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It's Time to Dust the Rust Off & Get Back to Work!

Guest Feature: Tami Richter

“Our industry is known for forging on, and that no matter what, ‘The show must go on.’ That’s outdated and needs to change.”

As many of us return to work on events, Tami Richter, Director of Event Staffing & Resources at SXSW and Board Member of the Event Safety Alliance, tells us we need to adjust our mindset and reset our expectations for ourselves and for those around us.

We’ve all been through something incomparable last year and every person is dealing with the pandemic in their own way. Before we can get back to work, we need to step back and make sure we are both mentally and physically prepared to do so. Tami walks us through some of the resources available to the event industry and how we can “dust the rust off” before getting on site.

Tami Richter

The first thing to do, suggests Tami, is to check in with yourself. How are you feeling mentally? There is no shame in mental health support and it is important to take care of it now, don’t wait. Many employers have resources available as do organizations like MusiCares or Mental Health First Aid. If you are unable to utilize those, reach out to a colleague. You will be surprised who will be there to support you - or who may need support from you.

“I was at my office moving furniture around and was excited to be doing it, but quickly realized how out of shape I was! I had no stamina!”

It’s also important to check in with yourself physically. Are you ready for long, grueling days on your feet? If you’ve been spending your days binging Netflix and eating poorly, you may not be in event-shape quite yet. Go outside and take a walk! The weather is getting nicer and it’s a great first step. Similarly, take a look at what you’re putting into your body, fuel-wise.

If you’re looking for ways to dip your toes back into working events, there are tons of volunteer opportunities out there that could use your event knowledge and skills. Helping food banks, animal shelters, youth organizations, not only benefits the organization, but also keeps you nimble and helps stretch out your dormant event muscles.

Tami Richter

Once you do get back on site, remember that it may take some time to get back into the groove and soft skills such as respect and empathy for others as well as compassion and grace will be key. Everyone is responding differently and everyone is coming to the event from a different place.

Organizers also need to realize that their staff, contractors, and volunteers will all be rusty. Events that typically took place in late summer or early fall - normally mid-to-late-season events - may be the first event some folks work this year. Instead of being in prime event shape, workers will still be warming up.

To that end, it’s very important for organizers to look at their safety plans and teach, review, reteach, and then practice, practice, practice. This needs to happen way before anyone is on site. Skills that once came so naturally won’t and the only way to get back to that point is through practice. Thanks to the pandemic, we’ve learned to use technology more and with platforms like Zoom, we can conduct training online in advance. We can also create videos to be watched on demand. This doesn’t mean in-person training is a thing of the past, but organizers should take a hybrid, layered approach, and conduct as many training sessions as frequently as possible, including pre-shift briefs throughout the event to reiterate important training information.

Tami Richter

Make sure the pre-shift briefs are done each time and really drive home key operational and safety points. Install a Battle Buddy system so colleagues can look out for each other and everyone has someone they can reach out to. Don’t be afraid to speak up. See something, say something is more important than ever. Simply telling a colleague, “Hey, I think you need to do it this way instead,” could stop someone from getting hurt or save a life. On the other side, it is important to be receptive when someone is trying to help you. In general, the way we approach checking our peers needs to shift towards being more transparent and helpful.

After-action reports shouldn’t just be to help the event get better. Take some time after the event and evaluate yourself. What went right, what went wrong, and most importantly, what did you learn from the event. Each gig should be a learning opportunity and a chance to get better.

This is also a good time to make sure your event gear is ready to go. Tami recently pulled all of her event gear out, did some updating, adding, and reorganizing. Things like rehydration tablets in her medical kit were expired and her Sharpies had dried out. She invested in a better CPR barrier to help prevent disease transmission in the event she has to administer CPR. She also added disposable masks and extra hand sanitizer.

Finally, Tami offered these 3 pieces of advice as we all get ready to go back to work:

  1. Re-emerge ready. As things ramp up, start engaging in more enriching educational opportunities to make sure you are ready and will come back stronger than ever before.

  2. Check on your people. Check-ins may have been more frequent when we first entered lockdown, but don’t stop doing them. Take the time and send an email or text, you never know who may need support.

  3. The pandemic taught us to collaborate and share and engage. Unity amongst events and organizers was one of the most beautiful things to come out of this. Let’s continue to unite and lift each other up, our future success depends on it.

Tami Richter

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