They didn’t teach us about pandemics in meeting planning school. It was never mentioned in any of the courses or certificate programs I’ve taken. I never even thought to include the virus in a hotel
force-majeure clause. 10 years of working in the meetings and events industry and I had no clue. Never crossed my mind yet it only took a few months to kill hundreds of thousands of people, destroy the economy, and literally deplete face to face events for the foreseeable future. Think about that for a second.
The world was not prepared. I woke up every day to the looming death toll, the endless news cycle on the need for more ventilators, and the restrictions on large gatherings. It did take a toll emotionally. I felt guilty even thinking about the travel and hospitality industry when there were others facing near-death experiences with the virus. So many people I knew and worked closely with lost their jobs. My beloved hotel partners were furloughed and hotels closed. Some of the largest events and conferences in the country began to cancel. One following the other. Meeting professionals everywhere were now lawyers. It seems as though overnight we graduated law school and started negotiating contracts and force-majeure clauses like the bosses that we are. I witnessed our industry planners come together and lend a helping hand whenever needed. They didn’t teach that in meeting planning school either but we still acted.
I long for the travel days, ballroom inspections, and waking up before the sun to set meeting space and mic checks. I’m serious! You have to love this job because if you don’t, you will be miserable. Meeting planners don’t mess around when it comes to their events. They will take it personally which is why this virus stabbed us in the heart.
What now? In my head, I try to picture what the future of meetings and events will look like. Temperature checks, masks, chairs 6 feet apart. Will rapid testing be available and mandatory at my future event? What will the first flight look and feel like?
I honestly don’t know. What I do know is that whatever that’s coming, we will figure it out together. They didn’t teach that in meeting planning 101, either.