Like most in the event industry, Chiara Adin Moore was preparing for a busy spring and summer event season at the beginning of March. But just days into the month, it became clear that the next few months would be far from typical. 

As the novel coronavirus spread throughout the world, the effects have been particularly devastating for the event industry. With travel bans, shelter-in-place orders, and restrictions against meetings, an entire industry found itself unable to operate.

Cancelling events was the right call—keeping people safe and defeating the virus is the world’s top priority. Yet Adin Moore didn’t want to just sit on the sidelines. She knew she had unique skills as an events professional that could assist in this crisis.

And she knew she wasn’t alone.

“Anyone who works in events has to have grace under pressure,” says Chiara Adin Moore, cofounder of N/A Collective, an event and experiential marketing agency. When something goes wrong or a client makes a last minute request, the best event producers don’t say, ‘no,’ they say, ‘hold on, let me make a call.'”

Events industry coronavirus
N/A Collective founders Chiara Adin Moore and Aaron Mason at the “H&M Ultimate Summer Kick Off”

Adin Moore says event producers have the skills to make something out of nothing. Many in the industry, like herself, found themselves without work and eager to put their skills to use in fighting the pandemic. So she partnered with a few colleagues to launch “Can Help / Need Help,” a job board of sorts on which event industry professionals can list their skills and be matched up with needs in their area.

She says event industry professionals are uniquely skilled to help in a situation like the one the world currently finds itself in. Creating temporary hospitals to serve the surging number of patients takes similar planning and logistics to setting up a music festival, albeit with higher stakes. “When you think about setting up a festival, you’re in a field where you have to bring in all the power, tents, water, bathrooms—basically a whole infrastructure that wasn’t there before,” explains Adin Moore. “We’re hearing about hospitals needing catering services for workers. We know tons of caterers, we can get the trucks out to them.”

“If there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s pivot quickly and work under pressure.”

Chiara Adin Moore, Can Help / Need Help

So far, Can Help / Need Help has seen a big response from the events industry. Staffing agencies have offered their services to get response teams the people they need to run testing sites and treatment centers—checking people in, handing out water bottles, answering questions. Graphic designers have offered to help create the signage field hospitals will need to point people in the right direction. And event agencies that were competitors just a month ago are teaming up to help the cause.

“Normally, we’d be going up against each other on RFPs, but now is the time that we can be true friends and partners,” says Adin Moore. “If there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s pivot quickly and work under pressure.”

A New Mission for Events Professionals

Across the country, event producers and planners are being called on to solve unique problems. In California, a production company that was preparing to build stages for Coachella now finds itself building field hospitals. New York’s Javits Center, one of the busiest event venues in the country, has been converted into a temporary hospital. An industry facing an existential crisis suddenly finds itself joining the fight against a deadly enemy.

Popshap, a firm that manufactures and creates interactive experiences using touch screens and kiosks, has found itself in a similar situation. Normally, a major part of their business is dedicated to trade shows and conventions. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, they’ve been working much more with hospitals and other healthcare facilities. “We converted all of our traditional touch screens and kiosks to none-touch and we are using them to better inform and educate visitors on prevention and social distancing recommendations,” says Eitan Magid, an account executive at Popshap. Their products are now being used for dispensing hand sanitizer and even monitoring visitors for fevers to help catch the virus before it has a chance to spread.

Popshap at Mayo Clinic
Popshap kiosk in use at the Mayo Clinic.

Michael Bednark, of Bednark Studios, found his business in a similar situation. His company fabricates custom furniture and installations for events and retail stores. “We saw jobs going away and clients just putting everything on hold,” he says.

With no orders to fill, Bednark had to make the tough decision to layoff workers and take pay cuts across the board. But he knew there must be something they could do. Clients come to Bednark Studios when they want something special that can’t be found anywhere else. His shop is well equipped with fabrication tools and his staff is skilled in using them.

Event professionals coronavirus response
An employee at Bednark Studios assembles a face shield.

Hearing about the desperate need in New York City for personal protective equipment for healthcare workers, Bednark and his team sprung into action. Over the course of a weekend, they came up with a prototype for a face shield, had it approved by the city, and found themselves with an order for 120,000 units.

His company, which was making large displays for events just weeks prior, is now in the personal protective equipment (PPE) business, and his team is back to work.

“People are going to look back at this moment and remember the people who came to work every day to make masks for our healthcare workers.”

– Michael Bednark, Bednark Studios

They’re now producing around 27,000 shields a day and the city has increased its order to 500,000 units. Rather than laying off staff, he has hired more people to help fill the need (Bednark started his hiring by reaching out to other event companies and offering roles to the employees they had to lay off). Their safety is his top priority—everyone is screened every day to catch any early symptoms and the facilities are thoroughly sanitized regularly. He even provides lunch every day for the whole team from local restaurants. 

“Our employees are very proud of what they’re doing,” he says. “They’re going to be a part of history. People are going to look back at this moment and remember the people who came to work every day to make masks for our healthcare workers.”

“We’re seeing people working together,” says Burke Lauderdale, creative director at N/A Collective. “The people that ‘play nice’ together, which I think our industry really does, are the ones banding together to come up with big solutions to the really big problem we’re facing.”

How You Can Help

Across the globe, the event industry is stepping up to help fight COVID-19. Here are some ways you can help: