things from each other. Adjusting to new personalities, restrictions, new trends, new materials. All—and more–waiting in front of us.
Someday we’ll have the luxury of spending time looking back. We’ll be the old-timers, telling the new generation of trade show and event workers about how we survived the pandemic. Oh, we’ll probably embellish those stories a bit, the way old-timers usually do. But there’s too much waiting in front of us—and with the toughness we found within ourselves during the pandemic, we know we can’t go wrong.
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