If the Events Industry Disappeared Tomorrow, Would It Matter?
What we do in the events industry doesn’t matter in the world. Well, not much anyway. If you’re waiting for my typical sarcastic follow up line, it’s not coming. Sorry.
That’s what the ten year anniversary of 9/11, or any truly sobering moment, does to me. It makes me realize how little what we do truly matters in the world. I get the same feeling when I hear someone I know has died, been diagnosed with a terrible illness, lost their job, etc. In those moments of reflection, if someone came up to me and asked what I did for a living, I terribly wished I could have said something more useful to society than event planning. Doctor, teacher, CIA counter-terrorist analyst, etc.
Make no mistake, we are not alone. Probably 80% of the jobs people have in the world provide little benefit to society. A hedge fund analyst trying to guess which way some random stock is going. A marketing expert coming up with a zippy campaign to sell more hand lotion. The person who designed the pleated drapes that hang in my living room which I hate. If these jobs disappeared tomorrow, would society be much worse off?
I vividly remember one TV broadcaster reporting from ground zero shortly after the towers fell. She was holding up a ream of paper she’d picked up from the debris, spread sheets with analysis on them. “How important did this seem just hours ago?,” she said. The camera zoomed in to see an endless parade of tiny numbers stacked in neat little columns. It then pulled back for a wide angle shot of thousands of such dust-strewn papers blowing around all over the place. A sea of detritus that seemed to mock us for having focused so intently on such minutiae.
Depressed? Climb in back off the ledge of your building. It gets better.
Andrea Michaels, owner of Extraordinary Events in LA, one of the most award-winning companies in the world, is one of the icons of our industry. She was also born in a concentration camp during World War II. This is one of the more touching revelations she shared with me in a video interview we conducted for the Event Leadership Institute’s Maverick Series. She uses this experience to ground her, to put everything we do as planners in proper perspective.
Interview with Andrea Michaels, Extraordinary Events
Chapter 9 of 14: “On Being Born in a Concentration Camp”
Running time: 02:56
To watch the full interview click here
And that, ultimately, is what I take away from these somber moments in life. Perspective. Because, my fellow planners, we can ALL, use a bit more perspective in our world. To quote from Andrea, “A hurricane forces you to evacuate 300 multi millionaires, do I stress out? Do I care about a wilted flower? If the drummer is 15 minutes late do I think the world changes? Absolutely not.” These are all important to our events, to be sure, but they don’t quite measure up to removing the wrong kidney from a transplant patient, or misreading the water level during a shift at a nuclear plant.
You get we’re I’m going with this? I’m not saying what we do doesn’t matter. It does. Events inspire, educate, inform, recognize and celebrate so many facets of our personal and professional lives. Whenever we come across a milestone occasion, we create an event to mark it in a special way. Yes, we matter. Just not in a life-or-death way. And that recognition can empower us, liberate us, to give our work the perspective it needs, to help us focus on our craft without getting sidetracked by unnecessary anxiety over the little things.
Socrates said “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” I take that to mean that when we get too busy, it’s easy for the truly important things in our life to get lost in the shuffle, and for us to lose our proper perspective. On this tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, let us pull back and inject some perspective back into our lives.