Honorable Mention Chapter Award
Honorable Mention Chapter Award

Freelance Frenzy: Don’t Be Caught Off Guard

Apr 30, 2021, 08:00 AM by Blair Potter
When you finally get boots on the ground and are producing your first post-COVID live or hybrid meeting, make sure it is a resounding success.

Great news: Restrictions are being lifted, paving the way for live and hybrid events to finally take place. Will planners be ready? After more than a year of lockdown, many answer a resounding, “YES! We are more than ready!”

Thousands of live conventions and meetings have been rescheduled from 2020 into late 2021. Thousands of other events will be taking on a first-ever “hybrid” form. With more than double the number of events vying for the same properties at the same time, planners can anticipate an extreme strain on resources into 2022.

Most vendors, suppliers, destination management companies, talent bookers and speaker bureaus have been waiting with bated breath to serve planners’ needs. At the same time, during the lockdown many planners’ most reliable “go to” suppliers have been downsized and valuable team members have been laid off. Many of those workers had no other choice but to seek other forms of employment. Others decided to take early retirement or pursue alternative careers. Some businesses closed permanently.

Begin making a list of freelance workers you are sure you will need when your meeting gets the “green light.”

Have you tried touching base with your pre-COVID suppliers lately? Have you noticed that many firms are operating with a bare bones crew and are difficult to reach, sometimes never answering their phones or returning calls? That’s because there is a good chance that they have shut down temporarily or permanently. They are in survival mode and are scrambling to find other work, sometimes in an unrelated business. They honestly had no other choice.

So who will make up for last-minute needed workers and highly skilled labor planners will require for the workload on the horizon? Freelancers. Freelancers have always been the lifeblood of our industry and they, too, have been seriously compromised by COVID. The freelance market has been drastically downsized as qualified workers sought other more reliable, steady employment to help take care of their family bills and healthcare needs during the pandemic. Even at peak times in the past or in high-demand markets, freelancers could be stretched thin. Within the next few months, freelance vendors and their resources will be needed all at once, especially in the busiest markets.

Highly experienced freelancers with prior loyal relationships won’t be able to just shift gears instantly and they likely won’t want to, knowing that there is still so much uncertainty in the market. But nevertheless, freelancers will become the extension of services necessary to handle the growing demand.

First-time hybrid planners will be looking to produce two meetings at once, needing more equipment, more staff and more expertise. There are only so many people you can hire at any given point that have the right skill set. They will all be busy, and many of them will be overcommitted. Freelancers may also be missing some of their own key backup contacts that will no longer be available to them on short notice. We anticipate a trickle-down effect throughout the entire industry.

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So what is the best way to handle the growing demand and protect your meeting and the quality of your vendors? Book them ahead of time and line them up. You can craft your paperwork to minimize risk, but realize that time is money. Don’t wait. Those that do wait will lose or they will compromise quality and put unneeded stress on their own resources. They may also end up paying a premium for last-minute requests and assistance.

Begin making a list of freelance workers you are sure you will need when your meeting gets the “green light.” Start making calls as soon as you can to prepare. When you are able, put your preferred suppliers on hold and let them know you are fully committed by sending them a deposit. You can make sure your contract terms include a cancelation clause if the pandemic makes facilities unavailable, but otherwise, apply your deposit and put them on hold for your rescheduled dates for 2022.

Develop a “Plan B” list of other resources you can call on in your destination city and check out their references too. Contingency plans are key and serve as an insurance policy against disaster.

When you finally get boots on the ground and are producing your first post-COVID live or hybrid meeting, make sure it is a resounding success so that your sponsors, attendees and staff walk away wanting to return and spend more money and time in 2022. Don’t get caught in the “freelance frenzy”—be ready and be ahead of it!

Photo by Patryk Sobczak on Unsplash

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