Writing this post came with mixed feelings. On one hand, it’s a little nostalgic. It seems like a decade ago we were at the end of 2019, more than ready for the holiday break after a crazy busy year – this was our old lives. Now, we experience a sense of relief as we turn the page on this infamous 2020 and look forward to brighter days ahead. That being said, is it all negative? Maybe not…. some wonderful things have emerged from these challenging times. Even if we are not all in the same boat, we are all riding the same storm. Our team has reflected on how we have evolved throughout the past 12 months. We have learned so much, and most importantly, these lessons will help us better serve our clients, our partners, close ones, and all humans, really.
Let’s start with this chronological recap of 2020… our summary of learnings, and takeaways from a year like no other.
JANUARY: A Fresh Year and A Fresh Start. Our team adopted the theme “The Year of Value” to be strategic in our partnerships, and continue to make them better and stronger.
Sabine: “Future was looking bright; record year was forecasted for the meeting and events industry. The world seemed open to all and everything was so accessible… Instead of sitting on our successes, we resolved to capitalize on nurturing relationships and adding value which seems even more relevant now than ever.”
FEBRUARY: Invincible. As rumors of an unknown enemy were starting to emerge, many of us felt that this distant problem would not have a direct impact on our lives. Humility and compassion may have been out shadowed by the desire to keep business thriving.
Inside the walls of SSS: “We moved forward, business as usual with no warning that we would be faced with the most difficult challenge our industry, and the world had coming our way. We were on track to set business records, and the proximity of reaching those goals was within reach.”
MARCH: The Wheel Stops. The turning point when what feels like overnight, everything collapsed. It was almost paralyzing.
Inside the walls of SSS: “We hardly believed this would be a permanent chapter in our personal and professional lives. Shifting our focus on mitigating damages, and moving programs to later in the year, we assumed back to normal was just a few months away.”
APRIL: Crisis Mode. Like most people, our team was juggling extreme workloads, and high-pressure scenarios, all from home. We were supporting our clients the best we could while learning so much ourselves.
The silver lining of a now fully remote workforce? The opportunity to catch up on projects at home, the outdoors, and family time.
Inside the walls of SSS: “Entering a global pandemic, a sense of our new reality was upon us. Our days were consumed with putting out fires. Negotiating contracts, meeting the new needs of our clients, and supporting our team through the unknown.
As we looked forward to the rest of the year, could we plan on a chance in the fall? How would we overcome the crash of the industry?”
MAY: Facing The Unknown. After the first wave, resilience and creativity started to emerge from the state of panic. Never had we navigated such uncertain waters while needing to remain focused on providing solutions. Businesses were starting to pivot and adapt to a new kind of digital world.
The theme of the year of value was at an all-time high.
Inside the walls of SSS: “Unprecedented times… now two of the most frequently used words in our industry’s vocabulary. Navigating the unknown as our partners, and friends are furloughed. It felt as if pieces of our close-knit community were falling apart, piece by piece, but something else was happening.
Our network was flooded with feel-good news stories of hotels and industry partners helping frontline workers in need; donating food that would have gone to waste, offering accommodation during quarantine, even the use of venues for sick patients in some cases.
It was a true representation of hospitality – jumping in to support as best they could, with what they had.”
JUNE: Adapting To A New Normal. Many hoteliers and industry partners managed to implement and operate successfully with new health and safety requirements. A few small meetings were taking place in person, but the interest in virtual events was booming.
Inside the walls of SSS: “An influx of webinars, educational sessions, discussions on the future of meetings and events were now a large part of our calendars. As stages to overcome the pandemic were implemented, social gathering limits were adjusted, and a glimmer of hope rose from many. Maybe we were close to overcoming this…”
JULY: Summer Break. Finally, brighter days were ahead of us after a few months of darkness. With local and regional getaways rising came new opportunities to discover local hotels and venues. Supporting our industry while enjoying more family time was a much-needed light.
Inside the walls of SSS: “Our mission to keep our clients informed and most importantly safe when making decisions for their meetings. We initiated a day of hotel site visits in Toronto to experience first hand the Covid-19 health and safety protocols. It was truly enlightening and gave us a sense of comfort and confidence knowing groups could move forward with small, in-person, or hybrid events.
From this, we began to craft out comfort around COVID-19 practices internally.”
AUGUST: Still in the spirit of summer and with signs of the virus spread slowing down, we observed an increase in demand for in-person meetings for the last part of the year and early 2021. With the approach of the fall came hope.
Inside the walls of SSS: “As our 15th Anniversary party approached, our planner hats were on but our plans had changed. Things were going to look very different this year. We were hosting our event virtually, bringing together over 200 clients, suppliers, and partners. We experienced learning new skills, acquiring the knowledge it took to execute on an event in the digital world, and really understanding what all planners were now managing as well.
Our biggest takeaway was the amazing support of our community and the excitement that came with looking forward to celebrating together, in real-time when it is safe to do so.”
SEPTEMBER: Reinventing. Routines were back, but different. Kids were going to school (with new parameters). Stores were open (with new parameters). Small gatherings were permitted (with new parameters).
This felt like a test of what the new normal could be like while the world reached for a sense of normalcy.
Inside the walls of SSS: “We kicked off our fiscal year 16 with a strong feeling of gratitude, ready to evolve with the circumstances and continue the wonderful SSS journey. Adding value wasn’t just about our client’s immediate needs. It wasn’t just about sourcing and servicing effectively, it was about reinventing. Leveling up. Great minds came together, and new ideas were born.”
OCTOBER: The Second Wave. As a new season settled in, cases rose and new safety measures were implemented. Expectations for a slow comeback seemed to be further away. We had to stay positive and look forward. Finding a second breath of motivation was more important than ever. The best way to achieve it, collaboration.
Inside the walls of SSS: “Although our lives were now again confined to the four corners of our households, we learned to embrace it, to accept our new normality.
Rolling out new services to support our business and teams were a high priority.”
NOVEMBER: Looking forward. What does the future hold? November tends to be one of those months that gets away from us. This year, it was an important month to slow down and set intentions. To act responsibly in the response of world events and do our part in the resolution of this pandemic.
Inside the walls of SSS: “Innovation was our focus this month. Our team created a toolset, tapping into the amazing partners that make us stronger. New technologies were integrated, new programs were developed, and new content was created.
We felt good, we felt the purpose of what we were doing was in the interest of our clients, and that’s what we’ve always been about.”
DECEMBER: Takeaways. Entering the last month of this crazy year, it can be difficult to keep a high spirit and not dwell on everything that has been lost. But with loss comes creativity. Many of us will emerge, transform, and appreciate the small victories. We see the world changing for the better after all of this.
Inside the walls of SSS: At SSS, we see progress. We see growth, and we see perseverance. Hardships turned into motivation and teamwork. Last year we set a theme of value, and it could not have been more important. We look forward to the opportunities that come with the beginning of a new year, and to set a new theme for 2021. We encourage you to set one too.