By Shari Zatman | EVENT PRODUCER, EVENT DESIGNER, INDUSTRY EDUCATOR
Like many industries, the event industry has seen many changes as a result of the pandemic. During the initial COVID-19 wave in 2020, the hospitality and event industry was shut down for many months—which led to the fallout I am still seeing as an event planner and educator working in the industry.
Here are some of the biggest impacts of COVID-19 the event and hospitality industries are still grappling with—and the ways that training and coaching resources could help:
- Loss of employees: Many personnel were laid off or couldn’t work for such a lengthy period of time. Consequently, many people chose not to wait for things to reopen and left the event industry for other jobs. When we were finally able to start planning events again, things were so slow to reopen that many employers brought staff back in only a limited capacity.
The result of all this is that many employees who did return to the industry now have had to work in several roles—including some they had not done before—in order to help fill in the gaps left behind. Now, there’s a tremendous need to cross-train employees who work in several roles within the event space that we didn’t see prior to the pandemic.
- Temporary staff: Another way many employers have tried to address some of these staffing gaps is by turning to temporary staffing and staffing agencies to fill positions. This often means that the people filling roles are not experienced in event planning and are expected to quickly jump in to help with new tasks—with the expectation to perform them well.
There needs to be some preliminary training and education for these staff members, even if it is limited to basic best practices and expectations. If that personnel then stays in the role, continued training should occur to improve their working knowledge.
- Promoting personnel to roles without enough experience: As personnel left the industry during what’s been dubbed as “The Great Resignation,” employers are looking to staff positions with people who may possess skills needed for the role but don’t have the job experience. In other words, it’s an “aspirational promotion.”
In the event industry, experience and training are crucial in order to use skills to perform a job well. But we’re seeing this happen more often in the industry because people are leaving roles behind before they have had a chance to train those who will be replacing them. When this occurs, an experienced outside professional educator should be brought in to provide training.
- Getting hired for a job right out of school: Pre-pandemic, students would graduate from hospitality management programs and spend time working as interns to gain experience prior to being hired in event roles. But because of the lack of staff in the industry since the start of the pandemic, it’s now more common for personnel to be hired to work in roles directly out of school.
Filling positions with recent graduates puts someone in a role without professional working experience. There is then a need to teach them best practices on the job, as well as to equip them with the knowledge needed to handle situations as they arise in the new role. Proper education must be provided by a veteran, experienced person working with them, or an independent event consultant should be hired to work with new employees to review with them and to discuss expectations for their roles and how to meet them.
- Lowering expectations: It actually pains me to mention this as an event professional who has worked in the industry for 25 years. I have always maintained a high standard of excellence in my performance and expected the same performance from my team and event partners. But since the start of COVID-19, the question now is do we really just need to lower our expectations?
I certainly hope that the answer isn’t, “Yes.”
After reading an overview of the current state of the event and hospitality industry, the biggest recommendation I can make to help with the situation is to increase focus on training and cross-training staff. It is very important for companies to begin building the cost of training into their annual budgets and making that a part of their employee infrastructure. That’s what prompted me to develop a training and coaching program to benefit organizations and a variety of event personnel.
With proper education and training, we should not need to ask our clients to lower their own expectations because connecting personnel with educational resources will give them what they need to provide the strong services that clients deserve.
Shari Zatman is an event producer with more than two decades of experience. She owns two companies: Perfectly Planned by Shari, which focuses on luxury events (like weddings and mitzvahs), and Eventful Event Producers, which focuses on corporate and non-profit events. Her latest venture is event training, coaching and consulting for event and hospitality professionals. She created a handbook and seminars to work with them to identify problem areas, create solutions and share best practices.