By Rich Vallaster, Director of Marketing

So, I want to tell you a secret. But unfortunately, as I share it more openly, I find others hiding the same truth. And while it is comforting to know I am not alone; it is something impacting many of us in the events industry.

Before you jump to conclusions or thought I was going to reveal my secret reality show guilty pleasure (Below Deck), I have had COVID as an event professional.

It impacted my entire family, and I was fortunate to receive some of the new treatments to speed up my recovery. And much like other families, our cases were each very different. Ironically, the most challenging part was when I felt the lowest, I decided to have a beloved cup of coffee. Suddenly my favorite beverage tasted like a combination of cigarette butts and tires. While I can’t say have tasted either in any combination, that was the taste.

Luckily within a few days, I was back to myself, and coffee tasted normal again. But I didn’t want to share (others that those who we alerted because of close contact) that I had it. It was going to be my secret.

Thank You, Carol

What inspired me to finally finish this post was that I was recently talking to one of my favorite association clients, Carol. We had not caught up in a few months, and I told her I had joined the infamous “Club COVID.”

I was struggling with the reactions I got. “Where do you think you got it from?” or “Did you get it at one of your events?” She also confided in me that she, too, had COVID and felt many of the same feelings of people judging us. You wouldn’t ask someone where they got the flu? Like nearly all event professionals, we have taken significant precautions to avoid it. We were vaccinated, boosted, wearing masks (KN95s in many cases), and still came down with COVID.

So Why Is There a Stigma to Share This Secret?

I attended an industry-related conference with several hundred other event professionals recently. The more I opened up about having COVID, the more they shared that they battled it. So why are we hiding it? Maybe the stigma is around the fact that as an event professional, our industry was decimated by the pandemic. Many of our colleagues lost their jobs and events; some even succumbed to the virus early on, and suddenly, we have it ourselves? Or maybe our attendees or exhibitors might think the same may happen to them at one of our events? We all have the data to support and promote our events as safe after all.

But once you contract it, you may have a different viewpoint. When I spoke with my doctor (thank goodness for telemedicine), he openly shared that according to the CDC, as of late April, nearly 60% of the United States has had or in his opinion will get the virus. However, he said that most symptoms would be mild, and we are now in the next stage of living with the virus. So, before you send me nasty emails, I am not saying live dangerously or that there aren’t vulnerable populations still very suspectable to hazardous situations. However, we have to learn to live in this new normal.

As we reach this next phase of the pandemic, do we need to think differently now? As one event professional shared with me, after he opened up about having COVID, haven’t we made great strides so that with proper precautions, COVID-19 is similar to the flu and far less lethal than its original strands? Isn’t that a form of success? Haven’t we arrived at the new normal?

We did the right things; we continue to take precautions. We survived COVID and we need to support each other in this industry. I encourage you to open up and share it. So, thank you again, Carol, for allowing me to feel comfortable sharing this with the world.