Community. Everyone talks about the need for it, the value of it, and the impact it can have. But how do we continue to nurture it in times of strife? The events community is one of resilience. We are often the ones to take the brunt of any challenges on-site from weather to traffic that are outside of our control because we exhibit extreme ownership in our role. We always find ways to dodge the vibe killers because we have great contingency plans and even backup fail-safes. But then came Covid.
The AirScream launched at an open house event along with other professionals in the last week of February 2020. We were excited to share this new experiential entertainment with Seattle and eventually folks everywhere. The response was one of excitement, and we began some great conversations with potential clients. Fast forward a couple of weeks later, and what was the beginning of a bright new business was crushed in a moment.
I know I’m not the only one who felt completely confused, lost, but still somewhat hopeful. And all of those feelings continued up until… Well, I guess they are still there. We keep saying that events are going to come back with a vengeance. But how do we do this safely? We are all so beyond ready to go hard, but how do we pump the brakes? And how do we take care of ourselves and each other? How do we give up some control of the unknown when we are wired to predict and prepare for anything and everything?
In a time when we tend to glorify “busy,” it’s time we honor and respect REST. When our auto-replies state we are out of the office, are we really? Even for those of us who own our businesses, it’s challenging to turn anything off when it comes to running an operation. I know when I ran my first company, Shindig Events, I didn’t give myself a break until I actually broke from it. I ultimately closed my agency after almost seven years because I developed health issues and was beyond burned out.
It took time to accept the failure, and I essentially had to grieve the business, something nobody really tells you about on the entrepreneurship journey. In that period following, I went back to working corporate jobs (in events, of course!) and went about my new career track. Once I teamed with my business partner, Vanessa Resler (DJ Baby Van Beezly), and we began developing The AirScream, it was no surprise that the Seattle events community welcomed this new creation with open arms. It was like no time had passed in the last two years. The connections I made and nurtured with Shindig were the touchstones I needed to bring myself back into the fold with newfound energy and motivation.
This esprit de corps is what always brings me back to the Northwest Events Show. For the first time, I am an exhibitor as I’ve always been a buyer in the past. This was the annual event that I have always been thrilled to attend not just to see what’s new and cool but to connect with those colleagues that have been trusted associates and real friends over the years. I know that I’m not the only one coming back to this show with a sense of renewal after much reflection. It’s going to feel a bit like a family reunion, and I am ready for welcome home hugs!
Join me as I moderate the session “State of the Industry” at 3 pm in the Bay Auditorium. Get your advanced tickets now!
Author Bio: Kelli Bielema is co-founder of The AirScream and a 20+ year event industry veteran and former Founder/CEO of the award-winning Shindig Events. A leader in innovative brand activations from music festivals to brand launches, Kelli dreamed up this latest venture of The AirScream to get people connected in physical spaces – a pre-pandemic dream that is ready to live again as live experiences return. In addition to building new businesses that move and shake the events and hospitality landscape, she’s already scheming her next big venture when she’s not fostering (and adopting!) rescue pets.