Author: Erin Rayner

Enjoying Events in a Pandemic

The last month has been full of excitement and relief as, in Alberta anyway, the pandemic restrictions have been lifted. I have been buoyed by seeing friends in their homes and walking through public spaces not wearing a mask. I anticipated the interesting contradiction of excitement by familiarity. Relief coming from the place of ‘normalcy’. And yet, what has accompanied these feelings for me is fear and anxiety. 

Photo by Finn on Unsplash

Those close to me will know I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression at times in my life. The pandemic has not been easy on anyone, especially our collective mental health. I’ve always been an introvert, but I’ve never had a lot of social anxiety…until now.  As someone who’s career and jobs (marketing & Business development as well as event planning) hinges on being able to work a room and be comfortable in crowds, this new anxiety is life altering and terrifying. 

In person events are coming back at an incredible pace. I have been invited to so many networking events, luncheons, conferences, social events, kids birthday parties that it is hard to keep track because I’m not only anxious but I’m also out of practice at running my calendar with in-person needs in place; how long does it take to get fully dressed with hair and make up again? How long does it take to drive to this place? Why is there traffic? Oh right! I have to pay for parking…. Must re-download the parking-pay app.

This was all recently tested as I attended my first in-person networking events last week. Attending a familiar, 500 person construction industry event made me realize how rusty my in-person elevator pitch is and that I’m not prepared for small talk and sarcasm. A second event in a crowded bar, brought to the surface for me my newly acquired claustrophobia when in a crowded bar and that the volume level of 200 people talking is way louder and far more distracting than I remember. 

As I looked around at these events I wondered am I the only one feeling this way? Am I the only one fighting the eagerness to embrace my pre-pandemic self, and realizing she may not exist the same way I remember? Am I the only one struggling to ease back into the world of in person gatherings for work or pleasure? 

I’m a direct and curious person by nature so instead of starting a conversation with ‘Wow this second winter sure sucks doesn’t it?’ I found myself asking my fellow event attendees ‘how are you doing with being in person with all these people? Are you feeling a little awkward and uncomfortable too?’ Turns out I am not alone.  

Since many people may not be able to articulate their anxiety the same way as someone who has been handling general anxiety far before the pandemic, I wanted to draw attention to some things event-organizers can do to support their guests and enhance overall guest experience. 

  • Consider putting in place a red/yellow/green system of wrist bands, name tags or lanyards to indicate how comfortable guests are with different levels of interaction. Green is I’ve been starved for interaction – let’s shake hands/hugs/connect closely. Yellow is I’m unsure and may not be ready to shake hands or touch, but happy to connect. Red could be someone who needs some extra space and may still be more comfortable masking 
  • Plan for extra space – larger tables with fewer people at dinners, more high tops at networking events, more bars or walking servers to ensure fewer crowds gathered around bars or food stations
  • Explore a lighter agenda at this year’s events – plan for more social time as people who may have not seen each other in two years, or may be new to the industries connect and learn from each other. Allow space for free discussion 
  • Plan for a ‘quiet space’ near the main event rooms – somewhere with no noise, hand sanitizer, masks, and seating for people who need to decompress and take some time are able to without having to return to their room or leave the event entirely
  • Put your guest’s safety at the forefront and have a mental health nurse on site – include this information in scripts and make this individual easy to find. For someone who may not realize it, a panic attack can feel like a heart attack… having someone knowledgeable onsite to assist is next level awareness of the safety of your guests
  • Have a way for guests to skip the networking rooms – perhaps it means opening the main room early to allow those who may be a bit more anxious to sit at their tables rather than wait in the crowd at the bar
  • Organizers, venue staff, guests, everyone may be dealing with various degrees of this anxiety, be gentle with each other 
  • Be vigilent as organizers –  if someone is hanging back from the registration table, gently ask if you can help them
  • Keep the doors open as much as possible for air flow and if possible find a way to include an outdoor option to the social parts of your event 
  • As an event guest – you are not alone in your worries! Speak up – ask to be sat at the back of the room near an open door, ask the organizers what steps they’re taking, ask for what you need to be as comfortable as possible during this transitional period. 

As much as I want to go back to what I remember to be my enjoyment of events before the pandemic, it’s going to take me time, self-compassion, and the patience of those around me and the knowledge that I’m not alone in this.

Happy Holidays

When we were thinking of what fun we could have for our holiday message this year….at our retreat in AUGUST, we landed on a parody of a Night Before Christmas with some help from our families in key acting roles of course. However, as we tried to write it, it just wasn’t flowing. I was frustrated. “Twas the night before Christmas…..T’was the night before Christmas when all through the…. the… house…” Nothing was coming to me except mice and night caps. 

Then one day, in early December, while wearing a set of sparkly reindeer antlers and driving round delivering goods to a local charity I sang All I Want for Christmas by the incomparable Mariah Carey at the top of my lungs with the windows down and it hit me!  THIS MOVES ME! THIS is what we should do to spread joy and cheer to our favourite people this year. 

And so within 72 hours, in true ‘get-it done’ ED fashion we had mobilized for a full family video shoot in a field west of Edmonton. Drone work by the illustrious Justin Armstrong from Invert 720 and all! We hope it moves your toes to tap and uplifts your lips to an ear splitting grin because this time of year is not about gifts, gazmos or gizmos, it’s about YOU and those you love. 

From our families to yours – Enjoy. 

Surprise, Epiphanies!

It’s into our third week of the Stock vs. Reality Challenge and let me tell you, I was NOT expecting an epiphany to come out of this challenge for me. I was expecting a few ‘real life’ action shots, some laughs at our collective reality and maybe learning to use the camera timer on my phone; but not an epiphany.

But isn’t that when epiphanies show up? When we’re least expecting them? Like when some out of town relative who is rarely seen or heard from drops by for a visit (pre-pandemic of course!) and I feel the need to whip up a fancy lunch and serve the ‘good’ pop. So what have been my epiphanies with this challenge so far?

  1. I don’t want to share my reality… at least not without an explanation. For each of the last two weeks I feel a dread in the pit of my stomach when it’s time to share my ‘reality’ theme picture. My reality needs words and explanation damnit! The first image I wanted to explain why my office was in such a bare-walled state of disarray. The second image was even worse! Why is my workout picture doing squats at my desk? My reality needs to be explained and justified because I’m afraid of being judged. Heck I JUDGE my own reality! But here’s the epiphany – letting go of my need to explain the image, has helped me let go of my fear of being judged. In marketing we often want to control how the message is received as well as when, where and how the message is delivered. Unfortunately, we aren’t able to control the receiver’s response to the message. In the stock vs. reality case – some people will inevitably judge our sweaty, red faced post-workout pics, or our messy, stand up in the kitchen dinner but that’s not for us to control. This challenge has been a reminder that letting go of the fight to control or explain is good for me.  
  1. Sharing our reality takes courage  – and there are a lot of brave souls who’ve joined us on this adventure. Being who I really am is an ongoing struggle and I am committed to continuing to show up to the battleground daily. The battleground is where I choose to  be conscious of when I’m preparing myself for judgement or wearing my armour as Brene Brown calls it. What does this have to do with marketing or events? In order to truly see, appreciate and execute the needs and desires of our clients, I need to see my own self, my own reality,my own vulnerability, my own needs. By knowing how I feel about something, I’m better able to translate my client’s reality and articulate their vision. 

Moving into this week’s meal image challenge I again brace for judgement, but with a new understanding of the reasons behind that fear. Meals with a toddler….what needs to be explained? Ha. I look forward to seeing your submissions on our social channels too and thanks for playing along. 

Prize Announcement – Outdoor Mini Photo Session for 6!

You may have been wondering what’s in it for you to play along with our challenge? Well we have partnered with a fabulous local photographer, Linda Purnell, to provide an outdoor mini session for up to 6 people in the Edmonton area. Check her work out on Instagram and get ready to post this week’s image! 

Prize Fine Print: Winner will be announced May 3, 2021 on the ED social media channels. Photo session must be booked directly with Linda and used by April 31, 2022.  Any location within 15 km radius of Edmonton, must be outdoors. Up to 6 people.  At least 10 processed image files supplied (high and low res of each). No Cash Value. Winner will have 1 week to reply and confirm with ED Marketing and provide their contact information, otherwise a new winner will be drawn.

Stock vs. Reality

While working on ED’s website, our team had an enthusiastic discussion about whether or not to use stock photos or ‘custom’ photos on the site. I mean we all have a phone with a camera, how hard could it be to take a few ‘true to life’ photos for the website? Can’t be that hard. 

Turns out it’s not that hard (HA!), but we liked stock images better – mostly. 

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash
Who doesn’t have 2 large bowls of fruit in their kitchen? Tell me, where’s the dirty dishes in the sink? The mess on the counters? The screaming kids yelling that they want apple juice, not orange juice? This does not look like my house at all!

Stock images have been used in marketing materials since the 1920’s and are mostly fictionalized versions of real or ‘real-ish’ situations meant to circumvent paying a photographer to build or create a true-life shoot to capture an actual situation. Instead of paying a photographer thousands of dollars to build that specific product shot or commercial office tableau, we marketers often choose to pay a few dollars per picture that captures ‘close enough to reality’ to work in a particular design. The irony is that often there is very little ‘reality’ in stock photography. A quick search of ‘parenting’ on popular stock photography sites will show the stark contrast between the reality that parents know to be true and the clean, mess-less, highly staged, slightly unfocused stock photos of calm, polished parents and their pristine children. 

BUT the conversation around stock vs. reality inspired a powerful discussion about the reality of our lives; the messy, beautiful, productive, loving chaos in which we live and work. We had a good laugh around the idea of a stock vs. reality photo series on our blog and social media. When the laughter died, in true Erin-stir-the-pot style, I said let’s do it. The silence on the Google meeting was stark. *cough* “Um. You want me to take a picture of my ACTUAL desk?”

The vulnerability of showing our true spaces and faces is terrifying. We are a team of very different, highly accomplished, driven women. We each wear approximately 100 hats EACH, on any given day. That’s a lot of hats, and they’re everywhere, well at least mine are. Why in the world do I want to bare my shit show of a soul to everyone!?

Here’s the deal though, we’re bad asses. No really. I didn’t say we’re perfect. I didn’t say we’re not business blouses on the top, fuzzy pants and animal slippers on the bottom. I said we’re bad asses. We are dedicated, driven, passionate and REAL. The REAL in us is what we love about each other and what we want our clients to see and appreciate in us. 

Are you ready to get real with us?

April Stock vs. Reality Challenge

Each week in April, we’re going to share a stock photo on social media. It might be work or life related –  ‘home office’,  ‘bosses’, ‘healthy lifestyles’. Each Tuesday we’ll share the stock photo and pair it with a shot of our reality and we invite you to join us. At the end of the month we’re going to do a draw for a prize from the names of those who participated. More details on the prize to follow shortly!

Rules of Engagement:

  • Be nice. Reality is ducking vulnerable. Don’t be jerks. If your reality is being a jerk just keep scrolling
  • Share 1 reality photo for each week’s stock photo as a comment or tag (Instagram) on the social media post for that week. Social media posts will be on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. 
  • 1 entry allowed per person per weekly photo shared. But if you share your photo on all 3 social media platforms, you can get 3 entries!
  • Contest closes April 30th, 2021. The winner will be announced on May 3, 2021 by random draw. 
  • Disclaimer: your submitted photos will not be saved, used or shared by us for any reason. This contest is not sponsored or administered by any of the social media channels. Sharing the post is not required for an entry. (But we’d certainly appreciate if you do share!)

As usual I’m kicking myself a bit for my big mouth, but I’m committed to the outcome. There’s enough ‘stock’ in this world. Let’s get real.

Photo by Polina Tankilevitch from Pexels
Why are some stock photos so weird?

Shoes for the Shoemaker’s Wife…. Finally!

There’s an old proverb that can be traced back to the mid-1500s ‘the cobblers wife/children have no shoes’. It is referenced in some variation in German, French, English, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese and it even transcends industries – the cobbler and his family are shoeless because they focus all their efforts, product and knowledge onto their customers and, in a more modern version, the plumber’s house has a dripping tap. I feel many an entrepreneur can relate to these sayings, the ED team included.


The proverb aptly describes what has been happening in ED’s digital life for at least the last 7 years if not longer. The shoemaker’s wife has long been poorly shod in the digital world – our ED website was a great investment…in 2010 and has been in dire need of updating and attention for at least the last 8 years. In the proverb, the shoemaker’s wife spends her days surrounded by beautiful, well-crafted shoes, meant for other’s feet. The ED team has always been hard at work on behalf of others and we rarely make the time and space to work on our own ‘shoes’ (aka brand). We have worn the outdated shoes of the cobbler’s wife long enough!


Like was the case for many in the event world, the pandemic put a heartbreaking hard stop to all our work in the Spring of 2020. The ED team stumbled along like everyone else stubbing our toes in the dark as we tried to comprehend the incomprehensible. For a bunch of planners, it was torture (and very hard on our toes!)

Standard issue pandemic foot wear


After a few laps around the pandemic dance floor, we found the joy of a slower pace; bike rides and family time, close-to-home stay-cations and five star take-out. Through the summer we consulted on the important projects of a few brave clients but we were still wearing our worn out shoes, standing on the sidelines at the dance.


As September came, the leaves turned and began to fall, we found our bearings in the world of virtual events and have again begun to thrive. We found our groove – and the old, worn out ‘digital’ shoes just could not keep up anymore.


We are so excited to introduce you to our new, beautiful, shoes…I mean website!


Thanks to a lot of hard work of the incredible Kelsey and Jen we have a brand new website that, in this humble ‘shoemaker’s’ opinion, beautifully captures our passion and work with our amazing clients. We invite you to have a look around, let us know what you think and we can’t wait to dance the night away with you again soon.

The shoes I can’t wait to wear after the winter and pandemic!


Also connect with us on LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram – yes, those shoes also got some much needed attention.

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