Guest Post: The Vultures on Desperate Mountain…


As the weeks turn into months and still with no clear end in sight, many in the events community have tried to adapt their businesses to eek out whatever income they can to stay afloat. But the path isn’t always straight and desperate times often call on desperate measures.

In our ‘guest post’, Carolyn Deed, Managing Director of Photobooth ME, shares some of her thoughts about navigating her way through turbulent times whilst still keeping some of the less scrupulous predatory elements at bay…

The Vultures on Desperate Mountain… Have You Seen Them On Your Climb?

Coming from the events industry, these past weeks have sure been a ride. We are a part of a resilient breed of people all well versed in dealing with making magic happen in the face of the seemingly impossible, often with only hours to spare until the guests arrive. It takes a lot to kill that spirit and it has been remarkable how events folk here have handled it all to date. We/They are half-glass full people, even now.

Like most, in March we tried to digest the bitter pill of the situation, dust ourselves off, gather our tools and soldier on.

We as a small business pushed passionately forward with the 10 per cent of the business that was not dependent on live events. We faced a few early leads of interest yet even more ‘no budget’ solid walls. Pitched, proposed and stuck our virtual necks out on social media. People noticed. Eyes were upon us. We were seen to be stepping over the hurdles and running forward amid the turbulence of information overloads, tragedies, rules changes, armchair epidemiologist predictions and crystal ball gazing. When would it end? People were guessing but nobody knew.

A trickle of funds came in and ideas circled in many directions in our heads. Virtual reality, virtual events…will avatars shaking hands at virtual trade shows really be a thing, we pondered daily and still do.

Some more ideas, a new website, Ramadan hits, a few more funds came in, payments chased and fought hard for from jobs done before the storm came in. More ideas flowed. The eyes on our social channels bearing down.

Week 8 in and now the shift can be felt stronger than ever. As we issue out newsletters and create social content to show our ‘brand marketing for the here and now’ offerings, the phones ring yet some conversations take on a different feel for those who are making positive noise amid the storm.

The vultures are circling to look for ideas.

Unknown people in far-flung markets ask to tell me more? via Instagram messages and emails. How can we use this, they prod and pry. Maybe they mean we in a collective sense, maybe they don’t. In the positive, bonded more closely, clients and suppliers talk of partnering, collaborations, to band together to gain strength in numbers. People who know each other share, engage and try to share some laughs in the face of it all even on the days when there is little to smile about. Some are sitting to wait, to see when the tunnel’s light might appear. Others are working tirelessly, keeping their cards very close to their chests.

Creative small businesses this week start to voice amplified concerns about sticking their heads up for fear of bigger-budget, larger stronghold players swooping in and claiming their space (not just those historic competitors but anyone competitive by nature of desperate times)

The world in part has taken on a vulturous feel. Who is doing what and is it working? how can we do the same? What do they know that we don’t? What can we take from this and run with…are the questions that fill the minds of those trying to keep jobs and businesses afloat. The acts of desperate times may well create a level of lost scruples that many have not seen on this scale.

Many SMEs find themselves flung into a big-league anything goes game, armed purely with creativity, resourcefulness and passion in our toolbelts. Will such prior assets be to the detriment of many companies as the big suffocate the small, or will the more flexible smaller businesses be able to outrun the bigger behemoths weighed down by debt, hemorrhaging cash and far higher risks?

The mountain is steep but the posse is tackling it one step at a time. As the weeks roll on, the climb further up is rocks and shoal and most footings, even with the best boots on, feel quite unsure. Nothing is predictable. Many great businesses will not make it as far as they and we all hope. Others will rise up and meet challenges, some through good planning others purely through luck in their pockets.

Jack Ma from Alibaba Group says: ‘For people in business, 2020 is really just a year for staying alive. Don’t even talk about your dreams or plans. Just make sure you stay alive. If you can stay alive, then you would have made a profit already.’

As we ride out this guessing game peppered with uncertainty, we are thinking about what our virtual events avatars may look like – a trade show full of Lara Crofts and Hemsworth lookalikes all vying for virtual attention. We feel anchored in knowing that live events are a crucial part of life that taps the sociable human experience. We are unsure of the exact landscape of the new world ahead but remain firmly focused on what and how we can create to bring something extra to the table.

We can’t help think about the vultures and the mountain, the opportunity, the challenges and putting each foot right. A key hope is that many will best realise that the actions they take when in the face of adversity show the true grit and foundations of what people are truly made of. On this basis we can only hope that a majority will act with integrity, solidarity and empathy so they can look back on 2020 with a level of pride in the steps they took and decisions they made, no matter where it leads and what comes ahead.

Written by: Carolyn Deed – Managing Director at BlinkTechSocial/Photobooth-ME

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