Global Producer Richard Attias on What We Can Learn From Wuhan

In this guest column, renowned conference producer Richard Attias writes a love letter to the event industry on how he's finding hope amidst COVID-19 shut-downs.

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Photo: Courtesy of The Telegraph YouTube

Richard Attias is the founder and executive chairman of Richard Attias & Associates, a global communication advisory firm based in New York with clients across 113 countries. He's the producer of such high-profile events as the New York Forum, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Nobel Laureates Conferences, and the World Economic Forum.

A few weeks ago, when I decided to ask all of my team members to work from home in order to protect themselves from COVID-19, I was hopeful that this global health crisis would not turn out to be as severe as it is today—particularly in Paris and New York, where we have two of our main offices. These necessary actions implemented in an attempt to keep us all safe have temporarily altered the hands-on aspect of our day-to-day operations, preventing us from doing what we are passionate about, spending time with our clients who are our reason for "being"; our vendors, who are our partners; our colleagues; and our family.

All of us from the events communications industry are suffering professionally and emotionally. On a global scale, our industry is probably one of the most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this unprecedented health crisis will not be the end of our activities. Our industry will not be turned on its head. It will not be radically transformed to complete digitalization any more than e-commerce will ever succeed in totally replacing traditional commerce.

If you doubt that for even a few moments, reflect upon what happened earlier this month in Wuhan, China. After nearly 11 weeks of total lockdown, Wuhan’s inhabitants were finally allowed to leave their homes and to gradually resume a normal life. But more importantly, after only one day of return to normalcy, what happened? What did the people of Wuhan do? They came together—certainly with masks, certainly respecting distances—to attend an event! They watched, all together, the illumination of the city’s skyscrapers and bridges followed by a giant mapping projection, which captured their imagination and allowed them to dare to dream once again.

Video Courtesy of The Telegraph YouTube

This is the power of what our industry can do. We translate dreams into reality. We make people happy. We build platforms to share, to communicate, to exchange, to inspire, to move, to bring everyone together toward a brighter future. In my 30-year career, I have never experienced a time when humanity has been united by a common thread, but I’ve learned that there is nothing that humanity cannot overcome when we stand together. Nothing—no person, no virus—can destroy these dreams and stop us from doing what we do best with passion.

No matter how digital we go, this crisis has shown how we need and appreciate face-to-face communications. Sooner than we think, we will again find ourselves behind the scenes, working backstage to enrich the lives of our clients and create magic. We will gather in person, sharing everything we’ve learned, and take the opportunity to reshape our future together.

Further Viewing: Richard Attias's 10 Lessons for the Day After the Coronavirus Crisis

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