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Competing Event Industry Players Ditch Rivalries to Fight Covid-19

By Victoria Copans

In the weeks since the coronavirus outbreak ravaged the events industry, event professionals around the globe are uniting to join the fight against Covid-19. Competitors become collaborators as lending a helping hand might be the lifeline they need to weather the storm.

 

The events industry has been one of the hardest hit by the ongoing pandemic, but it has shown incredible adaptability and resilience in the face of cancelled events and lost revenues.

Venues around the world have been converted into mass temporary hospitals to help out with the coronavirus response, and some event professionals have been adapting their business models to be able to put their skills to use, even if it's not strictly for event planning and production.

Now, many event businesses — even those normally in competition with one another — are turning to healthcare initiatives to provide their expertise where it's most needed and find new avenues for work.

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Event Companies Band Together

The new Live for Life Live-Event Industry COVID-19 coalition — currently limited to the US — aims to capitalize on that intent to help organize healthcare efforts around the country. Founded by three companies, George P. Johnson, Czarnowski, and Exploring Inc., it now has over 220 members, and the group is still open to anyone who is looking to help.

Live for Life's website includes a directory of all its members and service offerings. Representatives from the three founding partners review each request that comes in and coordinate an appropriate response based on the resources available. Many requests require more than one member's support, so having everything centralized is key to the initiative's effectiveness.

Chris Meyer, CEO of George P. Johnson, spoke to us about the motivation behind its creation.

The reason that we pulled this together is that we saw a tremendous amount of interest from our industry to want to help, but it wasn't coordinated.

CHRIS MEYER
CEO, George P. Johnson

 

Meyer also emphasized the relative ease with which the industry was able to come together to aid in the fight against COVID-19, as event professionals are the obvious choice to work on the kinds of projects that are needed to combat the virus and care for patients.

We typically work in more corporate environments, but the actual tactics and experiences that event professionals have are very transferrable. That was one of the drivers for us, we saw how easy it would be to pivot both in our services as well as the type of talent that typically exists in the event world.

CHRIS MEYER
CEO, George P. Johnson

 

As their website notes: "Under normal circumstances, many of the companies in our coalition are competitors. Under these circumstances, we are all collaborators."

 

This same spirit gave rise to a similar initiative out of Portugal, Events4Covid19. “We want to do ‘our part’ in the fight against Covid19 as agents of the events sector and engines of an industry used to responding to great challenges.”

Events4Covid19 is an assembly of event professionals from the North to the South who are in the perfect position to be an “ally in the construction of temporary hospitals, triage centers, isolation rooms or set up support structures for whatever is necessary.”

  • Above all, we have people ready to work and eager to help in this fight!

The pandemic has changed the nature of the events industry in more ways than one, and these coalitions demonstrate the industry's ability to pivot to a more effective way of working during this time that can benefit everyone.

 

Healthcare Initiatives

As hospitals are overrun and countries scramble to find enough PPE for their medical and other professionals, there has been a movement throughout the events industry to support healthcare workers and infrastructure.

T3 Expo, the contracting company in charge of setting up the American International Toy Fair at the Javits Center in February, was tapped to help turn the convention center into a temporary field hospital in just three days:

In Pennsylvania, event production company EventQuip is providing tent rentals for drive-thru testing and medical examinations, and in London, Live for Life member GES helped build patient rooms at the ExCeL London convention center last month.

The Live for Life coalition aims to harness the drive from the events industry to help healthcare efforts and make it easier and more streamlined for everyone involved. They are currently offering everything from large custom-built structures based on those in the Javitz center to different components of PPE to small 3D printed parts for medical devices.

Initially there was a very high percentage of requests for physical structures — now there's a lot more requests coming in for PPE as well as logistical support. It's kind of shifted away from just venues to also more project management, logistical based services.

CHRIS MEYER
CEO, George P. Johnson

 

In addition to providing everything from intercoms to sustenance for hospital staff, Portugal’s Events4Covid19 initiative is currently setting up an isolation zone in the Pavilhão da Tapadinha to support the homeless, integrating the response capability of the neighbourhood’s firefighters in accordance with the city’s contingency plans.

 

Guaranteeing the Safety of All Involved

There are also strict measures being put in place to ensure workers' safety — as much as event professionals are putting their knowledge and skills to good use, they're not trained medical providers.

Meyer explains that the coalition has set up guidelines for their internal facilities including health and temperature checks and that all local and federal guidelines are being followed in the event that people are sent onsite. However, he notes that if the coalition “can't feel confident that we can put people in a safe place, then we may offer materials as opposed to people."

Live for Life has yet to implement any large-scale solutions but is in talks with the CDC and FEMA about how their expertise can be deployed to set up mass vaccination or testing centers. Several Live for Life members are GSA approved, meaning that they can easily work on projects that are government-funded.

The coalition has agreed to provide all services at cost with no intention of making a profit, which will further help the government and other hospital groups using their services considering the financial burden of these types of projects — the field hospitals being built in Colorado alone are estimated to cost $71 million.

 

A Lifeline for the Industry

Throughout the industry's most recent downturn, virtual events have been one of the main viable sources of revenue, especially since most live events are unlikely to resume until Q4 at the earliest.

However, initiatives like Live for Life, Events4Covid19, as well as individual initiatives by event companies are a vital step in getting event professionals back to work and keeping the industry alive. Meyer notes that this was a very important element in the creation of the coalition as well.

Part of the reason for founding this coalition was providing some level of jobs or opportunities for people in the event management business. Every hour we can get people working, that's a huge initiative for this consortium.

CHRIS MEYER, CEO
George P. Johnson

 

Helping the healthcare effort in this way provides the additional benefit of doing good — not only is the industry finding any way to keep people afloat, but in doing so it's performing meaningful work and making a difference until things return to some semblance of normalcy.

Another eventprof-led initiative advocating for the benefit of the industry is Go LIVE Together, an assembly of event industry leaders who are helping those in the industry break down the legislation, stay up to date, find Covid-19 resources, and prepare for a return to live events. The purpose of the group is to make sure that, once given the all-clear, events can resume as quickly, effectively, and safely as possible so they can play their rightful role in the recovery of the economy.

 

IN CONCLUSION

Tough times are far from over for the events industry and for the world that continues to battle the pandemic — although there is some hope that things are starting to look up.

Through initiatives such as Live for Life, the industry continues to adapt and make the most of the situation it's facing. In the coming weeks, look for there to be more news coming out of the coalition as it works with government agencies and aims to provide key services in the ongoing coronavirus effort.

about the author

Victoria Copans
Victoria Copans is a Vermont-based writer, editor, and translator who's been planning events since grade school. She worked at an events agency before transitioning to writing about the industry.
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