INSIGHTS

What I learnt – Launching Events in COVID times

Since 30 August 2020 we have executed 5 Mass Participation events across 3 states and 1 territory in Australia and received exemption for them all, and here is what I learnt:

WE CAN BE SOCIAL CHANGE

The events industry can be the voice of the environment, the voice of gender equality, the voice of sustainability, whatever the event stands for and whatever need there is in society to change. Our events should not follow what the trend is, we should, and can, lead the way.

Due to COVID we made the decision to not supply any paper cups and ask all participants to bring their own bottle. We asked participants to arrive strictly at a certain time plus many more tweaks and changes. They did everything we requested (on the most part!) We asked them to make small changes to the way they were used to experiencing events and we made changes to the event that not only meant it was able to go ahead but meant we reduced our waste and impact on the environment. We won’t be going backwards from this… and for these small things I appreciate the year that has been 2020.

HOW IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIPS ARE

Of course, I knew this previously! BUT this year could not have highlighted more the importance of them.

As the first mass participation event in all but one state we went to, we were leading the way to get events opened back up. It was unprecedented times and our whole industry was trying to navigate the system. It took a huge amount of team work and that’s not just our staff, that is our clients, councils and the government committees themselves. We now know what the process is and what each state is looking for in a COVID Management Plan – we have also gained some great allies along the way. Feel free to contact me, Hailey Mason for more info for each state process or receive a copy of our COVID management plan.

WE (AS A TEAM) DON’T HAVE IT IN US TO GIVE UP

From deploying satellite teams in each state, to zoom briefings and cross-state management, we even had to navigate ensuring our event kit could get across borders with minimal human contact – we did it all this year, and we did it multiple times, sometimes in one week! If you had told me this time last year I would be handing over an event that I have run 40+ times to a satellite team via Zoom – I would have told you it was ridiculous and couldn’t work. But it did, and they were amazingly successful! We are now planning to execute many more events in the same style. For me this is huge – I get to spend less time on the road, more time with my family and reduce my own carbon footprint.

THE PAST 18 YEARS IN EVENTS HAVE PREPARED ME FOR COVID

Of the 5 events (6 next weekend) we received exemption or approval the week of the event (we received one the Friday prior to a Sunday event). This is due to many factors but mainly the powers who be need to see what’s happening with COVID as close to the event as possible. As much as this caused stress for the team, the tenacity that has built up in me over the past 18 years in the events industry definitely helped. That’s what we do best in our industry though so no need to tell you. It has got extremely tiring for our team and our management team has had to be really mindful of this. Seeing the stress this constant change has caused meant we have had to really focus on the mental health of our staff and crew and provide as much certainty as we can in uncertain times.

THE NORMAL BUDGET CUTS DON’T APPLY

We really had to think about what we were cutting out of our existing budgets before we lost funds to some necessary items that could be the difference to getting approval or exemption.

When cutting budgets for participation events it is almost like the automatic response is to cut timing and staffing and send out the bibs to reduce resources. Yes, timing does seem quite unnecessary with participants being able to start and stop their own GPS and Tracking devices, but how do you track when people arrive at your events? How do you ensure they have all checked in? How do you ensure they have all been asked the 5 compulsory questions or left the event site? We developed a contactless scanner system a few years ago which saved us this year, it reduces resources, need for sorting bibs and reduces the amount of time a participant is onsite collecting bibs. We really had to look at our budgets and what was essential and not essential in a covid world. We focused the business on breaking even and supporting as many people as we could – not on profit.

IT’S NOT POSSIBLE TO BE STRONG 6 MONTHS STRAIGHT – AND THATS OK

I learnt most of all that when people depend on you to lead, regardless of your own struggles its all relative and when people counted on me I was able to stand strong, and let them lean, but when I wasn’t able to stand strong my colleagues, clients and peers let me lean back – we worked as a team. Our staff were comforting when we reduced everyones hours, they were understanding when I said I don’t know but I’m figuring it out. I have always tried to be as transparent and honest to staff and this year I feel like that paid off and they only saw me cry twice! We have a solid team and we got through this together – this year has given us the insight into the strengths and compassion of our team.

Feel free to reach out to me if you want any guidance on working through the Australian System to execute events, hear more about the contactless scanner system or want a copy of our COVID Management Plan that was submitted and approved for exemption by the Ministry of Health – we are all in this together.

hailey.mason@the-shift.agency