By R.V. Baugus
The other day I got a phone call from a long-time friend who wanted to just chat. He is one of the fortunate ones still employed who has a weekday off each week on his schedule. Early in the conversation, he threw out a line that I did not know whether to receive as a question or exclamation, so upon sharing it in the next sentence I will just close it with both punctuation marks.
“Man, you must love it not having any work to do?!”
Whatcha talkin’ bout, Willis?
I assured him that I would not be able to talk long as there were blogs to write and edit and Facility Manager articles and deadlines to assign.
I think I get where he was coming from. Because our venues are not open to the types of events they were created for, the assumption is that no one has anything to do. Silly him!
You are likely using your venue in some type of capacity to help those in your community during the coronavirus pandemic, and if you are not doing that, you are still booking events for the future, dealing with events on the foreseeable calendar that may or may not be canceling, and more.
You are likely well into a plan that you will utilize to help in your reopening. You are purchasing the materials and safeguards imperative upon your reopening. You are constantly following federal, state, and local guidelines.
You are, in essence, busier than ever in so many ways.
Hey, I am too, and to latch on to the McDonald’s slogan, I’m lovin’ it! Obviously, I wish this busyness was centered around something much more desirable than a devastating pandemic, but for me the good news is I get to share what our members are doing to help in all ways possible.
An editor’s dream is to have unsolicited valuable stories sent his or her way. I am getting those every day from venues all over the place. They are very moving stories, most often of what our members are doing to be a major resource in their community. We love these and want to share them. I know that they are NOT submitted so the member or the venue can get a pat on the back or an attaboy, but to illustrate from the heart that when we all get down to the basics, we simply need each other.
Other stories are full of tips and great suggestions about working remote, while others look ahead to what we need to know upon reopening. As a matter of fact, there are two such stories in this week’s Front Row News written by IAVM Young Professional Committee members.
Please keep those stories coming, and when you send them please include high resolution pictures to help illustrate your content.
But wait, you say! Baugus, if you just have stories falling into your lap, how does that make you busy? The answer, my friends, is that we also take the initiative to find the stories out there that do not just magically appear. I have been fortunate over the past two months to talk to many people in the venue world who are on their own front lines and with stories to tell. We will continue seeking those, and if you have any leads for stories that we might consider, please share those with me as well.
Just know that we are here for you as you are always here for us. It does not go unnoticed, and I thank you for your desire to contribute and make a difference in the world.
By Ashley Peacock, CVP
In the age of a global pandemic shutting down many businesses and events to keep people safe, venue managers as well as event planners and promoters are looking toward the future of live events and the light at the end of the tunnel. Although many executive and top level leaders in venues must travel and work from the road periodically, many venue managers have found themselves and most, if not all, of their staff working remotely for the first time. They are navigating new waters in an industry that has largely always taken place in person.
No one person can shoulder the burden of managing an entire venue themselves, so those fortunate enough to still be working must band together to keep their team afloat. Most teams are still learning and adapting to these changing circumstances daily to find ways that work best for them and their events. In order to do this, many of us who have never had the opportunity to work remotely are having to quickly master a skill that can take a lot of time and effort to truly hone. There are a multitude of articles and webinars available online which can teach methods and best practices but figuring out how to bend these ideas to work for our face to face industry can be difficult. Not every tip will work well for every venue, but below are some gathered from various venue professionals who have been kind enough to share their experiences thus far in remote venue management.
Set up a designated workspace for yourself.
To echo many other articles on remote work, it is imperative for most people that they set up a workspace of some kind, or even get dressed for work, in order to get in the right headspace. If you can, make it separate from your normal home relaxation and entertainment spaces or even set up in a private room where you can keep away from distractions during working hours.
Use a remote desktop if you can.
There are many remote desktop applications out there like Team Viewer and Google Remote Desktop which allow the user to view a computer they can’t physically access from a screen at home. Be sure to check with your venue’s information technology or risk management departments first to ensure this is allowed and done safely per your organization’s policies.
Know your important websites URLs and log-in information.
Especially if you are unable to access your work computer remotely, it is imperative to know the website link and your log-in information for all sites required to get your work done. Much of venue and event management software is cloud-based and accessed online, so thankfully this is very conducive to being able to continue work from home computers and devices without necessarily needing to access a work computer remotely.
Feel free to take breaks throughout the day.
Many of us in this industry are inundated in work constantly when we are physically in the venues and continue to be available 24-7 when not there as well. Take advantage of working remotely to be available by phone or email, but still taking that time to step away from it when you’re not being called on. Don’t feel like you have to sit down at your computer exactly at your work start time and stay there until close of business. Make sure to get a lunch and take a long one if you can. Go for a walk around your neighborhood block with physical distancing or spend some time in your backyard when weather permits. Take time to play or read with your kids if you are at home with them. Having that time to breathe away from work will help to clear your head of stress so you can go back to work more productively again.
Let your venue clients and partners know what is going on.
Obviously you don’t want to air any of your organization’s dirty laundry, but be transparent where you can. Let them know if you are working from home and apologize for any potential delays in response. Make them aware of any weird schedules that may inhibit communication temporarily due to circumstances like furloughs or layoffs. Be up front with them about exactly who they need to get ahold of when you are unavailable and provide them contact information.
Don’t quit booking your venue and advancing events.
Seeing your calendar booked full of events in the future can provide hope for a path forward as well as ensure revenue returns. Most clients want this too, and they are happy to continue planning future events.
Stay connected with your coworkers.
Whether you’re checking in on the ones not currently working or keeping in a groove with those who are, make sure not to lose your connections. Group texts are an easy way to achieve team communication as well as the multitudes of tools out there like Microsoft Teams, Samepage, and other applications which allow you to communicate in a way that works for your team. Staying connected with your coworkers will help keep business moving while booking and advancing events as well as maintain a sense of normalcy for all involved.
Do some professional development and networking in your down time if you feel up to it.
Everyone is coping with this quarantine in their own way. Those who are feeling up to it, regardless of whether they are still working remotely, should consider doing some professional development and networking with this newfound downtime. Organizations like IAVM, CSPI, IAEE, MPI, USITT, and so many others are offering webinars and training free almost every day. Many of these even qualify as credits toward professional designations if you are registered to do so. Companies such as Ungerboeck Software International, EventBooking, Cvent, and many more are offering industry summits, webinars, networking happy hours, and even free or discounted certification and training programs in event industry software and fields. Don’t worry if you’re not ready for this yet – but keep it in mind to add on when you are!
If you have other tips for how to do your best work while going remote in venue management, please feel free to comment and add it here for others.
Ashley Peacock, CVP, is Senior Event Services Manager of ASM Tulsa – Cox Business Convention Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
By Jessica Beckmann
Quarantines and social distancing mandates caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have forced physical separation, but venue teams and IAVM members are uniting to close the gap between the guidance our government has provided and executing reopening the industry.
Reopening America is on the agenda. State and Federal Government officials alike are announcing new guidelines for reopening the economy in phases, but will venue managers be the last to unlock our doors?
Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear unveiled a 10-point Healthy at Work Plan that mirrors that of the White House. The plan’s purpose is to guide businesses as they prepare for a gradual reopening.
The 10 rules to reopening a business under the Healthy at Work plan are:
• Continue telework where possible
• Phased return to work
• Onsite temperature/health checks
• Universal masks and other necessary PPE
• Close common areas
• Enforce social distancing
• Limit face-to-face meetings
• Sanitizer/hand wash stations
• Special accommodations
• Testing plan
As officials take the first steps toward restarting our economy, venue managers are now challenged with preparing to follow sometimes vague and wavering guidelines for safely reopening our workplaces. State and Federal guidelines like the Healthy at Work Plan are trickling out in phases that aim to return life to normal, but where does that leave us?
According to WhiteHouse.gov “Opening Up America Again,” all three phases of reopening that are specific to large venues include some level of physical distancing.
• Phase 1: Large Venues can operate under strict physical distancing protocols.
• Phase 2: Large Venues can operate under moderate physical distancing protocols.
• Phase 3: Large Venues can operate under limited physical distancing protocols.
Large Venues reopening and lifting restrictions on public gatherings are falling in line in the last phase of most plans. After managing the closing or repurposing of our buildings, virtual staff meetings, corporate task forces, and IAVM sector town halls have shifted their focus to plans for reopening.
The pandemic created physical distance, but if you are fortunate enough to continue working remotely, I encourage you to connect regularly with your team and other industry professionals during this time. The IAVM network is strengthening over digital platforms. IAVM discussion boards, blogs, town halls, and webinars are a great place for pooling resources. Venue managers are brainstorming, sharing, confiding, advising, and connecting with one another about executing their plans to reopen. We are problem solvers and we thrive in challenging atmospheres. We are going to get through this, and we can do it together.
So where do we go from here?
Our regular operations are expected to change.
Based on current mandates, we should be preparing our venues for staff to return safely. For each venue, this phase could look very different, but all of our plans should prioritize facility sanitizing, stocking cleaning products, and utilizing health screening and personal protective equipment.
As capacity restrictions are lifted and venues are made available to the public for smaller gatherings, venue managers will be focused on providing spaces that still accommodate social distancing. Small meeting room layouts will be expanded into full ballroom floorplans where guests can maintain suggested spacing. Larger venues will be looking at drastic capacity reductions as well. Venues that seat 75,000 people are currently evaluating seating capacity reductions to 5,000-10,000. In this scenario, phased reopening may not be feasible until acceptable physical distances are decreased and capacity restrictions are lifted completely.
Meetings, trade shows, and exhibits may be able to continue with modifications that maintain physical distance, but there are events such as sporting events, wedding receptions, and concerts that crowds and close proximity to one another are an intrinsic part of the atmosphere. With physical distancing at the core of these phased openings, is that not the very opposite of the atmosphere we strive to create for a financially successful event and memorable guest experience?
If our largest venues are the last to phase back in, arenas and stadiums may be wasting their time and money, planning and purchasing for the first couple of reopening phases. If the core concept remains to retain a level of physical distance among our patrons, without a drastic reduction of artist guarantees or skyrocketing of ticket prices when large scale venues are allowed to reopen, these facilities may not be able or willing under the new guidelines.
Will venues ever truly return to “normal” or will we be faced with a “new norm” with social distancing at its core? Staff, client, guest, and industry expectations are changing. I think we can all agree that whether we are reopening to small gatherings in oversized spaces, or delaying until all capacity restrictions are lifted, we cannot proceed as we did before. As our plans take shape for reopening, now is the time to contribute and lean on one another in the industry as we manage and shape the new norm.
Jessica Beckmann is Assistant General Manager of Spectra-managed Owensboro Sportscenter and a member of the IAVM
Young Professionals Committee.
By Naz Sabripour
During this time of uncertainty, many people have been forced to uproot their lives and replace the familiar with an almost entirely new way of life. The ongoing effects of coronavirus (COVID-19), has hit Pasadena, like many destinations, hard in ways that our organization never imagined would happen.
When looking at what the Pasadena Center Operating Company (PCOC) could do to help support our community, especially those in need, we did not hesitate when the opportunity came along to provide healthy meals for students and families of the Pasadena Unified School District (PUSD). Understanding that many of these students come from low-income families where three meals a day might not be possible, we wanted to find a solution.
Over the past five weekends, since March 28th, PCOC and its exclusive food and beverage provider, Centerplate, have prepared, delivered, and distributed over 15,000 meals for students and families of the Pasadena Unified School District. Each Saturday and Sunday, 20 PCOC staff members volunteered to transport, set up and distribute meals (1,550 each day/3,100 total weekend). The healthy meals have included a sandwich, fruit, bag of cookies, juice, or milk.
“The meal distribution program has been an amazing experience for the PCOC team, as it is an opportunity to go above and beyond our everyday roles and give back to our community,” said Gianna Wilkins, senior event manager. “Families and local community members are so appreciative of the service we provide and continue to extend their sincere gratitude every weekend. All the positive and supportive feedback has made me grateful for my involvement with the program and to also be a part of Pasadena and PCOC. I am very humbled and honored to not only be a part of something that is shedding light during this difficult time, but also allows me to put others first and stand together with my team as one united front, as one community.”
“Volunteering for PUSD has been a rewarding experience and I feel so blessed and fortunate to belong to an organization that values its local community,” added Amanda Westervelt, destination services manager for the Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Each weekend, we show our community that we are here for them through the good and difficult times. Precaution is taken to ensure the safety of our team, from social distancing to gloves and masks. But the fact we are physically out there serving our community means the world to these families. We have started recognizing familiar faces and even receive drawings from kids with ‘thank you’ pictures. When COVID-19 is over, they will remember the laughs, jokes and the impact we made …. remembering PCOC fondly. And isn’t that what we do in hospitality? Make people have an unforgettable experience? So, whether they are coming from out of town or live in our neighborhood, we are here for them.”
It has been a rewarding five weekends and a pleasure to partner with the City of Pasadena and Centerplate to provide for those in need. And what better way to continue the spirit of helping others than to announce that the PCOC will extend the meal distribution program by providing an additional four weekends of healthy meals to the PUSD. This will take place May 2-3, 9-10, 16-17 and 23-24.
Naz Sabripour is Executive Director of the Pasadena Convention Center.
Photo of Centerplate team preparing meals courtesy of Pasadena Center Operating Company.
By Donna Cannatella
It was an honor for our team here at the Chesapeake Conference Center, managed by VenuWorks, to play a part in helping serve the needs of our community during the coronavirus pandemic.
I coordinated with Chef Kristen with Mercy Chefs in Portsmith, VA, to have our venue Chef Mario and his team volunteer with Mercy Chefs to help prepare food for families in need in our community. I learned of this great opportunity while in the Hampton Roads Chamber Zoom meeting just last week.
Mercy Chefs is a faith-based, non-profit disaster relief organization that exists to serve professionally prepared meals to victims, volunteers, and first responders in national emergencies and natural disasters such as the one we are currently facing. They are in great need of professional chefs and F&B staff to prepare quality home cooked meals. My team enthusiastically volunteered to assist in any way possible. Their first day was Tuesday, April 28, and they will be back again to volunteer their services.
We are so happy to be a part of serving our community and helping in any way that we can to help feed the hungry and feed our first responders who are battling COVID-19 on the front lines.
Stay safe. Stay well.
Donna Cannatella is executive director of the Chesapeake Conference Center in Chesapeake, Virginia.
Pictured from left: Chef Kristen of Mercy Chefs, sous chef, Wakanda, Nikki, and Chef Mario.