Events organization is not without its challenges. In fact, one may argue that challenges come at every turn. Organizers produce such exciting and glamorous events that we sometimes forget the grit that comes with the process of making them come to life.
Come the year 2020, and it brings in a pandemic that shakes every industry to its core.
In organizing events, there is a need to foresee a number of steps ahead in order to be prepared for different circumstances that may happen. But no one could be immune to the lockdowns, transitions, and trials and tribulations that COVID-19 has brought about.
Even veterans are no exception. For over two decades, Robby Carmona and Jackie Aquino have worked in the field, directing and having other roles in executing events making. They share with us years’ worth of wisdom, plus more recent learnings from their experiences in the pandemic.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, it felt as if a lot of industries had the rug pulled from underneath them, would you say that the same for yourself or the events organization industry?
For Aquino, it felt as if their industry was placed in “suspended animation,” while Carmona states, “I think most of my peers in the event industry will agree with me that our field was one of those that took the hardest hits of the pandemic.”
Deemed with the longest lockdown, it is only now that we’re doing some transitions from online to face-to-face activities again. Aquino suspects that it might take a year (or even a few years more) for the industry to be as vibrant as it was before.
The past two years have taken their toll on everyone, and we must acknowledge that although people have tried their best to make do with the situation, it was still very difficult.
During the onset of the pandemic, what was going through your mind concerning your company?
“[There’s] A sense of panic as to how you can sustain yourself and the people you work with,” Aquino mentions, “there was no guide book [sic] to follow as we were all getting into uncharted territory.”
When lockdowns were imposed then, we hoped that it would only be for a few months. However, as the lockdowns continue, numerous problems such as the spike in job losses arise in consequence to everything that’s happening.
“I was thinking of how to ensure that the company survives and how do we retain as many of our employees as we can,” Carmona answers as one of his foremost worries for the company.
What were the changes that occurred in your work during the pandemic?
There’s a great shift when it comes to the dynamics in the workplace and also with getting audiences to engage in shows. Although online events aren’t entirely new, it’s not something that we’re too familiar with at the beginning, especially since it’s not just the events themselves that are being translated online, but even the process of creating them.
“We are so used to having the in-person brainstorming, meetings, and that energy you get from being together,” shares Carmona. He adds, “…[We] always had to look for ways that our audience and guests feel connected beyond the virtual screen.” Carmona shares that there’s a great amount of re-learning to be done since people are finding their footing when it comes to the emerging platforms and methods of staging online events.
Amidst the occurring changes, Aquino stays keen on staying focused and relevant. “It also served as the best time to give back in any way you can,” he adds. For him, the most challenging aspect is pondering on whether “to pivot or to ride out the storm,” a question which he admits is still yet to be answered.
How did you, your team, and your company handle all the challenges?
Like in many situations, both directors agree that it’s always best to stay calm and collected in order to be able to focus ideas and resources towards achieving what needs to be done to push through the challenges.
Aquino’s advice to “find a way to remain calm and focused” is one that’s applicable to almost any situation. It’s always best to stay calm and collected in order to be able to focus ideas and resources on achieving what needs to be done to push through the challenges. Carmona shares the same sentiments and stated that they took risks, but did so while understanding what paths they wanted to develop in those challenging times.
With the ease of lockdown and now that we’re transitioning back to live events, what do you have in store?
“It feels great to be back in the saddle and with events now booming again, you can only hope that it remains this way.” Aquino also says that “better, bigger, and more relevant events” will be coming our way.
Carmona shares, “I’m happy to see the resurgence of Live events. I recently did the Miss Universe Philippines 2022, now in its 3rd year. The Marry Me at the Marriott 8th Edition bridal show and the Century Tuna Superbods. I will be doing more fashion shows in the coming months which I am looking forward to. We also had some store launches and corporate events and many more events planned until the end of the year.”
Having established their names and brands in the industry, both directors are continually sought out for their creativity and innovative directing of fashion shows, luxury brand launches, beauty pageants, and other events; Jackie Aquino with JCA Productions and Robbie Carmona with Saga PH.