Coronatude is a mindset
COVID has impacted the world and inspired reflections and actions that show the goodness of folks.
During Stage 4 lockdown restriction across Victoria, we’ve witnessed the resilience, connectivity and inspiration of many.
I know so many Victorian’s who have adapted and contributed in inspiring ways.
This Q and A series shares how others have navigated 2020’s impacts and changes, and the attitude and ideas that have sustained their business and wellbeing.
If we’ve learnt anything from these times, it’s that a generous spirit and determined attitude in COVD times can have lasting positive impacts. These are Victorian’s worth meeting and supporting!
This week’s guest is Georgie Stayches, a fellow not for profit consultant I’ve worked alongside for many years. Georgie is an event dynamo with integrity and vision. Her events and volunteer engagement agency was severely impacted this year, but Georgie’s relentless motivation and innovation blew me away. She’ll inspire you too.
Welcome to the Coronatude Chats!
Meet Georgie Stayches
Tell me about your business Georgie?
Fetching Events & Communications is a boutique agency specialising in project management, event management, communications and volunteer engagement.
With over twenty years experience in the events and communications industry including major international events, the private sector, government and not-for-profit, I founded Fetching Events and Communications with a commitment to making a difference in the community, whether that is education, sporting, peak bodies, associations or community services.
Our team are committed to working with community-minded organisations that we believe in and are passionate about and that integrate with our brand values of Excellence, Success, Compassion and Spirit. Combining our international event experience in media with our communications knowledge and skills, Fetching Events & Communications provides fully integrated events, volunteer management and communications service.
Based in Melbourne, but working nationally, we work with the community, for the community to develop engagement that creates enduring relationships.
For us, it is about creating amazing experiences that influence and inspire.
We are based in Melbourne however deliver projects and events all over Australia and spend a fair bit of time travelling from project to project.
How did the Coronavirus impact your business?
Corona hit us very early as mass gatherings of over 500 were banned in early March. That was the first sign that the year was about to be turned on its head. (I had just run an event for International Women’s Day on Friday 6 March, which in hindsight, we only just snuck in!)
I remember chatting to some others in the co-working space where we are based, and it felt like I was the only one Corona was going to impact. I can remember them just looking at me, with sympathy, but also oblivious to what was about to come. It was in those early days where it was only travel and events that were being shut down. It was only a matter of days later though that we were all working from home.
I had 10 events scheduled for May alone and they were all postponed within a matter of days.
Our world was completely turned upside down. All our events were rescheduled. All our potential new business disappeared overnight and our relevance felt like it evaporated.
I can’t put into words what those couple of weeks in March were like as nearly every project we were working on…..stopped. We spent weeks rescheduling, liaising with venues, sending communications to delegates, advising clients and developing new strategies. While everything was shut down, we were busy scrambling to tie up loose ends, checking contracts over and over again, checking new dates for 2021 and also wondering when it would be safe to run events again.
I can even remember saying to my partner, ‘Should I even be staying events? What if I am backing the wrong horse?!’. We had no idea what the future held.
How did coronavirus impact your own life?
For me, Corona didn’t just mean working from home and going into lockdown, it was about trying to save a business I spent 10 years building up.
It meant supporting our clients through this incredibly turbulent time.
There were about four weeks where I was writing ‘COVID’ hundreds of times a day, whether it was regarding registration refunds, venue cancellations, postponement announcements or just general messaging. I couldn’t escape it.
While my client workload reduced, I had never worked harder as we quickly adapted.
It look a while to adjust to the new normal. My office was part of my identity and I lost that. With the strike of a pen, my planned year was crossed out.
It was constantly adjusting, personally and professionally.
I knew early on I would need to really focus on three things to maintain some sort of wellbeing – healthy eating, plenty of exercise and lots of good sleep.
My mental health, like most people’s was pretty fragile at times and suddenly I even noticed the impact of things like too much sugar on my mood and mental health. It meant being disciplined but also kind to myself. Afterall, this was a global pandemic we were going through.
I allowed myself to have down time, to step back and relax. I also allowed myself to be honest and fragile with close friends – to tell them how I was feeling and listen to how they were doing. Everyone was facing a different challenge. Some people had secure jobs and steady income but weren’t able to see their family. Others were trying to home school while being busier than ever. No-one had an easy time of 2020.
One of the biggest things that got me through was daily ‘monologues’ with a dear friend who lives in the Cotswolds. Each day we would record a Whatsapp voice memo for each other and it was like creating our own little podcast for each other.
We shared our ups and our downs, our big moments, our mundane moments and everything and anything in between. Because they were ‘monologues’, it meant we just stopped and actively listened to each other. What started out as one voice memo in March has resulted in a daily practice. In fact we haven’t missed one yet and still continue to record them. It meant we could record at any time of the day, for however long we wanted to and the other person could listen to them whenever it suited. So, every day, I was lucky enough to walk with my friend from across the miles. In fact, we have become closer and found out more about each other over the last 9 months than we have in our twenty years of friendship.
And of course family and my partner were crucial in supporting and being there for me. For letting me whinge when I needed to, letting me vent when I needed to and also for reminding me what is important in life.
How did your business evolve during COVID times? (What did you offer, how did you adapt, who did you call on to help?)
The first thing we needed to do was to grieve the 2020 that had been planned. I didn’t want to spend the year looking in the rearview mirror at what ‘should have been.’
I bought a new diary to start afresh. Rather than crossing out all the cancelled events and meetings, I wanted to be adding new things onto fresh pages.
I also reflected on the experience of working at a major international event that was cancelled the day before it was due to run. Remembering what I learnt from that was invaluable and I shared my insights in a blog.
After the grieving, it was time to look ahead and see how we could help our clients and industry. We help organise run events, engage with volunteers and communicate to their audiences. We usually do this strategically and operationally. Corona didn’t change this, it just changed the format we did this in.
I spent a lot of time focusing on what the challenges were that organisations were facing and how we could step in and be the solution. I received an email from an event contact really early on, who was completely lost with what to do and asking if I knew of any webinars to attend. It was at that time, that I realised I could fill a gap by delivering free webinars and panel discussions, across a range of topics, to help the industry.
The Adapting in 2020 series started in late April and turned into ten episodes, with the final one airing in late October.
I was thrilled to bring these to people in a time when so many felt isolated, not only location-wise, but isolated in roles when they were trying to muddle along on their own.
In addition to these, I ramped up our Insights Interview Series and chatted to people doing great work during this really hard time. It was fantastic to chat and get different perspectives and nuggets of gold through their insights.
And of course, all the while we were still working with our clients to help them adapt and adjust.
I was careful never to use words like ‘decimated’ or ‘shut down’. It was about reading the room and setting the right tone – a positive but realistic tone.
It was about looking and learning from previous pandemics and situations, understanding consumer sentiment and predicting future trends and needs.
What do your customers and community tell you they appreciate about your service right now?
During this crazy year, I have been able to connect and work with so many wonderful people, that I wouldn’t have, had it not been for Corona. That is one thing I will be forever grateful for.
Some of the lovely feedback I have received includes:
“I wanted to get in touch and say a huge thank you for all your work on Congress 2020. Your flexibility and willingness to help us throughout, and especially when we postponed, has been really appreciated. We love working with you and hope to again in the future.”
“I have attended several Fetching Events webinars in the past months. Georgie is a wonderful presenter and runs the webinars and discussions with experts, demonstrating her wealth of knowledge and experience in the diverse range of topics. My team and I have found the sessions engaging, thought-provoking and extremely valuable, especially as we are all navigating new territory. In a time when we are working and living in a largely ‘digital’ world, Georgie’s ability to create a connection with her audience through a screen is refreshing. Through the webinars, Georgie has provided the perfect mix of wisdom and professionalism with personable connections and practical advice.”
“When COVID hit and our program of events came to a grinding halt, we wanted to move promptly online. So when I set out to run Tribeca’s first webinar, I knew I’d need technical (platform) advice and assistance to manage the webinar itself. I wanted to ensure we created engaging content to respond to what people were looking for. We started with a cohesive brief, and worked through objectives, talent, logistics and technical advice pre, during and post the event. Georgie’s depth of experience and eye for detail shone through. I could not recommend Georgie more highly.”
“I could listen to you present all day Georgie! You pack so much quality content into such a short space, just terrific! Thank you so much, greatly appreciated!”
What has been the hardest thing for you to overcome?
As an event manager, I like to be control. That was thrown out of the window very early on!
Owning a small business has been trying to say the least. Financially and emotionally. I am so fortunate I absolutely love what I do – but I also lost my sense of self at times.
Who has inspired or motivated you to keep going during the pandemic?
Watching how everyone banded together inspired me and continues to inspire me. Our community become bigger and stronger. Former competitors became collaborators.
I loved seeing people starting podcasts, people re-imagining their work, restaurants became gourmet grocers.
There are positives we can take away from this incredibly hard time. It has forced us to rethink how we do things – and that isn’t a bad thing.
I have been motivated by the re-imagining we keep seeing.
And I have been inspired by my close network. I’ve had colleagues and connections I can ring at any time to chat and to just bounce ideas and concepts around with. These phone calls have been a lifesaver.
What are you looking forward to as we move onwards beyond this time?
A new year, new opportunities, new beginnings but also taking all the lessons from this year to create better events, stronger volunteer engagement and more engaging communications.
In the words of Winston Churchill, ‘Never let a good crisis go to waste”.
How can folk connect with you?
Thanks for sharing your story, Georgie. You’ve supported and inspired so many with your forward-thinking initiatives and thoughtful communications. Here’s to a vibrant return to events and engagement.
Keep that Coronatude going strong out there everyone.
If you know a regional Victorian with a story worth sharing, I’d love to hear from you.