10 lessons event professionals learned from 2020

December 9, 2020 | 



It is officially the end of 2020, a year with an enormous impact on our personal lives, careers, businesses, and the way we interact with each other.

The changes and physical distancing restrictions implemented during the past few months have impacted the events and hospitality industries greatly, putting our community members in survival mode, forcing us to plan and execute our events differently, with a huge focus on safety.

But challenges are lessons to be learned and then overcome. For this reason, for our last blog of the year, we invited a few loved, respected and admired event professionals from around the world to share words of encouragement and some of the lessons this challenging period has taught them, those personal and professional discoveries that will allow us to continue growing and pivoting in the new year.

  1. Pivoting can be difficult, but it is necessary

Irina Graf, founder of international website “The MICE Blog” and creator of the weekly Twitter chat #eventprofstalk, mentions that she has been inspired by how quickly new ideas can be born and executed.

“When the first lockdown came into place in March in Germany, and in other parts of the world, event professionals started to host virtual events and collaborate remotely. I also hosted three virtual events that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. I suddenly had the courage and motivation to try something new and not be afraid to fail. I think we always need to have this mindset to remain agile and competitive.”

Irina also highlights some outstanding online events and collaborations, and recently also successful hybrid event formats. The pivot is difficult, but by having the right mindset to innovate and high degree of flexibility we can help and restart the events industry.

“To remain successful it’s important to collaborate, communicate constantly and consistently using new means of communication and be able to create the opportunities rather wait for opportunities come to us. I think that in 2021 we’ll continue to professionalize what we’ve started in 2020 and strengthen industry and cross industry collaborations.”

  1. We must focus on the positive

Shawn Cheng, President of PCMA Canada West Chapter and Project Manager at the MCI Group says that “no matter how bad the situation is, there is always a bright side to it.”

2020 has been without a doubt dramatically challenging for every aspect of our lives. While we are navigating the storm, Shawn encourages us to recognize and celebrate the positive things the year has brought. For some, it is being able to feel more connected to family (although physically distanced) for others it may be having the time to pick up new habits or skills.

  1. Collaboration and resiliency can take you a long way

When we asked Lesley Plumley, Owner of LP Events what important takeaways she’s bringing to the new year, her answer was, without a doubt, the resiliency of the live event industry.  

“Even in the face of adversity we can stand together as colleagues not competitors for the greater good of our industry.  For people that normally are behind the scenes, live event professionals came together, as a collaborative, to support one another in time of need, to show the public who they were and what we do.”

Lesley has been leading efforts to educate our local Calgary community about safe events with the Alberta Live Events Coalition, sharing a message that if planned properly and with a certified event professional, events can be done safely with little risk to the public, vendors and staff.  

  1. Building your community is key

Through the ups and downs of 2020, we have been reminded that community always comes first.

Lisa Marks, Owner of Calgary’s production company Brand Alive Inc, shares with us that it is important to invest in our community with time and energy as an ongoing life strategy.

Lisa tells us that, “the power that community has to break the feelings of isolation has come in so handy during 2020. In that sense, she has been very active writing insightful blogs to help event professionals navigate the changes and challenges of the year and stay engaged with each other.”

  1. Listening to others with curiosity and kindness

Anh Nguyen, Principal, Spark Event Management and the lead in many fantastic projects in support of event professionals this year, invites us to approach each situation with a curious mindset.

“2020 has been a year that has created so much polarization within our organizations, families and communities. Matters of life and death naturally invoke strong emotions in people and the greatest lesson I’ve learned in 2020 is how to listen with curiosity and kindness to people I don’t agree with. I’ve learned so much from people who have different perspectives and it’s really broadened my understanding of lots of complex issues.”

She considers that you can have intentional, respectful, and kind conversations with those that disagree with you, you can oftentimes come up with more innovative and creative solutions. Most complex issues we are facing are not black and white. The grey area really matters.

  1. Human desire for gathering won’t go away

"Face to face events are coming back, virtual will never replace that. Human beings have an innate desire to gather and we have been doing that since the beginning of time. Furthermore, event professionals are the most creative, innovative, open-minded and adaptable professionals working today”, shares Karen Norris, Canadian Surgery Forum Manager for the Canadian Association of General Surgeons.

As a resilient event professional that has been advocating for finding new ways to move ahead in the midst of the pandemic, Karen believes that we still have a road to navigate as an industry for the safe return of fully in-person events, but event professionals are investing this time in adding to their skillset by planning these virtual and/or hybrid meetings.

  1. Disruption equals opportunity

Our President & CEO, Kurby Court, who started leading our team a week before the global pandemic was declared, reflects on how disruption can create even more opportunities for the future. These unprecedented times have truly allowed us to reset, grow and improve the way we bring people together, with a special focus on safety and wellbeing.

“Along with our partners, we are committed to ensuring Calgary is a safe destination. As we look ahead to the return of hybrid and in-person events in the new year, at the Calgary TELUS Convention Centre we look forward to continuing being a safe hub for our communities to meet and playing an important role in the recovery of our economy and industry.”

  1. Good leaders act from a place of compassion

Julia Rooney, President of ILEA Calgary and Owner of Rooney Creative Solutions, learned to practice more patience, resilience and compassion during 2020.

“We are all fighting our own battles through the same crisis, so recognizing individual needs has resulted in more productive conversations, which in turn has pushed me to be a better leader.”

  1. Rely on your team

Erin Bjokstedt, Calgary Team Lead for Décor & More, highlights the important support your team provides in moving forward during the pandemic.

The early days were really hard mentally and emotionally, but it gave us the opportunity to learn how to truly work as a national company. We have learned more about each other, the hidden strengths we have and how to collaborate and work more efficiently.”

  1. Be kind to yourself

Last but not least, Jillian Cardinal, Showcare’s Community Manager, reveals a lesson of personal perseverance and development: “this year ranks high as one of my most formative years to date in assessing who I am and what is important to me, both personally and professionally. My life has undergone a 180 from where it was last year, but I do not say this sadly; I say this with a lot of strength, reflection, and optimism.”

As human beings, we do not often take the time to pause and reflect as much as we should, but COVID helped to make this possible. In doing so, Jillian realized how resilient she is; she saw how human connection, warmth and love transcend distance and screens.


Before the year ends, we would like to express our most sincere gratitude to all of you, reading this blog, for trusting us and allowing us to be there for you and our community during these times of change. Although this holiday season will look different this year, we wish you and yours a happy and healthy new year.