20 Lessons We Learned in 2020, and Should Never Forget

20 Lessons We Learned in 2020, and Should Never Forget

This Year was Unpleasant, but the Lessons We Learned in 2020 were Important

At this point, I think all of us are pretty fed up with everyone constantly pointing out how challenging a year 2020 was (and still is). Finding silver linings, big or small, have been a daily agenda item for most of us. So listing off the lessons we learned in 2020 without being too negative feels like a bigger chore than it has been in most years.

If you’re reading this article in the distant future, you may not really remember everything we had to endure in 2020. The COVID-19 virus drove us indoors and wedged us six feet apart from our family and friends. There were any number of important social issues debated in mask-muffled voices. And I can’t believe I’m even including this, but toilet paper shortages? Yeah … that was a thing in 2020, too.

At this point, December 2020 feels like the twelfth level of Jumanji. We’re taking on each new day unsure of what’s going to happen next. And as excited as we all are to see this year finally come to a close, it’s safe to say we’re not taking any chances. We’re knocking on wood, avoiding black cats, steering clear of ladders, and hopping over sidewalk cracks in the hopes 2021 turns out better.

Normally, these end of the year recap articles are a lot of fun to write. Any other year, the lessons we learned are chock full of upbeat messages and brimming with hope. And while this seems like a tall order, we’re hoping this review of the lessons we learned in 2020 can lean more toward that tried and true upbeat messaging. So let’s cross our fingers and dive in, shall we?

Lesson 1: Always Be Ready to Pivot and Adapt

If there’s one thing 2020 taught us as a company, it’s that pivoting and adaptation are essential in a crisis. A lot of event and party rental operators learned that lesson this year as well. Our customer base grew to include companies and organizations we don’t usually reach in most years. Hospitals, schools, and pharmacies were buying party tents, folding tables and chairs, and even fun commercial inflatables. We’re grateful to welcome all of these new industries to our family!

Lesson 2: Our Products Have a Lot of Unintended Uses

Keeping with the theme from that first note, one of the big lessons we learned in 2020 is that our products are a lot more useful for more purposes than we ever really knew. Hospitals, pharmacies, and others used our party tents as medical tents for emergency triage, drive thru testing, and more. Schools used them for outdoor classrooms. Parents hosted virtual graduation parties outdoors, and learned the value of plyometric exercise with bounce houses. And restaurants used our tents for outdoor dining and for curbside pickups. This year showed us that it isn’t just ourselves that adapt. Our products can, too. And that’s a message we think other businesses can take advantage of, too.

Lesson 3: Our Equipment was Way More Popular in a Pandemic than We Anticipated

All of that unexpected versatility translated into some surprising shortages for us this year. Few could have predicted that we’d struggle keeping up with demand. We’re confident we did everything we could to fulfill orders and keep up with demand, but that was definitely an unforeseen challenge for us.

Lesson 4: Hosting a Virtual Show Isn’t as Easy as We Imagined

In the wake of the cancelation of IAAPA 2020, we found ourselves organizing and hosting our own virtual fall trade show. We think it went pretty well, too, and customers seemed to really enjoy it. But we were surprised by just how much planning and technical tinkering went into the process. We’ll definitely be better prepared though for future virtual trade shows, which I think I can safely say we’re all hoping to do more of going forward.

Lesson 5: Zoom Meeting Security can be Challenging

Zoom meetings can be difficult when you have childrenSpeaking of virtual trade shows, some of you reading this may have witnessed one of our events getting hijacked by forces unknown. This “Zoom bombing” left us scrambling to shut down offensive material. These sorts of attacks impact companies, schools, and even private family meetings online. 2020 showed us cyber security efforts can’t be phoned in with online meetings … no pun intended.

Lesson 6: Babies Really Do Not Care—At All!—About Your Zoom Meetings

Working from home and having this time with my young daughter has been invaluable. But another big takeaway from Zoom meetings is that babies really just couldn’t care any less about what you’re busy with at work.

My daughter was about five months old when this pandemic started, and somehow, she has consistently woken up about three or four minutes before our morning marketing meeting nearly every single day. She likes to occasionally make cameos in those meetings, too. Thankfully, our daughter is well behaved and doesn’t scream bloody murder while the microphone is hot. But I always leave my mic muted until I have something to say, just to be safe.

Lesson 7: Working from Home has Its Highs and Lows

There were a lot of lessons we all learned about working from home unrelated to babies, too. Lessons that will likely change the ways workers and companies both consider office work.

There are a lot of perks to working from home. Companies learned this year that their remote staff is just as productive, if not more productive, as office workers. They save money not needing office space, too, which includes paying for everything from utilities to janitorial services.

Working from home definitely has some highs and lows

Remote work definitely isn’t for everyone. Some people would love to get back into the office. But me? Working from home gives me more time with my kids. I can work more comfortably, too; on warm days I can pop out onto my patio with my laptop. And being a big nerd, I’m infinitely more comfortable using my own tech at home than the computers in the office. I’m more accustomed to my own PC, which I built myself, and I like that I can fiddle with and fine tune settings to my liking without requiring IT’s approval.

Like most companies, ours rolled out a few accountability measures to keep track of performance and ensure everyone’s work is getting done. And I personally think these measures have helped me improve efficiency and better keep track of my own performance, too. That wouldn’t have been the case if we’d been working in the office this entire time.

The downsides? Your kids don’t always appreciate that work time is work time. You may not always have the same level of access to senior staff from home as you have in the office. And you do definitely miss your coworkers and wish you could see them in person once in a while, too.

Lesson 8: The Importance of Taking Time to Destress

This having been such a stressful year, the importance of taking time to destress likely isn’t lost on many. But with varying severities of quarantines around the country, our options for stress management seem unfairly limited.

It’s essential that each of us find a few different ways to get comfortable, relax, and blow off some steam. For me personally, that’s watching movies with my family, or going for a drive in the country, or settling in with a video game for a few hours. Whatever suits you best, stress management during a pandemic is vital. And if you haven’t been proactive with it yet, now is as good a time as any to start.

Lesson 9: Some Phrases Need to Go Away FOREVER

Can we all just agree to ban the following phrase from the English language forever?

“In these ______ Times”

Fill in that blank space with any of the following:

  • Trying
  • Unprecedented
  • Difficult
  • Challenging
  • Troubled or troubling

While we’re at it, can we also ban sad, slow piano music over black and white photos of empty parking lots and stadiums? This hilarious Youtube video sums up these cookie cutter COVID commercials with shocking accuracy.

Lesson 10: Shortages During This Global Crisis Weren’t What We All Thought They’d Be

Toilet paper shortages were a thing that will take some explaining in the futureIf Hollywood and video games tell us anything about a global health pandemic, it’s that we all need to worry about supply shortages. Food, fuel, and potable water are always difficult, if not impossible, to find. But do you know what you’ve never seen Mad Max desperately searching the wasteland desert for? Do you know what quest item I’ve never been asked to find in a Fallout video game?

Toilet paper.

The bizarre TP shortages of 2020 will go down as one of history's mysteries, for sure. Why exactly did a global health pandemic scare countless millions of Americans into hoarding toilet paper, of all things? How on Earth did that become the thing people flocked into stores to buy?

Lesson 11: Speaking of Which, Stocking Up on Essentials is … well … Essential

Here’s another important lesson we all learned in 2020: you need to keep your home well stocked with emergency supplies and essential items. And no, I’m not just talking about the aforementioned toilet paper. Food, medical supplies, personal hygiene items, and other essential items should always remain well stocked at home, because you never know when sudden, unexpected shortages might happen.

Lesson 12: Good Hygiene is About a Whole Lot More than Being Presentable

Before this pandemic, our efforts to maintain good hygiene were largely focused on not wanting others to think less of us. Most people were less concerned about germs and more worried about being stinky or looking unkempt. Very few people washed their hands as well as they do today. And getting into these hygiene routines can only have a positive lasting effect on our overall health moving forward.

Lesson 13: Not Being Able to Touch Your Own Face Is … Weird

These hygiene practices aren’t just about cleanliness, either. Staying safe during this pandemic means ditching a lot of lifelong habits you never realized you even had. Before this pandemic, did you realize how often you touch your own face? Or how frequently you cover your face with your hand when you sneeze? These things all proved that old habits die hard, and it was surprising just how big of an adjustment this all was for most people.

Lesson 14: We Spent a Lot More Time Physically Close Pre-Pandemic than We Realized

On a similar note, it wasn’t until this pandemic that many of us realized just how much time we spend in close contact with others, including strangers. And this point is proven by the challenges of keeping everyone six feet apart. Before COVID, we’d walk in tight packs through grocery stores and greet one another in passing from barely a couple of feet away. We’d eat meals seated in restaurants with others at tables well within that six foot radius. It wasn’t until we all suddenly became conscious of that physical distance that we realized just how much time we spend in the close quarters of strangers.

Lesson 15: Mask Chic

Our unwavering human need to express ourselves wasn’t slowed by this pandemic. Capitalizing on our need for face masks, many companies started selling masks with every sort of logo, phrase, and design imaginable. From sports teams to comic book heroes, from rock bands to political messages, face mask designs flourished this year, giving people yet another surface on which they could show others what they love or how they think.

Lesson 16: You Can Buy Nearly Anything Your Heart Desires Online

Most years, I do my Christmas shopping both online and in stores. In 2019, it was probably a 60/40 split, with online shopping edging out brick and mortar stores. But this year, that split was more like 99/1.

One of the neatest lessons we learned in 2020 is that online shopping has drastically evolved in recent years. Right now, I can pop open Doordash or Grubhub and place an order for a restaurant meal, and have it delivered. I can buy groceries, or pharmacy items, or just about anything else under the sun, and have someone deliver it to my home in under an hour.

Sure, a lot of people knew about these services before the pandemic. But I think it’s safe to say we all use these services a lot more frequently now than ever before, and that leads us to our next point …

Lesson 17: Redefining Who the Heroes Are

Back around Halloween, a friend of mine posted a really heartwarming story on social media. Her daughter’s teacher had organized a costume contest over Zoom, and had asked each of the students to dress up as a hero. Most of the kids showed up dressed like superheroes. A few came in nurse, firefighter, or police officer costumes.

My friend's seven year old daughter? She dressed in khakis and a green button down shirt. When the teacher asked what she was supposed to be, she explained she was an Instacart shopper. That’s who she saw as a hero in 2020.

We often define a hero as someone who puts themselves in harm's way for others. And in 2020, credit is owed to workers in grocery stores, box stores, restaurants, and other retail spaces who kept this country fed and clothed despite front line exposure to the virus. 

That doesn’t take away from more traditional heroes, of course. My wife is a nurse at a major Buffalo hospital, putting in twelve hour shifts wearing multiple layers of PPE and putting herself in danger every time she steps foot in her workplace. But these clerks, stockers, and delivery drivers have redefined the word “essential” and we all owe them our gratitude, too!

One of the big lessons we learned in 2020 is just how essential essential workers truly are

Lesson 18: Important Social and Political Issues Don’t Pause for a Pandemic

Don’t worry, we aren’t going to ramble about politics here. But regardless of where you stand on the issues facing our nation today, one of the big lessons we learned in 2020 is that important issues don’t have a pause button. And people from all walks of life took to the streets or participated in rallies in support of the causes they hold dear.

Lesson 19: The Further Apart We Become, the More We Need Each Other

One of the most important lessons we learned this year is just how much we rely on one another. And it’s not until you’re staying six feet apart that you really stop to consider just how much you appreciate the people around you.

Limiting our interactions with family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors is one of the root problems we had to tackle in 2020. Maintaining safe social distancing becomes nearly impossible when your niece asks for a hug, or your sick family member needs soup, or your close friend is down on their luck and needs to see a familiar face.

If anything, being driven apart by quarantines and social distancing guidelines has shown us all the importance of maintaining our personal relationships however we can. And while we can be grateful for Zoom, Skype, Discord, and video calling through other services, a lot of us are eagerly awaiting the day when we can all get together and enjoy a meal at the same table.

Lesson 20: Our Industry, and the American People as a Whole, are Incredibly Resilient

There’s one theme that ties all of these lessons we learned in 2020 together. And surprisingly, you can sum that theme up with just one single word. Resilience.

This virus drastically changed our world and how we interact and exist within it. Our daily routines have been altered significantly, and some of those changes will never revert back to how things were prior. Some have survived this virus once or even twice. Others weren’t so fortunate, and many families have suffered the loss of loved ones. But through it all, we’ve managed to keep hold of our hope that we’ll eventually see this pandemic come to an end.

For the event industry, this was without question a terrifying year. Weddings, birthday parties, graduations, corporate expos, music festivals … Nearly all parties and events were canceled coast to coast. 

Many rental operators suspended operations. Others went out of business entirely. But a healthy number of companies did manage to pivot early on and avoid the full brunt of the pandemic. And while our industry will never look the same moving forward, it’s far from defeated. When the country and the world opens back up in the near future, we’ll be ready for the celebrations that follow.

Despite 2020 being an almost impossible year to get through, there are still stories of success, growth, and hope pulling us forward into 2021. By this time next year, every American who wants the vaccine will have hopefully received it. Our country will be back open for business, and we’ll all be free to come together closely again. 

There’s still a lot of time for the twenties to roar, and when they do, our industry will be standing by to help everyone party like they’ve never partied before. And the lessons we learned in 2020 will leave us better prepared to tackle tomorrow's challenges.

The lessons we learned in 2020 will leave us better prepared for 2021 and beyond

Previous 30 New Year's Resolutions for Your Party Rental Company
Next The Summit Center: Donating in the Season of Giving
Leave a Reply