In early March, when Gov. Jay Inslee banned events of more than 250 people in the state of Washington, Ryan Grulich, the business development manager at Seattle-based event production company PNTA, said he “could read the tea leaves.” In addition to supplying equipment and technical support to live music events, the 40-year-old company also had a background in filmmaking and content production. “So, we thought, ‘let’s pivot and focus on streaming,’” Grulich said.
PNTA also found a partner, teaming up with CANVAS, a local event space and former warehouse and art gallery, to create a semi-permanent sound stage that would offer technology services, which they named #SeattleLives. The space is recognized as critical infrastructure and an essential business and has strict sanitation and social-distancing procedures, Grulich said.
One of their moves was to reach out to the local nonprofit community. Like every other business, “we are trying to meet the payroll,” Grulich said, but in addition to selling services to corporate and other clients, they also offered the use of their equipment to nonprofits. “A lot of the events that had to be canceled were nonprofit conferences and fundraisers,” he said. “People should be investing in community right now, taking the time to engage with other people in the industry and engaging with nonprofits, especially those on the smaller and medium side.”
#SeattleLives officially opened in mid-March as a live-streaming sound stage, and since then has hosted an events industry panel and produced a fundraiser for the Woodland Park Zoo featuring live local musical performances. More is in the works, Grulich said. “A lot of the value we have is in our long-term Rolodex,” he said. “#SeattleLives works with emcees, auctioneers, and moderators.”
Another differentiator is #SeattleLives’ high-quality production values, he added. “Everybody is struggling with the fact that there is so much free content out there,” he said. “It’s really tricky.” But, if you “put some time and energy into your production, and into keeping your content really focused, with information that is really going to resonate with your audience,” he said, “people will pay for it.”
Barbara Palmer is deputy editor at Convene.
PCMA has created a COVID-19 resources page to help event professionals find reliable information about the pandemic and to share events industry-related resources to ensure they are prepared now and in the future.