Earlier this month, a series of headline-grabbing events took place. But they didn't draw attention because of their star-studded guest lists—instead, it was for having no guest list at all.
These so-called "empty events" are the brainchild of the Live Events Coalition, a volunteer-run nonprofit organization created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The staged, attendee-less activations—which initially took place in Washington D.C., Dallas, and New York, followed by Los Angeles, San Diego, and Denver last week—shine a spotlight on the industry and its calls for federal aid, expansions to the Paycheck Protection Program, and more.
But why empty events? The goal is “to showcase and remind people that [an event] doesn't magically appear. That there are these extremely talented and highly skilled and trained professionals that build this," Said Nancy Shaffer, founder and CEO of BRAVO! Events and the president of the coalition’s board.
The more recent gatherings took the same premise and added some local flair. The Los Angeles event, which took place Aug. 12 in Xbox Plaza at L.A. Live, featured an eye-catching art installation utilizing mixed media and florals to spell the words "12 Million Strong"—a.k.a., the number of Americans who make up the event industry. The formation of empty tables spelled out "One Voice" from above, and in an appropriately L.A. twist, an empty red carpet set included a lighting installation with 48 fixtures, each representing 250,000 industry professionals. The event also included a car parade, where unemployed Southern California event professionals decorated their cars and caravanned in solidarity.
"It was important to me to not just design an empty event per say, but really make an activation that shined hope," explained Alexandra Rembac, principal and creative director of Sterling Engagements, who designed and produced the event. "I wanted to build something that represented not only Los Angeles but stood for who we were as an industry. The Live Events Coalition is uniting our industry and I personally, and professionally for that matter, felt compelled to not only highlight that, but celebrate it."
Meanwhile, the San Diego gathering took over San Diego Waterfront Park on Aug. 13, and included both live and virtual speeches plus a caravan of empty event company trucks. And in Denver, the Colorado Event Alliance set up empty tables and bar scenes at the Sculpture Park event lawn of the Denver Performing Arts Complex on Aug. 1