NWES Real Talks: Nancy Shaffer

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Q: If you had a crystal ball, when do you foresee us getting back to normal? 

Nancy Shaffer, President of Board of Directors at Live Events Coalition
Nancy Shaffer, President of Board of Directors at Live Events Coalition

A: Sadly, my crystal ball is as clear as a foggy day in SF (as a born and raised bay area girl, I know fog). I don’t believe any of us have an answer that we can swear is true as of yet.  

One year ago, almost to the date, we all woke up ready to continue the work to bring our clients stories to life for the Spring event season and went to sleep filled with uncertainty, confusion and honestly fear. This is not a comfortable place for anyone, but for a group of “type A” professionals who remain invisible and fix things, the lock down and unknown was even worse.  Our industry was the first to be placed on complete lock down and as we know is the last to fully reopen. We were placed on the “Do Not Invite List” with no real guidance, plan or info other than gathering was dangerous.  While not happy about this, we all understood and most importantly recognized that we all needed to be safe and that our industry would do its part —of course this is when we believed we were looking at just a few months max. Well, as we sit here looking the 1-year mark squarely in the eye, we quickly realized this was not a few months and as we always do, we rallied to do something. The only thing we could do which was critical for our survival was to educate elected officials and others on who we are, what we do and how large an employer we are and the economic impact. 

People ask when will we get back to normal –my answer is “we will never get BACK but we are developing day-by-day the new normal which will also continue to evolve as we define and implement the safety protocols that will be part of the new normal.” What I do know is that our industry has changed. We are adapting and seeking solutions ensuring the safest environment possible for our clients, attendees and teams as we do start to produce live and/or hybrid events. Much will not change. Events still need to be thoughtful, compelling, and impactful but additional messaging and procedures around safety are now one of the most if not the most important parts of the planning process. So while all of our remarkable talented professionals continue to do what we did until March 2020, we will now be responsible for the plan and communication related to safety. 

So what is truly in our future as an industry of creatives, innovative thinkers, magicians and so much more –we have taken this undesired opportunity to make ourselves and our industry better. For the entirety of live events, we the pros who made the magic happen lived in the shadows, behind the curtain dressed in black making sure our clients and guests take center stage. 2020 made us pull back the curtain to expose what it truly takes to do what we do.  

I have spent almost every day since this started fighting alongside so many to save our industry, to build awareness and an understanding of the importance of live events and the immense value and worth of our remarkable professionals. This is the only profession where we must work together much like construction. We too require an architect, engineer, project manager and subs to bring a vision to life. 

This is the hardest and most humbling work I have ever done but this industry has given me more than I will ever be able to give back and I am so thankful. As the optimist I see light at the end of the tunnel. As a realist I will not throw caution to the wind but will continue to do what it takes for the light to become brighter and brighter! The silver lining of this past year is my world has gotten so much smaller as it has become so much larger. We have shown who we are in the best of ways —kindness, support, creativity and so much more.

We continue to fight and elevate our voices, that will never stop. But when we look back on this time 5-years from now, my hope is that the memories are of the good that has and will continue to come from this horrible time in history.

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