We’ve all been through a lot in this past year. Health and wellness in the events industry have never mattered more than now, which is why today, Sarah welcomes not one, but three iconic guests to share what they’ve worked on since the pandemic started.
Kristin Horstman is a senior director at Salesforce and has been on our show just recently, Johnnie White is the CEO of the American Society of Appraisers, and Rachael Riggs is a WellBeing Leader at Maritz Global Events. And what does this panel have in common? Together, they wrote a guidebook on wellness and health in the events industry and that’s what they’ll be talking about today!
Health & Wellness In The Events Industry
Our host Sarah is a huge empath, so it makes sense that she is eager to learn more about the guidebook her iconic guests put together. “How did you realize that there’s something lacking within our industry that helps planners around health and wellness?”
Johnnie starts telling the story of how they helped promote health and wellness in the events industry. “As we came into this pandemic, the hospitality industry was hit the hardest. A lot of our colleagues either lost their jobs, got furloughed, or they were being overworked,” he begins. “Working with the Events Industry Council (EIC), we started with the process of figuring out how we can develop resources for the workforce to help them in those three different areas. As we started to dive into the solutions to provide these individuals, from reskilling to upskilling, we also saw there was a component there with wellness. These individuals were under a lot of stress. They just lost a job after working at an organization for 20 years. Others, on the other hand, had to start working on different tasks than before, related to virtual and hybrid events.”
The APEX COVID-19 Business Recovery Task Force And Guidance
And so, the team realized they needed to develop wellness resources for events people in distress. And that’s how the task force within the EIC was created. “Kristin was our fearless leader in the APEX COVID-19 Business Recovery Task Force and Guidance,” Rachael explains. “She recruited me because she’s been a customer of mine. We also worked together at SmithBucklin. Knowing that I’m really passionate about health and wellness in the events industry, she brought me in. We wanted to be of service to the industry and to all of the people that were affected by the pandemic.”
“At Maritz where I work, we created a framework, called the Maritz 5 Dimensions of Wellbeing, which were then incorporated into the task force’s resource guide. We have organized the guidebook with tips and resources based on five dimensions: financial wellbeing, personal wellbeing, career wellbeing, social wellbeing, and environmental wellbeing. We made sure that you could have these checklists with each one of these buckets, because when people are stressed, they can get a little bit clouded. So, giving them checklists and guideposts really helped.”
“I love that you’re giving people something tangible and something to check off,” says Sarah. “That’s awesome.”
“As soon as COVID hit and everybody was shelter-in-place, we became counselors to our affected friends and our colleagues,” says Kristin. “Whether it was their job loss or being at home with kids and family and caring for others. We just all needed a safe space.”
Staying healthy in 2020 was no easy feat, so they provided a safe space with a webinar where people could have honest, raw conversations. “A lot of these people have never been laid off and that really affected their health and wellness. We putt this guidebook together because we wanted to provide at least some of resources.”
But their work didn’t stop there. “As we go into 2021, people are going to have different types of wellness needs,” Kristin explains.” They will undoubtedly arise from the return to live events, for example. “Do I want to go? Can I go? Is that person vaccinated sitting next to me or not? There’s a lot left to talk about,” she adds.
Health & Wellness In Events In The New Normal
Sarah then asks the panel to set their gaze in the future. We now know what work they had done in 2020, but what does wellness in events entail in the new normal?
“Imagine a person who may have been furloughed for the last six months and now they’re coming back to their sales position,” says Johnnie. “It may take different skills for them to be in that position. The landscape has changed and the objectives are definitely different.” Wellness in events is concerned with guiding people through such processes. “Those who have been laid off need to figure out how to get back into the market. You were a VP and you’re not seeing VP positions out there, so how do you get back to the workforce? What story do you tell that employee who sees that you may be overqualified for that position, but still want to bring you on?”
Rachael builds on Johnnie’s thoughts with a personal story. “I was furloughed for four or five months and I was ready to go back to the way I left it. But that was not what we were doing. I had to change my mindset pretty quickly because I was observing what was happening,” she says. She also shares her thoughts from a company perspective. “I was brought back because we’re focusing fully on the attendee experience and how their safety, security, and wellbeing is cared for. It’s different than it was before and it will never really mean the same again.”
A Rising Need For Holistic Event Strategists
As a professor, Johnnie wants future event profs to conceptualize event planners as event strategists. “The first day of class, I talk about all the tasks that are associated with event planning. At the end of that exercise, they see all the different responsibilities an event planner has, from marketing and budgeting to HR. A lot that goes into that, so I call these professionals event strategists because they’re trying to strategize all the different elements that are associated with putting that program together. We’re starting to see more of that now because people are encouraged to look at the entirety of the event, not just that one component.”
“Did anything really shock you when you were making discoveries about wellness in events and creating toolkits for people to use?”, asks Sarah.
Kristin was taken aback when she realized how unprepared people were for a crisis, both in their personal and professional lives. “Some didn’t even have a LinkedIn page and couldn’t connect with people.” She was also pleasantly surprised by the empathy event professionals had for one another in those trying times. “So many people were picking up on phone calls. Even before we put any resources together, everybody was checking in with one another.”
“I was really happy to see the community that came about in all of this,” adds Rachael. “I was the chapter president for the PCMA Greater Midwest Chapter last year. We actually had our last face-to-face meeting on March 11th. And that was the last time we saw all of our Chapter friends. Then, what we did after everything started coming off the rails is we started creating weekly check-ins. The learning and the community that came out of that as an industry is pretty fascinating.”
Wellness In Events Starts With You & Your Network
Rachael, Kristin, and Johnnie share their last tips for event planners. Knowing all of the challenges they will be facing, they all suggest the same: lean on other people.
“Depend on your relationships because that is really going to help you be sound in your plans going forward,” says Rachael. “You never know what’s going to be around the corner. We’ve all learned that. So, grow the relationships that you have in the industry.” Kristin echoes Rachel’s words. “Reach out, use your network. It will help you greatly.” Connect on LinkedIn, send that email, and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
“You’re not on an island by yourself. There are many resources out there, so use them by reaching out to your colleague. You can also find a new colleague that can help you through this,” agrees Johnnie. Another piece of the wellness in events puzzle is patience. “Things work out. What’s happening today is not going to be a thing tomorrow.” So just have faith!