The events 2020 calendar is drawing to a close. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to write about a subject as this one: Goodbye 2020.

My gosh, it’s been the year! I have the vague suspicion it’s no different to you.

The Promising Year of 2020

2020 was going to be the Auaha year.

We’re a small but mighty business events agency, fully focussed on managing in-person events. We help our clients design AND deliver the event, rather than sending in a squad that shows up on the day.

At the start of 2020, we had been working extremely hard, and our 2020 events calendar was chocka. Our team was searching for superheroes to expand from a core squad of 3 to one of 5. It was the moment we’d been building towards. Scary, but oh so exciting.

The Events Industry in 2020: Down Came the Rain 

On 22 March, that all came crashing down.

As New Zealand went into lockdown, all events up to June were cancelled or postponed right there and then. Our Auaha 2020 events diary that was filled to the brim, was staring back at us with a big black hole.

Pretty quickly, we realised we were going to have to work with what we had and our focus turned to virtual events. Thanks to our existing Event App provider, we had a virtual event solution within a matter of weeks. Two of our clients decided to roll with virtual rather than pulling the plug. It turned out to be a success.  As a result, more business followed and before we knew it, we became quite skilled at virtual events.

At the same time, we vacated our office space, reduced all overheads, renegotiated software contracts, accessed the government wage subsidy and started working from home. To this day, working from home is part of our new reality.

The Events Industry in 2020: Working from Home 

In a way, the working from home transition was easy because we already had the software in place. But you do need to make an extra effort to stay connected as a team. Like most of you, Zoom became part of our fixed 2020 set-up.

Somehow, I assumed the working from home thing would be easy on me, but it took some adjusting, in all honesty.

There were days, even weeks where I sat in front of my computer staring at the screen, struggling to focus and push out any work.  Ultimately, the magic trick was to find a new routine and stick to it (Strictly NO after-hours work!). These days I enjoy the freedom of working from home, but my extensive shoe collection is not getting the wear it usually would 😂

What Will 2021 Bring?

We’re very lucky to be living in Aotearoa.

Vaccines may be on the cards, but for the foreseeable future, COVID-19 is going to be part of the new normal. There’s no going around that.  As an event organiser, the scariest part is the constant threat of a sudden change in alert level.  It’s like an always present sword hanging over your head that can come down on the evening before the event if you’re unlucky enough.

But as 2020 has taught us, it’s about working with what you have. For all Q4 2020 events and beyond, we make sure we have a plan B (and C) in place.

It’s exciting how busy we are organising in-person events again for 2021.  I’m confident we’re getting better and better at managing the risk without massive disruption. But in the case where we are unfortunate enough to be served a sudden change in alert levels, we have a back-up plan.

What I’ve learnt from this year is that we’re a resilient bunch in the events industry.

We may all be very different, but there is no right way to deal with adversity.   At the end of 2020, I value compassion more than ever. It’s what will ultimately get us through, in my opinion.

Auaha 2020: Our very own Oh-Ah-Ha Lightbulb Moments

One way we tried to make a contribution to the event industry in 2020 was the Oh-Ah-Ha Live interviews.  For insiders and outsiders alike, it turned out to be a very illuminating and humbling journey, and I’m happy we went there.

We had many conversations with a myriad of other players in the industry. I thought it would be fitting to shine a light on the 2020 ah-ha moments of the core members of the Auaha squad.

Sandra’s 2020 Oh-Ah-Ha Moment: ‘We’re all in this together’

Up till this year, I was oblivious how invisible the business events industry in 2020 is to the outsider. Funnily enough, I also came to realise how connected we all are and how we can all come together and support one another.  When times got rough, every single phone call from an industry colleague was a lifeline.

I also appreciated living in a technology age – it allowed us to remain connected with our whanau, with our clients and with our colleagues.  For me, I could talk with colleagues and friends around the world to get a sense of how they were managing events and what we could learn from that.

I can’t imagine what it must have been like in 1900 when the last pandemic swept the globe!

Jane’s 2020 Oh-Ah-Ha Moment: ‘Working from home is not for everyone’ 

My oh-ah-ha moments from 2020 can be summed up in a few words; Working from home is not for everyone.

At the start of the year I was full of excitement. 2020 was going to be a big year with lots of work in the pipeline. I was also planning on working remotely and spending a month in Europe (turns out I worked remotely – just not in summery Europe, instead it was wintery Wellington).

Obviously, none of this went to plan, and that was a hard pill to swallow.  My biggest oh-ah-ha moment (an unpopular opinion) came when I realised working from home is not all it’s cracked up to be… for me anyway.  I already knew I was a classic extrovert who thrived off other people’s energy. But I never knew what the impact of being at home alone all day would have on this extrovert.  I miss the chatter in the office; I miss the availability of my squad without having to schedule a Zoom meeting.  Yes, I even miss the mundane routine of getting up and going to work.

As lockdown restrictions eased, and my friends all went back to the office, I found that working from home is not as fun as it was in the lockdown.  Now, nearing the end of the year, it’s become my new normal and I’m actually doing pretty well with WFH – but do I prefer being in a normal office? 100%.

Now with business more or less back to normal, I get to travel in to the city for meetings with clients.  I relish the opportunity to get my “people fix”.

Beckie’s 2020 Oh-Ah-Ha Moment: ‘It will all work out in the end’ 

At the start of January 2020 I was excited, nervous and mentally preparing myself for a full-on year of events that we had lined up.  I had worked for Auaha since July 2019. 2020 would be my first full year with Auaha.

As we navigated lockdown, the challenges and the positives intertwined, and it all worked out.

Unfortunately, like many other New Zealanders, I was made redundant in September.  After a day or two of really taking it in and conversations with my sister and mum, I decided I still wanted to help Sandra and Auaha.

So since September, I’ve been volunteering, and it has been a blessing! I’m still part of a team and still engaging my brain with things I’ve learnt so far.   But most importantly, it allowed me to have flexibility to support my mum through all six rounds of chemo.

Now that my mum is in remission, my plans for 2021 is to get back into the workforce either in Palmerston North or in Wellington…. We’ll just have to see what happens.