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There was a moment when I realized that the events industry is going to fundamentally change moving forward. So, what now?

Without a doubt, 2020 has taken a serious toll on business in general, but that devastating impact has perhaps been hardest felt in the events industry. Our industry has been defined by large gatherings and closely shared experiences, which have all come to a sudden halt. There are no real indicators of when we might return to normal, or what “normal” will even look like. All we can be sure of is that things will be different. 

After going through the initial “oh shit” moment, my “throw everything against the wall and see what sticks” survival mode, and my “can’t wait for this to pass” phase, I quickly came to realize that this situation could last much longer than initially expected. In fact, it is now becoming clear that we are probably looking at years in terms of recovering from the impact and doing things differently. 

Facing and Embracing Change

Eventually, I reached a point where I realized that, like following the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2000 and the 2008 recession, I needed to not only reset my business but my mindset as well. The current business landscape presents challenges, but it also presents new opportunities. Suddenly, I needed to pause, learn, develop new ideas, and find new ways to move forward. I also had to remember that when I had to do this in the past, it helped our business to survive these times of crisis. More importantly, it helped us to emerge better and stronger. In some ways, our industry needed to shift with the changing times whether there was a lockdown or not. There were already a number of disruptors coming that we needed to adapt to, this pandemic in some ways is just demanding that we make changes sooner and faster than expected. 

Historically, disruptors have placed pressure on individuals, groups, organizations, and societies to make major changes. I think that it is helpful to think of all of this as progress. We are now in a position where we have to embrace the change and find ways to move our industry forward to be better and more relevant. 

Before COVID-19, what were we needing to do to make our events better? How were we using technology to provide more engaging and more inclusive experiences? How were we leveraging digital platforms to stay better connected? 

Figuring It Out (ish) 

The reality is that no one has figured everything out. There are many questions that just don’t have clear answers yet. Still, we need to be taking the steps and doing the work that’s needed to figure things out. We are not going to fix everything overnight, but we can take some immediate steps to get better traction right now, and then we can start thinking ahead about where we need to be a year from now and where we want to be in ten years. 

For me, the way forward started with reaching out and talking with everyone I knew – with customers, industry partners, and good friends. It was actually comforting to find that we are all basically in the same boat, even as we are isolated, and dealing with many of the same problems. It was also heartening to find a lot of alignment about ideas on how we can help make events better, even in this unusual time. I attended dozens of virtual events to see what people were doing and how people were dealing with new challenges. I leaned on and even expanded my network to gather new insight and pursue new ideas for collaboration. I am excited about integrating new technologies and new practices into our business, to make Butler Events and the Northwest Event Show better. 

Don’t get me wrong. I look forward to a time when events can return to when we can gather, shake hands, stand together, and build life-changing relationships. I truly believe that we will share these experiences again, but I can now also see where they will be enhanced. Seeing more hybrid events that can reach and actively engage more individuals in new and different ways. We can keep the best from the past and introduce the best of what’s to come. 

Embracing the Moment to Lead 

There are fundamental changes taking place that will transform the future of events. Change has never been easy, but it is where our greatest learning takes place. If we believe in the power of events — the impact they can have and the ROI that they can deliver — then we have to do our part to ensure that the events industry survives and can thrive going forward.  

It is our responsibility to embrace something bigger than just our own businesses and our own customers. What if there is a greater purpose? One thing that has become clear to me is that we are not alone. We are all facing similar challenges, but we are also holding similar hopes. What if we all did our part to be there for one another and work together to lift our industry to new heights? I would not have been able to get to where I am today, or where I will be tomorrow, if it wasn’t for my network. Perhaps the greatest part about being in the events industry is being part of a creative, resilient, and inspiring community. 

This community keeps me going. It gives me the wisdom and strength to take on challenges, and it gives me the chance to pay things forward by being there for others. This is a turbulent time to be sure, but I know that embracing change will be good for business in the long run. Change requires new ideas and new kinds of leadership.

Together, we can get through this. Together, we move forward! 


Written by NWES Owner, Stuart Butler
Stuart, along with is brother Jeremy is the Co-Founder and Principle at Butler Seattle, the area’s leader in valet solutions, parking management, transportation, wine tours, and other special events. The ‘Butler Boys’ also co-own Butler Events, the curator of the “Northwest Event Show,” the region’s largest, most inclusive tradeshow for everything related to events. Bringing marketing solutions to businesses that understand the power of great events. Producer of “Weddings in Woodinville” and “Experience Corporate Woodinville.” Stuart also helps lead Eventful Conversations, which is bringing people together in the events community and empowering them. Promoting people who are looking to elevate the industry through thoughtful and relevant content. We’re all so much stronger when we’re working together. Connect with him at


  • Karla McCord says:

    Great comments Stuart!
    You put down in writing exactly what I’ve been experiencing and thinking as well!
    It hasn’t been easy to stay positive while events are on hold, but there are silver linings to slowing down a bit and re-focusing. Thanks for your insight, leadership and friendship- can’t wait to see you all again!

  • Sounds like a great plan to me! Focusing first to make the correct segway in all our businesses is critical. I am grateful you are in my network. Cyber hugs!