When the world seemed to stop…
Returning home from the SITE Global conference in Vancouver in January 2020 when Spectra received a SITE Crystal Award, seems like a distant memory now, as I reflect on my year both from a professional and personal perspective. In February, I travelled to Dundas Castle in Scotland with my team to celebrate a fantastic 2019 and to set out plans and strategy for 2020…… and then, the world seemed to stop.
In the events industry, March brought disappointment, stress and anxiety to us all. Clients were forced to cancel travel programmes and meetings, while our supplier partners had to look through cancellation and force majeure clauses, all using new communication platforms and infrastructure, overnight from home! I was proud of my team. We literally picked up our desks and continued as a group from home, having already invested in the technology with cloud computing, Microsoft teams and Zoom.
My middle son turned 21 on 31st March so celebrations had to be cancelled. My eldest son returned home and set up his own workstation. And what seemed especially strange was trying to explain to my 17-year-old special needs son, Dominic (who has Down Syndrome), that his school was closed, all planned activities were cancelled and that Dad would be home for the foreseeable future! His 17th birthday was in April. We could not go out as a family for the traditional game of bowling. The way we presented all these sudden changes and disappointments was to say it was “because of the bug”! Naturally tactile, how could we explain social distancing when his first reaction when meeting people is to fist pump and/or hug them? Because he had heart surgery as a baby, whilst we know everything is fine now, he is still considered vulnerable and so the family rallied round and created its own bubble (before bubbles were fashionable).
Leadership, Communication, & Staying Calm
Everyone turns to a leader for guidance, reassurance, strength and trust, where every decision made needs to be the correct one. It’s the same from a family perspective too. My reaction to the changes surrounding us was to remain calm and take a measured approach in everything we did. Personally and professionally, it has always been my way to consult with family and work colleagues. This enables decisions to be balanced, measured and informed. Communication and transparency are key.
And what do I do in my spare time to de-stress? I sing! My sons bought me a karaoke machine for my birthday in July, so whilst others take to exercise, craftwork, DIY, quizzes etc., almost every Sunday evening I spend an hour belting out tunes in my study!
As we head into 2021, there is still much unknown about what it will bring. In the events industry we are all control freaks but we can’t control this situation. Our industry has been decimated but green shoots are appearing. However, as leaders it is still just as important to talk things through. With mental health being a very serious problem during this pandemic, we must explore new ways to cope with the situation and to understand ourselves better to know and accept our strengths, and weaknesses too.
Written by Paul Miller, Managing Director, Spectra DMC
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