Leadership During Crisis

Creating Calm in Chaos

These certainly are unusual, stressful and unprecedented times. How do we as an industry move forward when we are concerned for our livelihood, our families, our communities, our jobs, our staff, our customers, our events, our businesses??

And it doesn’t help that most of the information being shared on social media is intended to create fear rather than educate. Today’s non-stop news cycle can’t help but increase our anxiety and stress levels.

But we must move forward. The Show Must Go On! 

I recently found comfort in a blog by Seth Godin, Calm also has a coefficient. His opening remarks were able to give me some personal perspective.

Panic loves company.

And yet calm is our practical, efficient, rational alternative.

Rather than curl up under the covers and wait for this to pass, we at VMG have decided that the only way through this is to be calm, diligent and proactive. 

Over the last seven days, I’ve spent a lot of time wondering what leadership looks like during a crisis? I love this article by Inc – 6 Ways You Can Show True Leadership During Crisis. They’ve nailed it so I’ve taken the liberty of summarizing and adapting it for our community.

For starters, you can’t over-communicate.

Ask yourself what do your audiences want to know right now!

1. Be Transparent – If you don’t know what the future of your event looks like (ie. whether it will be cancelled, postponed) – Be honest, admit it and promise to update them as soon as you know. If you mess up during the process – Acknowledge it and then move on.

2. Communicate frequently – Identify who your audiences are (ie. members, sponsors, vendors, customers, funding partners, employees, board members, media etc). Develop communications specifically for each audience. I love this message recently developed by our friends at the Cavendish Beach Music Festival. It gives perspective, a sense of where they are at today and the promise to keep you informed.

3. Get ahead of the issue – Now is the time to inspire confidence in travel and festivals and events. Although things may never fully return to normal, let your community know how you plan to deal with our new reality. Will you be implementing new practices and procedures to ensure guest safety? Will you be offering more flexible cancellation policies? At what point will you make a decision? Act quickly and communicate best practices and new policies that are in the best interest of your community and implement change before you are asked to do so by others. It’s also important to develop a Crisis Management Plan that can be communicated to stakeholders and a series of FAQs which forces you to ask yourself what outside stakeholders want to know.

4. Bring Perspective – Tell people why you are implementing change or flexibility (ie. your safety and that of our staff and volunteers are our number one priority).

5. Create & Communicate Solutions – If your event has to be cancelled, can you bring any experiences to your online community? This may include having entertainers do Facebook Live performances or if you are a culinary event, can you offer a live cooking class. It won’t replace the real thing but it will make people feel part of something.

6. Let people know you care about your own people – “Rather than striving to be superhuman, I would aspire to be less super and more human.” Linda Rottenberg

How are your people doing on the ground? How has life changed for them? Have you implemented new initiatives or practices to help staff and volunteers through this crisis. Be sure to let people outside your organization know how you and your people are dealing with the crisis.

And when it’s safe for people to travel again, your proactive and humanistic approach will provide the confidence needed for people to visit or attend your events. 

Stay the course. Take care of yourself and each other.

President, VMG

Tracey is the founder and president of Versatile Management Group (VMG), Prince Edward Island’s leading project and event management company. Over the past 11 years, she and her team have developed a proven track record in event and project management, as well as influencer marketing, food tourism, and social media management. VMG’s clients include ACOA, Tourism Cavendish Beach, Tourism Prince Edward Island, Food Island Partnership, PEI Liquor Control Commission, and Skills PEI.