COVID-19: What are Your Next Steps? WIPA Members Share

It’s no secret that we’re all in the same boat of looking ahead (cautiously so) once the fog of COVID-19 clears. But a lot of you, not unlike myself, may be thinking: how can we really plan our next steps when there’s seemingly no end in sight?

Most of us have been through natural disasters and periods of recession, but it’s safe to say that not as many have ever been through a pandemic, if any of us at all. Yet, in a similar fashion, many event and wedding pros have experienced cancellations, loss of income, or even making some tough financial choices. 

So, in an effort to come out the other side even stronger, what are some reasonable next steps we can plan for?

Using your downtime wisely

Of course, this is not the downtime we typically encounter, as we’re accustomed to saving the business forecasting to the off-season. Unfortunately, this is our new off-season. So, while it isn’t business as usual, this is your chance to plan ahead for your business’s new future. The majority of us have spent the last two or more weeks sending out statements to partners, staff, and clients, applying for SBA loans, and anything else to help keep us afloat. Now that we can safely say we’ve given that our all, we need to map out how to approach a return.

Mind you, this does not have to be an incredible, life-changing overhaul. A lot of industry folk are using this time to rewrite contracts, re-evaluate business finances, and do some deep cleaning on internal processes.

Katherine Healy Brown of Clover Events says, “While business has slowed down for the time being, we're focusing on our systems and processes as a team.  It's the perfect time to check in and see how things are working.  We're dusting off our CRM tool, our task management tool and our social content.  That way when clients are ready to pick up planning again, we'll be more than ready for them!”

However, some businesses will require some heavier lifting – meaning, in order to resume weddings and events, you’ll need to really trim the fat when it comes to staffing and operating costs to recoup what’s been lost. As hard as they may be, make those decisions sooner rather than later.

Dig deep financially

You’re not alone when it comes to this, and you’re most certainly not alone when it comes to hyper-focusing on surviving this rough patch. There are a few key points to note here: think realistically about your spending, and face it head-on. Ignoring your cash flow will only create a deeper hole for your business, and tackling finances now will give you insight into what the rest of the year will look like.

Michelle Loretta of Sage Wedding Pros lives by the cash flow triage, something that she’s been doing for her own business as well as many other industry pros during this time. “Look at your incoming payments month-by-month for the upcoming 12 months. With postponements, your cash flow is likely stalled for the next few months but will expand greatly later this year. I've also been encouraging people to pay early. ‘If you're looking to support a small business, send in an early partial or full payment for the Fall or Winter! This is how you can the events industry humming during a time when our industry is getting hammered.’ It works!”

Loretta continues: “Cut out all unnecessary software subscriptions - and those that may be hard to part with, but aren't the highest priority. Ask your landlord for a rent pause, rent reduction, or rent forgiveness for a few months. Examine your staffing and cut hours. It's hard to cut staff outright, especially with postponements around the corner. But, it is a serious consideration you may need to make for the survival of your business.”

Network and rethink your online presence

We’re all in this together. Your place in the community is invaluable right now, and you can really take advantage of networking and checking in on your colleagues. Every bit of support matters!

Janice Carnevale of Bellwether Events advises: “Network like crazy. Identify your best referral partners, and treat them like gold. This can be as simple as a card in the mail or a $5 local coffee shop gift card (shop small, shop local!) Send texts to check in. Set up a Zoom Happy Hour to stay connected.” 

And as important as updating the rest of your business, make note of doing the same for your online presence. Carnevale adds: “Update and maintain your online presence. Post relevant content to Instagram, every day if you can. Participate in your Instagram community by leaving comments on posts and stories. Update your online galleries and get your blog running if it has fallen dormant. Work with photographers to submit your best weddings of the past 18 months to local blogs and magazines. When you get press, put it all over your online channels. Don't forget about your Google Business page or Linked In - use these to promote your press and your own posts.”

Create a strategy for your wedding and events calendar

Just because your events may be cancelled for the time being doesn’t mean that your clients won’t be rescheduling or needing your help with continuing coordination of the moving parts of their big day. Cancellation of weddings won’t mean they aren’t still looking to get married when they’re able!

Leah Weinberg of Color Pop Events shares her strategy for scheduling, saying, “One of my big action steps for the next week or two is to continue to focus on things chronologically. My May 16th wedding has officially postponed and we're working to find a new date, so my focus then falls to my May 30th wedding, and so on and so on. Over the last week I've made sure to check in with all of my current couples, so now it's about concentrating on those with the most urgent needs. Once I've tackled those weddings, I start looking to the ones I have later in the year and into 2021. It's basically a continuous loop of working my way through my calendar of weddings and once I get to the end of the list, I start over again from the beginning.”

Looking toward the future of calculating next steps will give you a sense of stability in a very unstable time, and lending a hand to your community and your clients (who are likely feeling just as unsure about what the coming months will hold) will give them someone to lean on.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

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