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TLC’s Liz Taylor was due to celebrate her company’s 25th year as a high-flying events production company…and then a global pandemic hit.
What a year! How have you been, Liz?
Well, that’s a very loaded question! We were all set to celebrate the company’s 25th anniversary, with a year of activities planned, when TLC’s greatest challenge came knocking on the door. I am an optimist by nature, and pragmatic too. So, for me, I have tried to take all the positives that I can from the impact of COVID-19, create opportunity from the madness and ensure the long-term survival of my company. It’s been hard work, with some tough moments, but we are now in a good place thankfully.
Events suddenly cancelling can be devastating…
Overnight, a full order book was reduced to zero. A huge business dilemma, but also an emotional one. I have a small but incredible team, and I was resolute in securing their jobs. Of course, I was worried for the future, but we stuck to the job at hand and worked closely with venue contacts and clients to rebook events, without clients incurring cancellation fees or losing deposits. Once the furlough scheme came into operation for my team, I was left to keep the home fires burning.
Then, the challenge of keeping the business alive. It was at this point that I realised how valuable the relationships I had secured over the years were. Suppliers, colleagues, venues, everyone vulnerable and looking for positive forecasts. So, I did what I always do. I created a strategy, doubled our efforts on social media and marketing initiatives and reinforced my brand. I took to Zoom like a duck to water and never looked back. The results have been seen in securing business for 2021, amazing feedback from clients and new opportunities to support the wider events and hospitality industries.
Working from home has become your new normal. Will this be the case for event profs generally?
It is entirely possible to work for home much of the time, but the willingness to do that is more about event teams than managers – or should be. For some, home working is a logistical, family and emotional nightmare. They miss team interaction and the separation of home and work life. There is a tendency to also over-work, and the mental health of your team is vital; especially now. On the flipside, some prefer it. No time spent commuting. Less traffic pollution. Lower travel costs. More flexibility. And some find it easier to focus without office distractions.
I think for employers there are genuine benefits. Small offices needed, so lower overheads, is the key fiscal one of course. And if it makes for a more productive workforce, as research indicates, it could be a winning formula. For me, it might be a blend of home and office working to suit the employee and business needs.
A time of reflection can be valuable…
I took time to look long and hard at the business and work out our value and where our USPs lay. We have focused all our energies and marketing on this. Some companies have opted to pivot, and reinvent as a virtual event company, but for me…. we are what we are. TLC is about delivering a unique live event experience, and no amount of tech and screens can replace that. So, we put our energies behind supporting industry campaigns to relaunch the live events sector. We structured the business so that we can be ready to hit the ground running once live events are back on.
Personally, what has Liz’s Lockdown Life involved?
Busy! From doing Zoom yoga to redesigning my website, and so much more. The lockdown gave me the time to really invest in TLC’s sister business, Liz Taylor Consultancy. We support hospitality businesses with brand development programmes, creative ideas and strategies to maximise revenue. It’s been phenomenal. We secured four clients in as many weeks, and the phone has been red hot. In addition, my two lockdown labours of love have been recording my new weekly podcast, Events that Made Me, and completing my book. A tick in both ‘bucket list’ boxes!
Have you been back to any venues yet?
I have been on reccies myself for events next year, and as long as we all abide by the safety rules, they go well. Venues and planners can work hand-in-hand to enable smaller events to take place in the short term, but larger occasions I suspect are a bit further away. Outdoor events are entirely possible, and I am working on one at the moment.
Realistically though, I think that much of the industry will not recover until Q1 or Q2 of 2021. The greater issue will be the psychology of the nation and providing enough reassurances, that people will be content to attend a large corporate gathering. A variety of ‘safe meet/ stay’ schemes have emerged, which help. But corporate responsibility for their employees is a big factor. Who is willing to stage a major conference without a vaccine in place? We are just not quite there yet.
Looking further into the future, another 25 years possibly?
Never say never. I have the structure in place to ensure TLC can ride out the worst effects of coronavirus, and still be leading the way next year. Our order book is filling with a series of exciting private events in spring/ summer and corporate events in the latter part of next year. As for another 25 years…I have plans!
For those who were banking on a career in events, is it still a growth industry?
I was recently invited to discuss exactly this subject, in a virtual tutorial with students. The answer is – we don’t have an answer yet. I am passionate that students who have committed three years of studying shouldn’t be left on the shelf. The event industry needs young talent to be nurtured and given opportunity.
We have clicked the pause button, but the event sector will bounce back. For now, graduates should take jobs in retail, hospitality or voluntary work…wherever they can. Use those roles to develop communication skills, teamwork, problem solving, time management. All skills that can later be transferred into the event industry. Don’t lose hope. Your time will come.