I started my wedding and event planning business during the aftermath of the 2008 recession, the worst economic crash since the Great Depression. This oncoming recession, triggered by the Corona Virus, will likely not be as bad, though it never hurts to prepare for the worst. And, it’s already been devastating to the meeting and hospitality industry, given the number one way to transmit the disease is by person to person contact, and large groups are forbidden or recommended against by federal and local governments.
Here are some tips to manage the crisis if you have a meeting and event planning business.
1. Rip off the bandaid and embrace the reality
False hope is dangerous at this time. Your business may be in a standstill as long as there are self-isolation measures in place. Immediately start to look at other skills you have in the work force and opportunities for freelancing. Start thinking about low-season type pricing for the clients who do need to have meetings or social events (likely small), or hourly pricing.
2. Prepare for long term effects and restructure your event planning offerings accordingly
It was quite some time before I could make a steep increase in my pricing – 2012 was the pivot point for me. Prior to then, I was charging a moderate amount, and raised my pricing the busier I got, but in 2012 I raised my pricing by about 20% across the board. After this recession, we may have a quick rebound, but don’t count on it. Wedding clients may not want to hire a coordinator or planner; consider new packages, such as “DIY Assistance” that may be hourly consultation on helping clients do most of the work themselves, or Month of Coordination, or even Week of Coordination. (Not that I like that idea – but have the option ready in your arsenal, just in case.)
3. Be smart with your expenditures
Everyone in my family is really cold at home now because I don’t want to get huge utility bills while we all work from home! I know, I’m a miser. But now is the time to make lattes at home, cut down on large expenses, and postponing big purchases.
4. Be ready for clients’ event planning questions as they pertain to COVID 19
Do your research, share advice and brainstorming virtually with tele-meetings with your colleagues, and share this intel with your clients. Talk about adjustments to make at events in regards to social distancing (such as friendly signage to encourage as such); serving drinks straight out of the bottle to discourage any spread of germs (and arrange for recycling from the site); and brush up on re-booking policies with venues and hotels. The more knowledgeable you are, the more people will be likely to book with you, in a much more competitive market.
5. Don’t panic.
We’ll get through this – this too shall pass. We’ve been through the Great Recession, 9/11, and so many other difficult times. But, be realistic – maybe consider part time work outside the industry as positions come available to steady the road to recovery. And hang in there – we will survive, and be stronger for it.