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Adapting to Rapid Change in the Events Industry

Innovation & Being Nimble is Key

To so many of us, 2020 can be defined by rapid change, uncertainty and the necessary work of reevaluating strategies that have historically served us well. Born out of this massive shift, is the unique opportunity to be allowed room for trial and error. There is no road map for how to operate a business, conduct business or even do your job during a global pandemic. All we can do as professionals is adapt, reframe, and move forward with courage to try something new, even though there is a distinct possibility of failure. True leadership takes courage, and all of us who have risen to the challenge to adapt during these times can say with confidence that our leadership muscles have been flexed!

Innovation and nimbleness have been the cornerstones of my position at the Chamber. I joined the team in February of 2020, eager and bright-eyed. My new position was a big step in the right direction, and I was excited to run with it. Fast forward only a month, with only one in-person event under my belt, the entire scope of my position was thrown off course. The term adapt or die does not sit well with my positive mindset, but in general, that’s what I felt. As an event professional, the scope of my work depends on in-person connections, experiences, and meetings. One may look at my predicament and say that my world was falling apart. Reflecting back now, I disagree. My work was falling into place.

Virtual events were quickly deemed the way of the future. Streaming platforms of all shapes and sizes were popping up and it seemed as if I was attending five webinars a day. My experience facilitating virtual events and webinars was scarce. Even so, our team rallied together and plotted a plan forward that would bridge the gap between what we had been doing for programs and what our community needed. Priorities changed, work plans were restructured, and the very face of the Chamber took on a new facet. We committed to being the resource for resiliency and rebuilding our business community. Virtual touch points were essential to achieving our goals. None more important that the annual Citizen of the Year Award.

Pivoting an 800 Person Dinner to a Virtual Format

Every year the Greater Manchester Chamber holds an event to honor a Citizen of the Year. This is a tradition that began in 1954 and continues today. The Citizen of the Year award recognizes an individual with outstanding leadership and citizenship in the community, while demonstrating exemplary vision, civic pride and commitment to the betterment of society. In 2019, there was no one more deserving of this title than Peter Ramsey, CEO of the Palace Theatres.

It was imperative that we honor the work and legacy of Peter Ramsey this year more now than ever. His unwavering commitment to enlivening our city through arts and culture is unprecedented. The Palace is a shining jewel on the crown of the Queen City and I would argue that no other organization was more impacted by the sudden closure of the life that we knew than the Palace. Impacted immensely by the sudden loss of ticketing revenue, the Palace Theatres underwent a serious revisioning of how the performing arts industry would look on the other side of this pandemic. No one could know for certain, and the horizon never looked any closer, but with Peter Ramsey at the helm, the Palace persevered. It was imperative that this years Citizen of the Year Celebration mirror the quality, artistic aesthetic, and heart of this year’s honoree.

I was unsure if we could achieve an impactful and engaging virtual event deserving of our dynamic Citizen of the Year. I knew the vision for the event, I could see it clearly but did not know how to translate it digitally and bring it to life. We quickly realized that we would need allies and partners to make this vision a reality. From the expert team of AV and tech wizards at Events United and StudioLab to Kent Rich, videographer and storyteller, to all of our generous and trusting sponsors, we were able to host a beautifully designed Citizen of the Year Celebration on July 15th.

The experience was inspiring as I witnessed small ideas take root and blossom into fully formed moments of beauty and innovation. At every turn in the process, I questioned whether I was ‘doing it right’. How I moved out of that mindset was in remembering that there was no roadmap, there was no template and rather than letting that scare me, I embraced the potential and took the risk.

What developed was a cohesive, direct, and unifying virtual experience that engaged over 2,500 people across numerous digital platforms, created ripples of articles throughout local and regional publications and set the tone for virtual celebrations in this new event world. Some people say that the COVID-19 pandemic is the great equalizer. I would say that it is the great unifier. Through the Citizen of the Year Celebration, I watched with awe as the community rallied around Peter, in celebration of his accomplishments, courageous leadership and incumbent challenges on the horizon. The effect was inspiring and proved that with a little hope, perseverance and partnership, anything is possible.

Nominate the Next Citizen of the Year

We all know that change has come, and that we must adapt. In this moment I am proud of all of area businesses, Non-Profits, startups, and organizations that have met this challenge head on, with courage and confidence that things will get better. Though our world may look different, our community is stronger when we celebrate each other’s successes and differences. I implore you to reflect on this time and how far we, as a community, have come. Who amongst you rose to the occasion without faltering? Who encouraged you to not relent or give up hope? Whose leadership in this time of upheaval was steadfast? Who has made an impact on you, your family, your business, your community? If you know someone who fits the description of the Citizen of the Year, I ask that you put that individual forth for nomination for the 2020 Citizen of the Year. We all are made better by those who exemplify and embody the qualities of the Citizen of Year and we, at the Chamber, cannot wait to celebrate this next Citizen of the Year with you whether virtually, hybrid or in-person. Whatever the future may hold, the Chamber is your partner and ally.

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