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Interview With Ismail Sirdah on How the COVID-19 Pandemic has Impacted the Event Marketing Industry

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Ismail Sirdah

As cancellations pile up amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the event marketing industry is slowly adapting to a new set of circumstances. With an understanding that this is going to impact the industry for the next six to twelve months, Owner and Founder of Lulu Promotions, Ismail Sirdah, is looking at the silver lining.

Ismail Sirdah began his career in 1998 as the owner of several Mexican restaurants where he discovered his passion for branding and marketing as a result. By 2008, Ismail Sirdah began building a database of clients and recognized the power he yielded with such a large following. Due to his success, Ismail Sirdah had other restaurants ask for promotional assistance with their business ventures. He began promotional efforts by utilizing various social media platforms, and before long, prospective clients were calling to book his services. The success of his promotional campaigns led to a variety of professional opportunities, and the establishment of Lulu Promotions, which is now the number one promotions company in Georgia, within the Spanish and Latino markets.

With years of experience in event marketing, we caught up with Ismail Sirdah to ask about the industry, how it has been impacted by COVID-19, and what this might mean for the future of his business.

What do you love most about the event marketing industry?

 First and foremost, I enjoy bringing individuals together through a common cause, whether it be a fundraiser, lecture, or dance event. From a personal perspective, I love that I can express my creativity through my work. From pinpointing a target demographic, to coming up with marketing tactics for different clients, the variation is exciting. Every project I learn something new and work to apply my knowledge to future collaborations. The current pandemic is likely to reshape the event marketing landscape, so I am curious to see how the industry will continue to evolve following this economic crisis.

How has COVID-19 impacted your business?

 We have had to cancel dozens of events as a result of social distancing laws. Of course, we are happy to do so in order to flatten the curve, but it has been devastating on both a personal and professional level. As someone who is highly passionate about what he does, this has been a difficult adjustment. The entire event industry is suffering right now. From vendors to venues and everything in between, it is a shared struggle. Unlike other non-essential businesses, the event industry is likely the last sector to open back up, and that, of course, this is a cause for concern. However, coming together with other industry partners and vendors is a great way to support one another in this difficult time.

Do you think this will impact the industry long-term?

Absolutely. I think it puts an emphasis on our reliance on physical events. Many of us are in this industry primarily because of the human-to-human connection that events provide—and would never want to eliminate that; however, it showcases that we need safeguards in place. Digital event platforms will likely emerge to fill some of the gaps. I think that versions of Zoom and Houseparty will help provide participants with an additional degree of interactivity that puts digital events on par with physical events. It has the potential to create smaller, more intimate gatherings. I think this pandemic has taught us that we always need to be prepared for the unexpected.

Are you optimistic about the future of your industry?

 I am an eternal optimist and believe that if you are going to survive the pandemic economically, you need to be. I am looking for opportunities at every turn, instead of focusing on the very obvious problem. One of the reasons that I became an entrepreneur was to innovate, and I believe this pressure-cooker situation is going to do just that. Event producers and marketers are naturally very resourceful and innovative, and I think that there is a future in store for this industry that, while it might be difficult to imagine right now, will be better and more resilient.

What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs in the industry?

 I would suggest that they maintain communication with their event partners, and try to share new ways of working and thinking. You are not alone in this fight. Everyone is facing this together, so it is best to use this opportunity to remain transparent about our businesses and ask for help when we need it. This is a time of coming together and preparing for whatever the future holds. When event venues open back up and things go back to some semblance of normal, you will want to be prepared.

How do you manage the expectations of clients?

People have been very understanding. Of course, this is not something that we could have anticipated or changed. There is a common understanding that this situation is out of our control, and we have only tried our best to plan for the future of their events.

Is there a silver lining for the event marketing industry?

 There is always a silver lining. For me, personally, it is that I have had time to step back and take stock of our growing business. When you are in the midst of event marketing, you go from one event to the next, and this time away has given me some perspective on which direction I want our company to move in. It has given me time to reconnect with myself and the purpose of the business, which has given me more focus and motivation. I am confident that we are all going to come out on the other side of this thing stronger than ever before.

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