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moving forward in uncertain times

7 Ways You Can Move Forward in Difficult Times For The Meetings Industry

Friends, can I tell you about the day COVID19 struck our industry?  It was Thursday March 12th, 2020.  Up until then, I had one client looking to cancel their April meeting in Houston TX, and the hotel did not see COVID19 as a force majeure event.  No one did.  Then, Thursday March 12th happened.  Over the course of one day, perhaps even one hour, all of my client’s March and April conferences were looking to cancel or postpone.  From dozens of upcoming meetings, to zero.  Boom.  In the span of minutes, my comfy life as a site selection professional went to uncertainty, fear and desperation.  There was no moving forward.  Everything was at a stand-still.

That day was an absolute blur.  Ten hour days talking to clients, negotiating with hotels, back and forth and back again on force majeure clauses.

The business that I built for 13 years was gone.  I was heartbroken and devastated.  I couldn’t breathe.

Can you relate?

All of us were heartbroken that day.  Planners saw their hard work go down the drain.  Hotel sales managers saw the imminent decision to furlough employees.  Associations scrambling to repair finances now that their meetings (and revenue-generators) are not going forward.

That one day forcing us all to reinvent and reimagine our lives without meetings.

The days following March 12th are still a blur.  Planners still trying to figure out how to salvage their meetings.  I was still negotiating with hotels and trying to find slivers of space for my client’s program to squeeze into before December 31st.  I was also learning as much as I could about how COVID19 and how it was affecting areas across Canada and the US.  I lost sleep, I dreamed COVID, and I cried.

Ten hour days, difficult conversations, constantly creating content,  everyone stressed out to the max… and no pay.  And then the doubts set in.  Doubts about whether or not I did my absolute best to help each and every client in those early days.  Did I give them every assurance that I was truly there for them?  Did I give them comfort, or just add to their stress with all the changes from the hotels?

Even as I type those words now, there are so many things I wish did differently over those days.

Questions I ask myself:

  • I empathized with my clients, but did I empathize enough?
  • I empathized with hotels, but did I empathize enough?
  • I provided resources, but were they helpful?

Those fears and questions started to eat me alive.  Did I fail my clients?  What could I have done differently?  I needed to release myself of those judgements.   I needed a distraction from it all, so I allowed myself to start to dream of a different future for myself.  A future where my career was safe from COVID19.

Listen, I can’t tell you that everything is going to be OK.  I don’t’ know if it is.  Many of us still live with the uncertainty of not knowing when are next paycheck is coming.  Many of us do not know if our businesses will survive this crisis.  However, I for one will never know what’s on the other side if I stand still.  So I must keep moving forward.

Can you relate?  Perhaps you are you there right now?

How do we do that?  How do we press on and keep moving forward during difficult times?

There are no right and wrong ways of looking at the foreseeable future, but these following wisdom nuggets are helping me, and may help you with moving forward in difficult times:

  1. Allow yourself the time to grieve.  Perhaps you’re grieving the loss of a job, loss of your business, or the most scary reality of this crisis – the loss of oa loved one.  Give yourself permission to grieve this loss.  A book that helped me several years ago was How to Survive the Loss of a Love.  It can be applied to any loss, not just the loss of a person.  You may find yourself somewhere in the 7 Stages of Grief.  Check out the 7 Stages graphic at the bottom of this post
  2. Set small goals, each and every day.  They don’t have to be monster goals, this is about moving the needle ever so slightly, every day, until you’re ready to take on more.  They could be as small (but equally as important) as “getting through the day without killing your spouse, who’s now working from home and eating his lunch with his mouth open.”
  3. Volunteer your time – even though we’re all at home, there are still opportunities to get involved  and help contribute!  If you belong to an industry association such as MPI or PCMA, look for ways to get involved.
  4. Listen to motivational speakers – lean on greats like John Maxwell, Michael Hyatt, Rachel Hollis and the like.  Podcasts and books are a great way to help pass the time, provide guidance, and keep you moving forward.
  5. Continue your training – try to learn as much as you can at this time to keep your mind and talents sharp.  MPI and PCMA both have educational content, or perhaps you’d like to try your hand at a new skillset
  6. Allow yourself the white space to dream – if you’ve ever had a dream or project that you’ve wanted to tackle, and its always the last thing to get your attention, now is the time to give it some attention and finish the project.  Feel free to use my simple mind-map template to take your central dream to actionable steps to reality.
  7. Have faith – We have all built our careers up to this point, which means it can be done, and we have it within ourselves to do again. Have faith in your skills and talents, they will be what you need to lean on to make great things happen again!

This poignant video by Chris Hadfield is fantastic.  Short and sweet, he talks about how to move from feelings of fear to taking action.

Friends, I can’t guarantee that these action steps will move you from the blur of the early days to complete acceptance of our unknown future, but taking steps forward will help keep you mentally and physically safer.

Until we #meetagain, truly,


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