Taking Stock, a Year After the Pandemic Was Declared

Author: Sherrif Karamat       


A little over a year ago, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and much of the business events industry did close. (Edwin Hooper at Unsplash)

Sherrif Karamat

Sherrif Karamat, CAE

As I write this, it’s hard to believe that it has been exactly one year since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic — and almost a year to the day that the PCMA team and so many other business professionals became remote workers overnight. Our world has changed forever and business events themselves have changed forever. More importantly, we’ve lost more than 2.6 million lives to this virus around the world and millions of jobs, which evaporated through no fault of those who held them.

Yet today, I am full of optimism and of hope that much brighter days are ahead. I believe that business events will play an even greater role 
in creating economic good and social transformation. That’s largely because of the resilience I have seen you all demonstrate in the face of one of the greatest health crises — and tests to the human spirit — that we have experienced globally in a century.

A year ago, I said that we all need to support our health-care workers and frontline employees so that they can remain healthy to take care of the rest of us. They have done that — and then some. At the one-year mark, we need to pause to acknowledge and thank our health-care workers, frontline employees, and the researchers who have worked tirelessly to keep us safe and healthy.

Some say that COVID-19 has happened to us while others say COVID-19 happened for us. Regardless of how you look back upon the past year, if we did not learn from and adapt to our new normal and evolve our way of thinking — the way we conduct business, and indeed the way we approach any relationship, whether personal or professional — we’ve squandered the tremendous opportunity brought by this crisis.

A spotlight was cast upon business events because of the economic and personal toll from canceled face-to-face events and the overnight rise of digital engagement. COVID -19 brought to the fore the intrinsic value of business events, both face-to-face and digital. We’ve come to recognize that business events are not about the channel, they are about outcomes, about human connections and purpose. If there is anything we’ve learned, I hope it’s that if we focus on our customers and what they truly value, the channel and experience will be clear to us.

Let’s shape our tomorrow — a brighter and more inclusive one for all — not by going back to what was but look- ing to what will be: a just society led by economic good and social transformation. A tomorrow led by business events and business event organizers.

Making a Statement

Speaking of a more inclusive society and the business events industry’s role in bringing about social transformation, I was thrilled to have U.S.
gold medalist and activist couple Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird as Convening Leaders 2021 Main Stage speakers. We use their conversation as a starting point for a deeper look at why events need to take a stand to promote social justice and environmental sustainability in our March/April issue’s Social Impact column.

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