525,600 Minutes – How Do You Measure, Measure A Year?

Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure? Measure a year?
In daylights,
In sunsets,
In midnights,
In cups of coffee,
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in a life?
—“Seasons of Love,” Rent

Last week I attended an online fundraiser celebrating the 25th anniversary of the hit Broadway musical Rent, and its signature song stuck in my head as the perfect anthem for the brutal and transformational year we’ve all been through. As we mark the one-year anniversary of COVID hitting us like a meteor, it’s a good time to take a breath and reflect on what we’ve been through—and accomplished—together.

I’m extremely proud of how the extended ELI team responded to the crisis. We accepted the reality of COVID early on and leaned into it with everything we had. We were thankful we were in a position to do something; having deep experience with online learning, we knew how to pull courses and programs together quickly. We reached out to partner organizations and a small army of incredibly talented individuals who had been furloughed to help us get more done, faster.

As some of you may know, last spring, I was also in the middle of my battle with Central Nervous System Lymphoma. On March 2, I had just finished my eighth and final round of “induction” chemotherapy, each of which entailed a five-day hospital stay. Then, for the entire month of May, I was back in the hospital for the “consolidation” phase, which involved high-dose chemo and a stem cell transplant. I am truly thankful that the treatment was successful and eradicated the tumor.

To help me through that journey, I relied on three tenets, which many of us in the event industry found solace in embracing as well:

  • You can’t always control what happens to you. But you CAN control how you react.
  • Be grateful for what you do have. Many people have it worse off than you.
  • You can’t do it alone. It really does take a village.

So, how do we measure this year?

Crisis Response & Industry Support

  • In the chaotic 13-week period from late March to June, ELI hosted 17 free webinars with 62 subject matter experts, attended by over 11,000 people, often doing two or three per week. Thanks to Kevin White for being the voice of calm in moderating these programs.
  • This included six webinars on topics like change management, adapting to remote work, and leading in uncertain times and 11 free Market Transformation Series webinars for industry segments like associations, incentives, life sciences, academic events, agencies, and venues.
  •  Starting in March, we assembled and moderated free weekly “Situation Room” meetings with curated groups of agency owners, non-profit planners, vendors, and other niche segments. These were equal parts strategy sessions and group therapy, where participants had safe spaces to talk about their challenges and share solutions with peers.
  • In August, we launched a free Business Owner Mentorship Program, matching 26 event company owners struggling to save their businesses with seasoned owners who had experience weathering previous storms. Thanks to Jeff Guberman of McVeigh Global Meetings & Events for leading this effort.

A Massive Reskilling Effort

  • In less than a year, ELI has certified over 3,000 event professionals in new skills addressing virtual, hybrid, and in-person event management, many of whom continue their conversations in our active Alumni Groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.
  • We did so by fast-tracking the launch of four new Professional Development Courses designed specifically for up-skilling in response to the pandemic, compressing the normal four-month development time into three weeks.
    • In April, we launched a new, six-week Virtual Event & Meeting Management certification course, the first of its kind built from the ground-up in the current environment. Thanks to Brandt Krueger for making it look effortless as we were building the plane while flying it.
    • With non-profit organizations hit particularly hard, we developed a specialized four-week course in Virtual Fundraising Event Management that launched in August, led by Lindsay Landman.
    • As decisions needed to be made about in-person events, we launched the six-week Pandemic Meeting & Event Design course in September. This week marked our fourth cohort, and each time the course had to be significantly updated due to all the changes in the landscape. (Again, thanks Kevin.)
    • And in January, to help the armies of event staff prepare for on-site events coming around the corner, we launched a one-week micro-course on Pandemic On-Site Protocol.
  • We’ve given out 32 Scholarships to our courses and continue to match other contributors dollar-for-dollar, including a DEI-specific scholarship in partnership with Sequence Events
  • For those who needed quick-hitting insights, we “jailbroke” snackable chapters from popular classes in our on-demand video library and certificate courses. As a result, our membership has more than doubled from a year ago.
  • In February 2021, we launched the Event Tech Test Drives, providing video walk-throughs of an initial group of six virtual event platforms, each of which includes attendee, planner, speaker, and exhibitor/sponsor perspectives, followed by a thorough Q&A with the vendor executive.

Every initiative we embarked on was driven by a single mission: to provide the reskilling tools, resources, and community support needed to adapt to the seismic changes occurring.

We didn’t get everything right, but we took action—lots of action—in trying to make a difference. Many of these initiatives were offered free, at our own expense, without any advertising or sponsor support. We moved at a blistering pace, and I am deeply awed by our staff, instructors, and partners’ tireless efforts, many of whom sacrificed much-needed time with their families to see our initiatives through. And a special thank you to Mike Granek for his leadership of ELI while I was out of commission for several months last spring.

We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel now, and the event industry landscape that we see when we emerge will be very different and continue to evolve over the coming year. But I am truly heartened by our ability to weather this storm together, which gives me—and should give us all—the confidence to handle whatever change comes our way.

Howard Givner
Founder & CEO

How you can help as the industry re-emerges:

Image: “Fearless Girl” by Kristen Visbal