Event Staffing

Why the Live Events Industry Needs Advocacy

How the Live Events Industry which is made up of a workforce of 12 million people that generates $886 billion on an annual basis, found itself without aid during its greatest time of need.

Live events are an industry that has a workforce of 12 million people and generates $886 billion on an annual basis, read that again. 

So, how does a workforce of 12 million people just fly under the radar and have to struggle for aid during a global pandemic? Well, we found out in March of 2020 that the live events industry had done its job so well that it quite literally became invisible during a time when they were in great need.

Think about it. When you show up to a concert do you often think about how an entire arena transformed into what's before you? You probably also don't think about how it all gets torn down by the end of the evening. 


The Oxford Dictionary definition of advocacy is ‘public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy. It can be difficult to imagine that an entire industry (especially one as massive and vibrant as live events) may require advocacy but 2020 changed all our assumptions about work.

COVID pushed conferences, concerts, and sporting events online and some of the event industry benefited from that, but not all of it, and that was the problem.  

We recently had the privilege of discussing this with Nancy Shaffer, the president of Live Events Coalition, and Dwayne Thomas, the owner of an event lighting production company called Green Light Creative in Portland, Oregon.

What we're talking about: 

  • Why the event industry needs to be seen as a whole

  • Realizing The Size and Importance of Live Events

  • The Importance of Understanding Live Events 

  • Why We Need To Educate People About Our Industry


Why the event industry needs to be seen as a whole

Dwayne spoke of live events shutting down post-pandemic silently; event companies and crew had their clients empty their calendars overnight. Some people got the opportunity to work on virtual events, but that was just a small sector of our industry. It became very clear that the industry of people who always stayed behind the curtain couldn't remain invisible any longer. 

Very few people know about the existence of event groups, and very few people understand what our industry does. It can even be hard for us to explain sometimes! For companies and clients who were eager to get back to in-person venues, they needed the help and cooperation of the live events industry as a whole. 

The live events industry needed government aid to bring live events back and, as we learned from Dwayne, they had to communicate with the CDC and the people on Capitol Hill quite a bit to ask them to speak about the industry in a way that hadn’t happened pre-pandemic - Dwayne and the Live Events Coalition realized that the best thing was to represent the industry as a whole, not just one or two sectors of it. 

Dwayne compared it to being a bit like building a house, and that analogy works. Someone lays the concrete, someone else puts the roof on, and someone takes care of the electrical but it’s called the construction industry.

It’s very similar to what happens to us - there is someone to deliver the luxury porta potties, someone who fixes the lighting, someone who designs the stage sets, but as long as it’s not seen as a community, solutions can’t be all-inclusive.

HubSpot Video


Realizing The Size and Importance of Live Events

Communication and education are central to helping everyone realize the size and importance of live events, which is why Dwayne spoke so freely about ‘speaking up’. If people didn’t speak up, any advocacy programs they had would fall short of helping professionals that needed it. 

Bringing it all together under one umbrella is necessary because ‘events’ mean different things to different people. That, maybe, is why live events do not have NAICS codes, although it is a substantial revenue earner. There isn’t anyone seriously investing in events.

They aren’t on anyone’s radar yet (although Dwayne and Nancy are doing more than their fair share to transform that mindset completely). But it is a mystifying issue. Why are live events professionals not as visible as they should be? Events incorporate weddings, graduations, and other private ceremonies that touch the lives of every single person.  


The Importance of Understanding Live Events 

Nancy’s analysis of this was incisive: it’s our job to stay behind the curtains, she said. It’s the job of live events professionals to put on a great show and disappear backstage so the event itself is king.

For example, when we go to a bar mitzvah or a high-profile birthday party, we want to see everything in place. Someone comes up to us and hands us a cocktail, but we do not think about the professionals who make it appear so seamless and effortlessly entertaining.

The better the management of the event, the more difficult it becomes to understand the amount of organization and work it took to bring it to life. 

HubSpot Video


Why We Need To Educate People About Our Industry

One of the first initiatives that Nancy and Dwayne undertook, therefore, was an educational campaign that simply spoke about the existence of the industry and its ins and outs. But it’s also important to have conversations with non-elected officials who can see their side of things, said Nancy. ‘Events’ is something that cannot do the entire job by themselves (as she said, “Dwayne can't support an event with lighting all by himself”).

To top that, the pandemic brought previously unimaginable pressures. There were some very niche events that never really shut down, but the average small business owner had taken on three to seven times the amount of debt they had in the pre-pandemic world. 


People in the industry risk losing almost 50% of the small business in this sector, but they’re still trying to fight back. They’re selling equipment they can do without, and that’s the kind of resilience Nancy and Dwayne are supporting with their advocacy.  Being a member of Live Events Coalition helps, since ‘advocacy is insurance’, (becoming a member is only $75) and for a world that might face another pandemic, standing up for live events professionals is the least we can do. 


There have been wins: they recently passed a bill for GRA through the House of Representatives.


But much of the process also involves advocating and waiting patiently for a response from the government and that’s not always an easy thing to do. But with the moral courage of wonderful professionals like Nancy Shaffer and Dwayne Thomas, live events have found a voice and a face. 


Now, all we need to do is keep talking about it. 



Check out the full interview with Nancy & Dwayne below 👇

Episode 10: Why The Live Events Industry Needs Advocacy



Similar posts

Sign up for the LASSO blog

Find industry insights, tools, and tactics for event and entertainment production companies, event staff and security, and crew members. Subscribe today to stay in the loop!