#WishIWasThere builds conversation, support for event planning industry

COVID-19 has shifted the event planning world on its axis in the last six months. For an industry built around the concept of bringing people together to learn, share, and celebrate, our very survival as individuals depends on staying apart. 

Event planners and vendors have used their creativity and resourcefulness well during this time. As events have moved to hybrid and virtual formats, event planners have kept things moving as best possible. 

But while the ability to navigate these difficult times is inspiring, there’s no getting away from the fact that the event industry has experienced catastrophic financial losses since March. 

A major impact on a major industry

The events industry is no small potatoes. According to the 2018 analysis by Allied Markets Research, the global events industry size was valued at $1,100 billion. An in-depth analysis by Plug and Play found that prior to COVID-19: 

  • 2.5 million jobs were supported by the meetings industry
  • For every dollar spent on in-person meetings and business events, an additional $1.60 was generated for the U.S. economy 

COVID-19 wiped out in-person events in the spring and summer. A survey by PCMA regarding business events found that 87% of respondents canceled or postponed their events. 7 out of 10 businesses made the decision to transition events to virtual platforms. And though this may seem like a temporary measure, 25% of surveyed by PCMA saw digital events ultimately replacing face-to-face events.

And while data is still being gathered regarding the full financial impact of COVID-19 on the events industry, it’s looking dim. Consider this: the US-based event management and ticketing platform Eventbrite laid off 45% of its employees in May, facing a loss of $146.5 million in March alone. 

That’s just for events software!

Drawing awareness to an industry in need

#WishIWasThere arises from Live Events Coalition, an organization that came to life as a way to support businesses, contractors, and workers in the events industry. Since March, their immediate goals were to provide immediate assistance for industry professionals and to advocate for the industry and make sure that the industry is brought into the fold of any federal relief packages. 

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The live events industry is 12 million people strong and needs help to sustain it until it is safe for large groups to gather again. As the first ones to shut down, we will be the last ones able to get back to business. We're asking @govmurphy @nygovcuomo for relief in these areas to help keep the #liveevents industry alive: – An updated and improved PPP program – An updated and improved EIDL program – The ability for businesses who have already received PPP and EIDL to reapply based on need – Easier access to SBA 7a funding – An updated and improved PUA program #wishiwasthere #gotoshout #LiveEventsCo #EventsAid #fundus #savetheeventindustry #liveevents #eventproduction #liveeventscoalition #nycevents #njevents @liveeventsco @nynjliveeventscoalition

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What does the hashtag mean, though? In the campaign’s launch, Live Events Coalition writes, “We all share in some degree of nostalgia for the fun summer events being canceled this year. We need your help to remind everyone that not only are they missing out on a good time, but that you’re experiencing financial uncertainty.”

As a hashtag, #WishIWasThere is part of a three-phase campaign launched in July. The Live Events Coalition is using the campaign to generate awareness among policymakers during the summer session in Washington D.C. Supporters are being encouraged to use the #WishIWasThere and #LiveEventsCo hashtags in relevant social media posts and tag their representatives. 

Currently, Live Events Coalition has a substantial website built up as a resource for industry professionals, with guides to the CARES Act and other forms of government support, mutual aid programs, and trust funds that can provide financial relief for workers. It also provides avenues for getting involved for those wanting to contribute. 

If you or your colleagues are needing assistance or support during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a range of resources beyond Live Events Coalitions’ (excellent) site.  Both Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) have detailed resource pages for professionals looking for help in moving events online, as well as links to skill development. 

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