How have you adjusted your business to be ready post COVID-19?

How have you adjusted your business to be ready post COVID-19?
A year into the pandemic and with vaccines available, live events are returning in mostly hybrid or micro versions.  Event Pros shared with us how they have been preparing over the past months for the real deal.

Venues are booking up on Friday’s, Saturday’s, and Sunday’s with many couples opting for weeknights, with smaller guest counts but more bells and whistles.

What can we look forward to in weddings and events as we slowly climb out of the doldrums of the worst setback for planners and caterers in our lifetimes?

Yes, there were setbacks in the early 80’s, the late 80’s, the dotcom bubble bursting in the early 2000’s and the great recession later on that decade. But, nothing compares to what we’re going through today.

And I’m the glass full guy, not the glass half empty guy. There are some glimmers of hope on the horizon.

In South Florida, couples are tying the knot in record numbers. Smaller weddings, but many more than I’ve ever seen.

Venues are booking up on Friday’s, Saturday’s, and Sunday’s with many couples opting for weeknights, with smaller guest counts but more bells and whistles.

On the corporate side the picture continues to be gloomy. Many of my DMC friends have moved on into other fields. Planners who commanded teams in
double digits are now doing the work themselves.

This pandemic has forced all of us to re-evaluate our businesses, looking for ways to cut costs, without cutting service and quality.

Here’s what to look for in 2021 and beyond:

  • Bright Colors to Cheer Us Up from Those Dark Days of Yore
  • Fewer Buffets but Food Stations Behind Plexiglass Shields and Served Meals
  • Sustainable Catering and Products—Eco and Environmentally Friendly
  • Look for QR Codes for Menu Planning and Design
  • Sanitation Stations Are a Must at Events
  • Small Plates for Catered Events on the Rise
  • Using Local Resources
  • Plant Based Menus with Smaller Portions of Meat
  • Add More Heat to the Menu Dishes—Activate Taste Buds with Spices
  • Curated Culinary Boxes Delivered to Team Members Working from Home
  • Less Flowers and More Greenery on Tables
Bill Hansen

Bill Hansen

CEO

Bill Hansen Catering, Miami, FL

Though guest counts may look smaller, we do have some incredible events coming up this year and I cannot wait to share them!

We are so excited for our 2021 events and we are ready!  Like many, I still cannot believe that we are discussing this pandemic.  1 year ago, I thought this would last a month, maybe 3 tops, yet here we are.

We are definitely readjusting our business and planning for the upcoming year.  Living in NY we just got word that weddings will be allowed pending NYS Health Department Approval, a negative covid test result, and at 50% capacity with no more than 150 guests.  Knowing these details, we are staying on top of the health department and local offices to ensure we know all of the details of the restrictions as soon as they are released.  We feel it is our responsibility to know the guidelines and to inform all of our clients as soon as we know.

We have also hired more part time staff to help out.  This year is going to be a busy one and we need all of the help we can get.  With the possibility of a staff member having to be on mandatory quarantine or possibly get Covid, we need to be prepared.  We have brought up 2 team members as leads to take on more responsibilities.  We are also ensuring that team members are aware of all details much further in advance as backup.

While the restrictions have loosened up, there are still some couples that would rather wait until 2022.  We have reevaluated our cancelation and postponement policies going forward.  We have also created postponement packages and consultation packages for those who do not want a full planner and need help moving their wedding or reimagining their wedding.

Though guest counts may look smaller, we do have some incredible events coming up this year and I cannot wait to share them!

Samantha Nelson

Owner

EVL Events, Ellicottville, NY

COVID reminded me that I was completely reliant on one stream of income - a position I will never allow myself to be in again - and something I am actively addressing. 

My entire business was built on producing large scale live in-person events, which COVID took away from us. The obvious strategy would have been for me to shift into producing virtual events but if I’m being honest, I’m not a fan of them and thankfully neither are my clients. I didn’t want to just flip into something I wasn’t truly passionate about.

So I had to relook at what I COULD focus on during the pandemic that would help me once again feel purpose & passion. That brought a long-term business goal to the forefront: I want to be the mentor that I wished I had and (eventually) produce my own educational and personal development events, where I am on stage with a speaker lineup consisting of all of the mentors I look up to.

With that in mind, I created and launched my first online masterclass 7 Steps to Event Success! specifically designed to help event professionals get bums in seats (when we can be in person) and eyes on screens. (I may not love producing virtual myself, but I know how to get people to show up.)

COVID reminded me that I was completely reliant on one stream of income – a position I will never allow myself to be in again – and something I am actively addressing.

Melissa Park

Global Event Producer

Even though this year might bring us only small weddings, from summer 2020 experience, we now know how gorgeous and full of stunning little details small weddings can be.

Looking ahead into 2021 we have to stay positive and realize that even though the full size events are unlikely to happen in Toronto and surrounding areas in the near future, the small and intimate yet beautiful and cozy events and weddings will be a new exciting trend! All new inquiries that we are getting for 2021 are for the micro weddings and we are loving them!

One of the ways we have adjusted our business is that we created packages for Small Weddings and for Ceremony Only Weddings called Little Chic Weddings. We also partnered up with some venues and vendors who are open for the micro weddings and created some packages with them in order to offer our clients All-Inclusive packages. These Little Chic Weddings are getting lots of attention right now, which we are very happy about.

Some of our clients who moved from 2020 to 2021 and have bigger numbers of guests and are not willing to reduce their numbers, are now considering to postpone to 2022, which is understandable. We implemented new terms and conditions into our contracts and we are here to provide more support and help to our existing as well as new clients who are struggling with postponements procedures, because it involves a lot of moving parts, a lot of vendors and a lot of contracts that need to be adjusted. Long story short it involves lots of stress that we can remove from our couples’ shoulders.

We are constantly following news and keeping our clients up to date with the changes of the restrictions for the events. Our team is trained to handle weddings during Covid times and we always have someone on stand-by in case any of the assigned coordinators won’t be able to work due to the Covid related reasons.

Even though this year might bring us only small weddings, from summer 2020 experience, we now know how gorgeous and full of stunning little details small weddings can be. With all the amazing new outdoor venues and options that we discovered last year, we are so looking forward to the new wedding season this year and we have a good feeling about it!!

Stay positive, friends, good times are not too far any more!

Fidan Ismayilova

Fidan Ismayilova

Founder

Designed Dream Events, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Post-pandemic, we are ready to shift layouts and capacities and be flexible as new rules around social distancing come into effect and as venues vary with restrictions.

Our industry faced a seismic shift that will change our industry forever. We innovated our event experience to ensure for all of our clients we were ready to provide an as real experience as an IRL event or a micro hybrid experience.

Post-pandemic, we are ready to shift layouts and capacities and be flexible as new rules around social distancing come into effect and as venues vary with restrictions. We know we have to train and/or advise our MC, speakers, and our auctioneer on how to best navigate the audience that is 1) used to virtual, and 2) is now in a socially distanced environment – which will change how you engage your audience. We are ready for that!

In the end, we want to make sure that we have a strict healthy and safe environment with food and beverages, networking experiences, and entertainment while celebrating in a fun and interactive way as attendees have been hunkered down. For all events, moving forward, we will require cleaning/sanitation measures from our vendors and venues working with our events. Increased sanitation efforts plus added supplies at attendee check-in will be necessary to protect the safety of our work environment and attendees while allowing us to continue to service the event.

AJ Williams

Founder/ Creative Director

AJ Events, Boston, MA

We are bringing back a small team part-time to focus on those live event elements while still keeping up the demands of producing virtual events.

In March of 2020, we were forced to furlough everyone which lead us to eventually release most of our staff. Upon obtaining grants and PPP, we rehired a few people and shifted our event services to focus on virtual events.

That decision and pivot have generated a revenue stream that, along with the second round of grants and PPP, have allowed us to hold onto our warehouse, keep our inventory of props and our truck. So now as demand is picking back up as families and companies look towards a post-COVID live event, we are bringing back a small team part time to focus on those live event elements while still keeping up the demands of producing virtual events. We are excited that our team can service hybrid events all in house moving into 2021.

Heidi Hiller

Owner | Creative Director

Innovative Party Planners, Baltimore, Maryland

I have added philanthropic work to our business plan, which I had not done prior.

We actually started a grassroots nonprofit and are helping out healthcare workers across the country. We are working with them to create PPE and provide as much support as is needed. We have not stopped helping hospitals, clinics, and battered women shelters.  We found a need and provided support. 

The secret to surviving is thriving in another area.  We found that using our planning skillset to impact others has made a world of difference in our business and lives.  I have added philanthropic work to our business plan, which I had not done prior.  Our efforts were honored by Kelly and Ryan, GMA and the Today show.

JoAnn Gregoli

Owner

Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregoli, New York City, NY

Like many other event professionals, I’ve embraced the opportunities and possibilities with virtual meetings.

Like many other event professionals, I’ve embraced the opportunities and possibilities with virtual meetings. While we can’t necessarily come together the way we have in the past, important conversations still need to happen and business still needs to take place. Meetings and conferences are too important for us to skip a year, and virtual platforms provide exceptional potential for creating impactful dialogue, sharing essential information, and helping to connect individuals when we feel so far apart from each other.

I’m grateful for the learning experience this year has given me so that post COVID, I can support clients whether their events are in-person, virtual, or hybrid, and create more strategic offerings to best meet their needs.

Heather Herrig

President/Chief Event Strategist

Every Last Detail, Atlanta, GA

We have prepared our team for the upcoming events season by certifying our whole team as Pandemic Compliance Advisors.

We have prepared our team for the upcoming events season by certifying our whole team as Pandemic Compliance Advisors. This allows us to go into every event with the knowledge and resources we need to accurately host socially-safe events both for the safety of our team and our clients and their guests. Regaining the trust of our vendor partners and our clients means taking all precautions and properly planning for events in a way that best suits everyone’s level of comfortability while maintaining all of the rules and regulations.

Tionna Van Gundy

Wedding Planner & CEO

Wedicity, Chicago, IL

Since we also do flowers, we have added more balloon installations and are looking into other sources of income until we are 100% back up and running. 

In Tennessee, we are still allowed to have events, but they are very modified – smaller numbers and changes to the way the food is served, etc.

We have started to promote smaller micro wedding and luxury elopements. Since we also do flowers, we have added more balloon installations and are looking into other sources of income until we are 100% back up and running.

Kelsey Connor

Owner/Lead Planner

Connor & Co., Memphis, TN

I decided to do a complete rebranding...

Over the past year, I needed to do *something* to fill my time as the wedding business has remained skittish through 2020, and bookings for 2021 are just now starting to revive.

So, I decided to do a complete rebranding, not only to update and target my business more precisely, but also because I relocated my home and business from Minnesota to Montana. Very different markets, and clientele. And opportunities.

My rebranding efforts involved not only the cross-country relocation, but a new name, a new logo, a new look, and, a new outlook for a strong business moving forward in 2021 and beyond. It’s been an exciting process, and I have received only kudos, for the effort and the results.

Rene Kraus

Owner/Chief Event Officer

Agnes Verano Weddings & Events, Big Sky, Montana

I know that events will be enjoyed in their full capacity again one day soon but the way we have enjoyed them will be different

I have adjusted my business in a way where I am not pivoting so much as evolving my current services, offering something that is more in line with the way events will now be planned, executed and enjoyed. I know that events will be enjoyed in their full capacity again one day soon but the way we have enjoyed them will be different. Think more emphasis on smaller numbers, bigger budgets, better food and installations, less textural and more sensorial.

Anna DiCarlo

Owner + Leader Planner

Forward Events + Design, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

To me, the pandemic was a great learning experience.

To me, the pandemic was a great learning experience. It showed me how solid my business was, and filled me with more energy to persevere. I do see a ray of light ahead, slowly but surely the industry will be back stronger and better prepared.

Jacqueline Vazquez

Owner & CEO

Lifetime Events by Jacqueline, Scarsdale, New York

I believe, as we come together, we will not only learn how to survive, but thrive together and find better ways of doing business, conducting events and helping others.

I have been working with my existing clients to make sure they stay informed with the ever changing climate of events, due to Covid-19. Most of my clients have shifted to hybrid events where we conduct both virtual and in-person meetings. When live events were not possible for March through most of the summer, I worked with clients on managing 100% virtual events. I encouraged all my past and current clients to stay in front of their audiences in a virtual copacity to stay relevant and in touch with them. I created tons of video content on my YouTube channel, did dozens of podcast interviews to let people know what they should be doing while things were on hold in the event industry.

All of us have had to adjust one way or another, in most cases, a lot of ways. However, if we choose to look at the silver lining, work together and come up with solutions, businesses will survive through these rather difficult and challenging times. I believe, as we come together, we will not only learn how to survive, but thrive together and find better ways of doing business, conducting events and helping others.

Sherrie Sokolowski

Owner/Strategic Planner

SLS Event Planning and Consulting,

I utilized my PPP loan to upgrade my website and launched a gourmet cookie mix line.

Well, after recuperating from having Covid19, I pivoted my business. I utilized my PPP loan to upgrade my website and launched a gourmet cookie mix line. I happily tweaked my recipes and sent out an insane amount of samples to my friends to taste test, as well as TikTok influencers for feedback. In the process, I garnered some brand awareness.
My goal is to scale my business and to participate in some food shows and expos in the fall.

Kayisha Shoshana Thompson

Cake Executive Officer

De L’or Cakery Corporation, Bronx, NY

One thing I've done pre-Covid that has really helped my business throughout this time is focusing on retainer clients.

One thing I’ve done pre-Covid that has really helped my business throughout this time is focusing on retainer clients. I spent some time focusing on the value that I really provide to clients and have been able to increase the work I do for a smaller number of clients and have more reliable revenue. This is critical at any time, but especially during times of uncertainty!

Liz Caruso

CEO

Liz King Events, New York City, NY

We have had a few months of putting together an action plan to keep ourselves and clients as safe as we can be.

Here at Chandai Events we have had a few months of putting together an action plan to keep ourselves and clients as safe as we can be. We have offered masks, hand sanitizer, and anti-bacterial soap. As the light at the end of the tunnel shines, post COVID-19, we are making sure our clients and their guests are comfortable at a wedding and socializing.

Chandai Raghunauth

Owner and Planner

Chandai Events, New York City, NY

We have been working diligently with the California Events Coalition...

We have been working diligently with the California Events Coalition and our National partner, the Live Events Coalition, to coordinate with all states to create comprehensive guidelines for a safe reopening.
Kate Whelan

Kate Whelan

Owner & Senior Event Consultant

Kate Whelan Events, Sacramento, CA

Staying deeply connected to the desires and needs of my ideal client has been top of mind throughout the pandemic.

Staying deeply connected to the desires and needs of my ideal client has been top of mind throughout the pandemic. What is it that they fear? What do they crave? As we enter into a post-pandemic world, what do they want to feel? And ultimately, how can I put myself in the best position to service these new needs?

Andrea Eppolito

Owner

Andrea Eppolito Events, Las Vegas, NV

We have had to remain flexible, adaptable and creative but this gives us the opportunity to customize what a client is looking for and come up with unforgettable experiences.

COVID has transformed the events industry a bit differently in Key West than other locations. We are lucky enough to receive many inquiries, but the specifics have changed.  Reduced size, smaller capacity events. Focus on smaller functions. Average attendee count closer to 30 people instead of 50+.

We have begun to offer different packages than we normally would to stay ahead of the curve and welcome the business to The Marker Key West Harbor Resort. This gave us an opportunity to refresh our offerings and get creative.  For weddings, we offer micro wedding all-inclusive packages at different pricing tiers, where anything from your photographer, officiant and venue are included.

We have had to remain flexible, adaptable and creative but this gives us the opportunity to customize what a client is looking for and come up with unforgettable experiences.

The Marker Key West Harbor Resort, Key West , FL