In unpredictable times, a Visionary rises to the challenge and is able to provide meaningful and sustainable solutions. Long before the industry coined the term, collaborative marketing, Diane and her team have been doing just that. With over 35 years in the industry, Diane is a pioneer in her field. A few weeks into the quarantine, I spoke to Diane. She was very optimistic and is keeping a positive outlook on the current crisis.
In the midst of a demanding schedule, Diane shared some golden feedback. She also asked her equally talented team to share their thoughts as well, adding once more, her collaborative approach to problem solving.
JN: During this COVID-19 crisis, are there any strategies/responses that you and your company have implemented for your current/future clients?
DR: While we all seemed to be thrust into the COVID-19 crisis at about the same time, it quickly became apparent that there really was no “one size fits all” solution in navigating a response. And, I guess you could say we literally hit the ground running in early March, having arrived on-site in Scottsdale to begin installation for a multi-day conference when the client needed to cancel the next day due to Coronavirus concerns. This unexpected turn of events resulted in a swift action to mitigate losses with the meeting hotel and vendor partners.
Additionally, with just 4 of us on site – we met up with the charitable organization who had helped in the planning of a philanthropic partnership – and were still able to honor the client’s commitment to a local elementary school for a truly memorable and one-of-a-kind day of service. Since that time, we have “pivoted” like the rest of the world – crafting new messaging, trying alternative ways to communicate, exploring new technologies, going virtual with some programs and, unfortunately, having to cancel others.
For all clients though, we’ve done our best to encourage and help in creating well thought-out plans of action that take into account each organization’s own unique situation and set of challenges. Besides moving them beyond their initial COVID-19 responses, we’re developing strategies to address many of the what-if’s, along with short and longer term solutions that can accommodate modifications as needed in light of this continuously evolving situation. Our clients seem to really appreciate that we’ve taken this time to help them refocus and re-plan where needed instead of reacting too quickly with answers that may not fit their ultimate goals.
JN: What legacies has your company created on behalf of international associations/meetings you manage?
DR: A global program that we help plan brings thousands of unique guests from 40+ countries together in one place and – somewhere different in the world each year. We help promote the destination as part of the benefits of attending the event, as well as integrate the essence and culture of the host city to add excitement and authenticity to the guest experience. Venues that are distinctive to the city are considered whenever group size allows, local partners are brought onboard, and time is made available outside of the set programming for guests to explore, shop, dine and enjoy the nightlife of these world class destinations. This event is annual but far from templated and incorporates the flavor of the host city. While this has obvious economic impact to the city, it may be that the spirit and creativity of our guests (who happen to come from the health and beauty industry) leaves the biggest and longest-lasting impression on the cities we visit and the locals they meet.
JN: As the meeting industry has been heavily impacted by this crisis, how are you coping as a meeting planner?
DR: As planners, not being able to predict what the next week, month, year will bring goes against every fiber of your soul. It is part of our job to plan after all so there was definitely a mourning period for the programs that are not happening and had to be un-planned. That being said, there is a new world opening up to connect people in a different way and we all are learning and experimenting together very quickly. Our team is focusing on the human element and how to bring that to guests virtually.
We know meetings and events are all about the experience – communicating, connecting and being inspired. While virtual or hybrid options are explored, we want to find the right solutions and partners to bring these same elements to life. We are channeling our energy into learning new ways to communicate for our clients and have spent countless hours logging into a multitude of virtual offerings to see what’s out there. We’re leaning on old and new relationships to see how others are navigating the space while finding unique ways to inspire guests and capture an audience’s attention online – with a little fun and surprise added on top.
JN: Any advice to share?
DLR Team: Look for the positives. We believe live experiences will return to fill the empty hotel rooms and convention centers and everyone’s calendars will be full once again but, until then, we all need to manage this new normal with as much inventiveness, determination and humor as we can muster. Value your partnerships and embrace collaboration. We are all at the beginning of something new and there are no right or wrong answers as we traverse this crisis. So try an idea that perhaps you would have never previously given merit to and see where it takes you.
Finally, enjoy the simple pleasures – being home, taking that exercise break mid-day, having family meals together and not rushing to the next appointment. Move your workspace outside – don’t wait for the weekend to enjoy the patio or porch. Dig deep to find whatever it is that you need to keep yourself mentally strong until we can return to being together in person.