As part of our ongoing series of personal stories shared by #eventprofs amid the Covid-19 pandemic, this week we hear from Henriette Speed, founder of representation company Just The Letter B, which represents DMCs including Green Route Africa in the UK market…
How are you? Really. How are you? “So busy” has become the almost automatic response for many, bragging rights in a working culture quickly disappearing. “Look at me. I’m so successful, because I’m so busy.”
When I’ve asked, “How are you?” over these past crazy weeks full of uncertainty and hardship for many of us, the reply has been very different. Anxious. Worried. Optimistic. Exhausted. Calm. Hopeful. I’ve certainly felt all of the above, and more, sometimes within the space of just a few hours.
But I wonder. Is this pandemic and all the feelings, thoughts and emotions it’s bringing to the surface encouraging us be our authentic selves? I feel a real honesty from people now, and much stronger connection with so many because of it. They actually consider how they are actually feeling at this very moment when I ask, and they’re honest about what they’re really feeling, how they really are.
Yes, some of us are still so busy, particularly those having to deal with postponements, cancellations and keeping a business afloat when most of the team is furloughed or on extended leave. And those having to juggle WFH, home schooling and keeping a happy household. But some of us now have a lot of more time on our hands, often in complete isolation, without knowing how to fill the emptiness left by the eight hours – or twelve working in events and hospitality – of our day that often define us most now they’re no longer so busy.
I’m taking this one day at a time, as each day is different, though with lockdown constraints, each day is kind of the same.
It’s been hard. I’ve had to have difficult conversations, as I’m sure everyone reading this has. I’m lucky to have relationships with my clients that allow for transparency and for open, honest conversations. Fees have had to be reduced. We’re doing what we can to help each other make it through. It’s not like I’m going to be needing any new handbags soon. This now feels like survival.
When the realisation hit that I am one of those that will not receive any help whatsoever from government, and my goal of getting on the property ladder by the end of 2020 were going to be very much on hold, I had a little cry. But then, I also felt immensely grateful. Grateful I had enough reserves to get me through this for some time when so many are worrying about next month’s rent or even next week’s meals.
I’m grateful I’m healthy and so are the people around me. I’m grateful Mr Speed and I are both used to working from home and creating space for each other to just be, and for the IRL human connection and touch he provides. I’m grateful to have a garden though I live in a London flat, and for my new ritual of enjoying my morning Joe in a little sunny spot therein. I’m grateful for the leftover slices of lemon drizzle cake I found sandwiched between two bags of spinach in the freezer, and grateful for Sofia, the friend who made it for me.
I’ve never had or needed anyone’s help financially before. Why should I need it now? I was made redundant from my dream job in the height of the Great Recession in 2009. What was so great about it frankly? Well, b was born out of it for one. I never considered going solo before that. With my safety net removed, I was ready to jump. And I soared. There have been ups and downs, like with any business. I quickly discovered I needed to remain open-minded, to learn to pivot when necessary, and so I broadened out of hotels, which were my background, and embraced destination marketing and representing DMCs. I never looked back.
I’ve been around long enough to have also survived other recessions, wars, SARS, 9/11. Our industry has. This is different of course. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. The uncertainty and the fear of the unknown is perhaps the biggest challenge through all this.
But it will end. And I’m convinced many of us will come out stronger in mind and spirit, a more resilient bunch. It’s inevitable there will sadly be casualties along the way. The cracks are already showing, but many will be stronger in business eventually – those able to adapt quickly enough to changing times and needs, who take this time to re-evaluate and work on all those projects side-lined for so long. I’m taking this time to do just that and to consider how I can support my clients through this, and others in the industry in the longer term.
From a personal point of view, I’ve had many little wins. I plan to continue my new morning ritual of coffee in the garden, weather permitting of course.
I’m finally managing to maintain a daily yoga practice. I’m working towards Pincha Mayurasana (Google it), because it’s good to have goals and this one will take time and perseverance.
I’m connecting with friends I’m not normally in regular contact with and having meaningful discussions between the onslaught of memes and GIF’s. My love/hate relationship with social media is more love at the moment, as we’re finally using it in the way it’s intended – to stay connected.
The clapping for the NHS and key workers has been cathartic and connecting me to neighbours in a new way.
The air on my once-daily, government-allowed exercise outing feels cleaner, and there are definitely more bumble bees, birds and squirrels in my garden. I am hopeful going forward, we will show nature more respect instead of continuing to destroy our planet.
We’ll come out of survival mode and transform to eventually thrive. We’ve done it before, and we’ll do it again. #wereinthistogether