‘The Only Certainty in Life is Change’
By Shonna Jordan, owner of Jordan & Jordan Marketing
It was only about three weeks until my big event. I had sold tickets. I had sold exhibit tables. I had sponsors, food and beverage, volunteers, models and music all lined up. I put deposits on the venue and vendors. I invested in programs and pop ups, promotions and products. All the pieces of the puzzle were in place.
And I had just hung up with a friend who told me, “You can NOT have the event! No one is going to come!”
Not just my world, but THE whole world, had just gone on lockdown due to this thing called COVID.
What the hell was I going to do?
Jumping into Action
If you have not read Ken Blanchard’s book, Who Moved My Cheese, I strongly recommend that you do. Someone had just moved my big cheese and I had no time to hem or haw… I HAD TO sniff and scurry… like IMMEDIATELY!
I quickly wrote a script, downloaded a teleprompter app, turned my kitchen into a little studio, put on my “news anchor” face that I learned during my college days, recorded a great “don’t fear, the event isn’t cancelled it’s just postponed temporarily” message, uploaded it to YouTube and blasted it out through every social media outlet and every email I had in my database in less than a day. And then? Then I caved, crumbled, withdrew and went into hiding. I had put on the brave face, but underneath it all, even knowing I really had to keep moving, I was a mess and at a loss. Accustomed to producing and directing events, I found myself with lack of direction in uncertain times.
Not only did I have the March 2020 event, The Business Women’s Mega Mixer, which had to be postponed, I also had already started promoting my second large event, The Business Explosion, slotted for October 2020… both are annual events that were in their eleventh year. On top of that, I own and operate a women’s networking group, Good Ol’ Gals Business Connections, for which I held monthly meetings in three locations. Yea… those also came to a screeching halt in March 2020 and those also had attendees, sponsors and marketplace tables that had already been purchased for March AND April.
Before I could really get a game plan together, I had to get a read on where those who had invested in the meetings and events stood. I was in awe that the vast majority were incredibly understanding and committed to weather this storm with me. And that’s when it REALLY hit me. I wasn’t in this alone. There were a multitude of events that could no longer be held and we didn’t know for how long: no sporting events, no school or school-related functions, no weddings, celebrations, dance parties. No gatherings… at all. The magnitude of this pandemic had finally sunk in and after what I would consider a “fair” amount of time had passed and more than enough wallowing had been done, I started planning again.
Crafting a Plan
Determined to be ready the very second things started to open up again, I got creative. How would I handle putting on an event while still abiding by safety protocols? What could I do to create a safe environment in which participants would be comfortable attending while providing a platform for reconnection and rebuilding while ALSO honoring and respecting the choices of each individual? Ain’t that a doozy? And I wanted to be first to welcome everyone back to in-person events without jumping the gun. Quite the balancing act.
Month after month, I stayed up to date on the state and county guidelines. I took the networking group online and down to just one meeting a month and kept the same vibe behind the computer as I did in front of the room. Maintaining the connection was critical. For the larger business events, I kept in touch primarily with the venue, as they were truly on top of all the most current safety guidelines and projected dates for reopening or moving to the next tier.
It was challenging to keep plugging away, I won’t lie. But as I watched and listened, not only to the news but to my community of business professionals, I had hope. People were chomping at the bit to get back to “normal,” and I was prepared!
From providing commemorative kerchiefs to use as a personal microphone cover to personal, event-branded bottles of hand sanitizer to stars on a “walk of fame” that served double duty as social distance markers! My favorite creative idea was the one that honored individual choices… I provided pins to affix to each attendee’s name badge lanyard that had one of four symbols on it to denote the wearer’s comfort level with contact — from “no contact” or “fist bump only” to “handshakes ok” to “I’m good with it all”! No guilt, no judgement. The Good Ol’ Gals had their first in person meeting at the very end of April 2021… and it was a huge success!
Expect the Unexpected
But what about the two annual events? The GOG Gala (that April networking meeting I just mentioned) was maxed out at 60 attendees to stay within the 25 percent indoor capacity rule at the time. I realized early in 2021 that having the Mega Mixer in March wasn’t going to be an option as it draws upwards of 250 participants and that wasn’t permitted yet. But the Business Explosion could most likely be held in October… so what to do? Get creative, start planning, be prepared… and expect the unexpected. That came in the form of my venue being sold and would no longer be used for events! What the…?!?
The idea came to take the best elements from both events and blend them into ONE BIG EVENT… MegaBOOM2021! But where to hold it now that the venue I had used for years was no longer an option? And within the same budget? I put it out there to my tribe and they came through. The first big business event in my area is ON! And guess what? Even with less time to promote, I’m ready and so are those who have patiently waited.
This journey for me had its major ups and downs, both professionally AND personally, but like many I’ve heard from, I used this unprecedented situation to take stock, do some introspection and self-analysis, set a few things straight and let a few things go. Going through this ordeal gave me a new perspective on my business, my life and my self…. Emerging from it surprisingly a better human for having gone through it.
No matter what life throws our way, getting creative, being prepared and understanding that the only certainty in life is change will keep us moving forward in a positive direction.
Shonna Jordan is the owner of Jordan & Jordan Marketing, a North San Diego County-based marketing agency which, in addition to brand development, marketing messaging and marketing materials development for small businesses, also produces two annual events: The Business Women’s Mega Mixer and The Business Explosion. Jordan writes, speaks and trains on various marketing and business-related topics and owns and operates the women’s networking organization, Good Ol’ Gals Business Connections. You can contact her via e-mail at email@example.com.
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