It’s been exactly one year since the pandemic shut us down. One whole fucking year.
We aren’t speaking figuratively. It’s been exactly one year since we literally had to turn the truck around. It was the event management equivalent of this:
…but without Padma Lakshmi. Not a great day.
Here’s how it went down:
The long version:
We had a big 2020 planned. Elaborate activations, experiential events, so many creative concepts coming to life…it was going to be our best year yet.
We had just wrapped an international broadcast event created for a client to announce a billion-dollar merger. We hosted the event in five locations: three in the states, one in Bangalore, India, and one in Brussels, Belgium. The Shanghai activation was cancelled at the last minute due to COVID closures, so the virus was top of mind for us, but not cause for concern outside of Asia. This was before masking was recommended by the CDC, and handwashing and protecting the elderly and immunocompromised was the primary concern.
So we replaced shaking hands with fist bumps, stocked up on Lysol products, and powered on. (We even made a meme about it- check it out here).
March 11, 2020.
The day of the shutdown was brutal. Decibel Event Management was finalizing a mobile marketing tour launch for a CPG client, for debut at the Boston St. Patty’s Day Parade. We had spent months planning the tour, designing a badass mobile oatmeal bar for parade-goers, securing site and health permits, fabricating and wrapping the van, and training the team.
We were ready to roll and super excited.
Our driver was in the tour truck, heading to the event site, when we got the email:
Turn the driver around. Everything is off.
So there it was. March 11, 2020 at 11:54am, and we were cancelled.
That was the same day that the World Health Organization declared that COVID-19 was a global pandemic. Soon thereafter, the NBA announced the cancellation of their season.
That was a turning point. If a billion-dollar machine couldn’t make things safe for guests, no corporation wanted to put their attendees at risk. Within hours of the NBA’s announcement, 100% of our live events were cancelled, and the reality of living through a global pandemic set in.
The New Normal.
We’re not the only company that experienced a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. Across the board, the event industry was among the first hit, and the hardest. Our job as event planners, producers and organizers is to bring crowds together, and all of a sudden, crowds were the enemy.
So you give yourself a day, and then figure it out. Adapt or die.
Enter: Zoom calls. Masks. Hand sanitizer. The proper way to wash your hands (hello, thumbs). A new appreciation for toilet paper. And yes, a daytime Scotch (or two). Staying in became the new normal, and rapidly reshaping our business (while ignoring our abandoned, dust-accumulating luggage) became our only option. We leaned in.
We were fortunate to have some projects remain, from fabrication builds to new tech R&D, and are so grateful that new and existing clients trusted us to lend our virtual event experience to their digital activation.
March 11, 2021.
It’s been a year since our plans went up in smoke. We miss our old life. We miss our clients, our partners, and our vendors. We miss handshakes and hugs.
We miss the thrill of turning a temporary space into an unforgettable experience. There just nothing like the rush of a crowd, the sound of applause, and the look on someone’s face when they first see a badass experiential activation in person. Hell, we even miss tearing down those same activations, just a few days later.
Good Things to Come.
We’re starting to see the sun on the horizon, and it’s s l o w l y thawing out the live event industry freeze. Vaccinations are rolling out at warp speed (thank you, science!), and we’re elated to report that the outlook for mid-to-late 2021 for both hybrid and in-person events is optimistic, with high hopes for 2022.
It’s been a tough year. But we’re here, we’re open for business, and we’re proud of what we have accomplished.
And as soon as it’s safe, we can’t wait to see you in a crowded room.