The warning signs hit the events industry early. Amy Zaroff, owner and creative director of Minneapolis-based Amy Zaroff Events + Design says by late February, all of her firm’s corporate events through May were cancelled or postponed both locally and nationally. Now, she’s urging businesses to postpone rather than cancel and she’s using the downtime to prep for what she expects to be a busy second half of the year, and to spotlight how other small businesses are getting through the pandemic.
TCB: How has your work been disrupted by coronavirus?
Zaroff: Beginning in late February, all of our corporate events through May were either cancelled or postponed both locally and nationally. Our social events (such as weddings, milestone birthdays, and mitzvahs) were in a holding pattern week by week until it became clear that we would need to postpone those taking place through at least June in the interest of their guests health, safety and peace of mind.
Q. Have you lost work because of coronavirus?
A | We have lost some work. But we are in the business of creating life’s most memorable experiences and are confident that when this is over, people will want to gather and celebrate again. We're fortunate that most of our clients have chosen to postpone and not cancel.
Q. Do you anticipate work bouncing back quickly or are you bracing for the worst?
A | We anticipate that when this is over, we will be busier than ever due to multiple events that were postponed all happening within a short window of time this fall. We are hopeful that will mean more work for independent contractors and event vendors who lost work during this time and look forward to providing them with opportunities for renewed revenue.
Q. Any advice you’d give businesses that had to put off an event?
A | Advice: Postpone. Don't cancel. Continue planning for late 2020 and in to 2021. You want your vendors to be in business when this is over and delaying the revenue versus eliminating potential income will help insure that. Most event vendors will allow contracts to be transferred to available dates and want to continue to work with you. If you have a spring event planned, start talking to the pros and make a plan. Availability will start to be limited due to the postponements so now is the time to work with those who can assist you and make the process as smooth and easy as possible.
Q. Do you think we’ll see lasting changes to the events industry after this—i.e. smaller weddings, more virtual corporate events?
A| Ninety six percent of engaged couples are currently not cancelling their weddings, according to WeddingPro.com. They are postponing. None of us have a crystal ball, so for now I am cautiously optimistic that as event planners, we can make the necessary accommodations to events to make this work: seat fewer people at each table, offer sanitizing stations, have smaller guest counts.
But if we go completely virtual in lieu of physical, we are taking away the human need for contact and interaction. Our industry won’t allow that to happen. We will make it safe and enjoyable.
Q. Is there much work you can do from home?
A | Fortunately, my team and I can easily work from home thanks to our laptops, phones and the ability to meet our clients face to face on Zoom and FaceTime. We are trying to encourage our clients to continue to meet with us weekly or bi-weekly to keep the momentum of their planning and help them remain positive.
Q. Anything you’re able to do right now to compensate for lost work or create new streams of revenue?
A | Immediately following our shelter in place orders, our event producer, Beth Rubin, suggested we create a daily Instagram Live series called: "Today Is A Reason To Celebrate!" to encourage people to find joy in the little things during these challenging times and help to promote small businesses who are pivoting their day to day work and creating new ways to do what they do at home. This has helped us to not only stay positive, but to remain relevant and top of mind so that when it is safe to gather again, people will be ready to celebrate with us.
Q. You're still recording your podcast, too?
A | Yes! Thanks to Studio Americana, we are able to record our podcast at home. Danielle Arlowe and I have found a lot of laughs and levity in this. It has been a saving grace for us. Hyperbole: The Best Podcast Ever can be found anywhere you get your podcasts.
Q. Any bright spots in this crisis?
A | There are so many bright spots that have come from this unprecedented time. Nationally, venues and hotels have become quarantine facilities, caterers have donated gloves to hospitals and provided meals for those in need, linen companies have used material to sew masks, tent companies have donated tenting for makeshift hospitals and the list goes on and on.
Q. What’s your work from home set up?
A | My work from home set up changes daily. My home is now filled with my family of 4, and my husband is also working from home on calls, while my two sons are doing their online studies (I hope). There truly is no place that is 100% silent except the closet or bathroom.
Q. Best advice to stay productive at home?
A | My advice for remaining productive during this time is to set a routine and stick to it. My team and I meet virtually three times per week. I exercise every day now which is more than I did when we weren’t required to stay home. This not only helps the body but keeps the mind focused and clear. I take 10 minutes to celebrate (at 1pm CST on my Instagram Live) the people and businesses who are making a difference locally and nationally and I spend time with my family at the end of each day to remind myself that is really all that matters.
Get more advice on how businesses and organizations are taking their events online in the interim in the article Everyone's Going Digital. And check out Zaroff's pop culture podcast, Hyperbole: The Best Podcast Ever