by Karen Robbins, President

Since December of 2020, I have written several blogs about starting over during Covid-19. We have been quiet on social media for the last year and it felt like we needed to explain ourselves. I have not shared those blog versions because one day it felt right, and then suddenly it didn’t. The world was still turned upside down. There was a lot of emotion tied up in the words I wrote. I even tried a peppier version of “We are Still Here and Ready When You Are” but that didn’t feel right either when so much of our team was not “still here.”

Same Turbulent Sea, Different Boats

2020 was our 30th year in business. It started out as a magic year with a magic team. We were buckled in and climbing the roller coaster, getting ready for a fun ride celebrating a milestone year. Instead, by March 13, 2020, we sent everyone home. Stunned, concussed, and grappling with coming to an abrupt halt in the middle of the ride. What just happened?

Like so many small businesses in the event industry our story is not unique either. All of us missed something last year. Covid-19 changed all of our lives. I remember seeing a quote about us all being in the same boat. Instead the writer noted, we were “all in the same turbulent sea just in different boats”. That felt about right. The experience was the same, yet different for everyone.

We own our office buildings and each person on the team had their own office space. It was lively and fun to walk into those buildings. Many of the offices looked like dorm rooms festooned with event badges and memorabilia and birthday decorations. If you are in the event world, you know what I mean. SWAG is fun! But, when your business is completely taken offline in a matter of days and continues to be sidelined a year later; the reality is, you probably need to get rid of the buildings. Everything was finalized a few weeks ago on the last two buildings. The process took months to unravel, we needed to store and set aside, giveaway and decide. It was not easy, but that chapter has closed now.

Stuck in a Weird Place – March 2020 to March 2021

And, now suddenly, we are here in March of 2021. The weather feels exactly the same as it did this time last year when the world was unraveling. It’s unsettling how much time has passed so quickly, yet slowly.

And during this year, we have watched while our clients and industry friends were furloughed or were navigating the virtual meeting pivot. Truth be told, the sideline of the event industry is a weird place to sit and watch things happen that you can’t control. Our industry is used to making things happen not watching them fall apart and shift dramatically within days. When I think about this last year, I am reminded of an industry friend who posted a few weeks into Covid-19. He said, “at the end of every show we would all shake, hug and say see you on the next one, and I will never take that for granted again.”

Boy was he right. Who knew at the end of those events that something could come along and completely wipe out the next event and the next one and…?

We look a little different now and while it is a terribly sad thing it is not necessarily a bad thing. There have been many lessons along the way. We are asking ourselves different questions than we did a year ago. We are less hurried and less worried than we were last year at this time. This clarity has brought about another level of thinking and creativity. If Covid-19 showed us anything about life it is who is ultimately in control and it is not us. We may have been grieving hard this last year, but we still have a heartbeat. We are still here.

Hope, Optimism and Bus Magic

Spring is here and we are shaking off the weirdness! It’s time to start over and it is time to share again. Even though we did not celebrate our 30th year last year, it does not mean it didn’t happen! We may not be the same as we were 365 days ago but we can’t do much about that.

We plan on celebrating being in business for 31 years and we will celebrate the team that contributed to that success, too. Without them, there would be no Stewart Transportation Solutions. Our penguins, (team mascot), deserve to be remembered. This past year has been hard on them, too.

These days, there is hope on the horizon and in our inbox! There is optimism, new beginnings and fresh starts! The “we can’t wait to be face-to face-again” meetings have started! And boy, are we ready to make the bus magic happen again!

To our customers and friends that have continually checked in over the last year, thank you. Thank you for continuing to find creative ways to use our services in this difficult time. But, most of all, thank you for caring and being a part of the ride. We are ready, when you’re ready, after all.

taking to twitter
In 2015, one of our enterprise clients created a mega-user conference. The event debuted at Chicago’s McCormick place. It brought together 20,000 IT professionals, software developers, and super users from around the world. After a successful first year, the event organizers selected Atlanta, GA to host the conference in 2016.

As you can imagine, planning an event of this magnitude is no small task. The challenge of feeding, housing, transporting and providing a meaningful experience for that many people is not for the faint of heart. Luckily, we work with the best planners in the world. We are always in awe of the incredible events they pull off. This conference was no exception.


We knew Atlanta’s infamous traffic situation would present the most significant transportation hurdle. In addition, we knew these attendees were avid Twitter users who would not be shy about providing real-time feedback.

A few days before the conference began, we approached the event’s social media team to discuss whether they would be comfortable with us handling transportation-related tweets.

Disclaimer: this is not always the best fit for every conference. Most organizers prefer social media engagement to flow through one dedicated on-site team. But with 14 shuttle routes, 61 hotels, 20,000 attendees and a city with an infamous traffic situation, this was no ordinary show. With the green light from their team, we devised a unique social media strategy for this event.

Our social media team was tasked with monitoring Twitter and responding to attendee transportation issues, which allowed them to resolve problems at a much faster rate. They were familiar with the shuttle schedule and service expectations, as well as knew the on-site transportation team and where they were located throughout the city. Quick check-in meetings were additionally scheduled between marketing and on-site team leads. They went over relevant changes, traffic concerns, and any other potential service disruptions – all prior to making major shuttle moves.

Armed with this information, we handled most tweets quickly. However, if an attendee identified a problem requiring onsite input, we were immediately able to connect with the appropriate route supervisor, program lead, or staff person best equipped to rectify the situation. We also made sure to share real-time transportation information with the social media team as needed.


We learned a lot about people and social media that week – most importantly that great customer service means quickly acknowledging criticism while making sure attendees knew we heard them regardless of who or what caused the issue (hello, Beyoncé concert traffic!).

A study conducted by Twitter in 2016 discovered data proving the following:

In one case, we were able to turn a Twitter user into our biggest brand advocate. After he posted a tweet about his transportation experience, we started a Direct Message dialogue. We quickly arranged for him to meet with our CEO and President after one of his sessions. They were able to hear his concerns and explain our position. He was so surprised we cared about his experience that he took to Twitter to thank us several times.


In general, platforms like Twitter can help to bridge the gap between client and attendees. It gives an insider view on real time attendee experience and allowing for faster access and communication between attendees. It gives us the opportunity to provide a solution sooner than later.

Our social media approach that week in Atlanta was just one aspect of delivering a successful transportation program for our client and the attendees. And transportation is just one piece of the event puzzle! Ultimately, planners, staff and vendors like us are all part of the same team. When transportation is successful, we’re doing our part to contribute to the overall event success, and technology is helping us do this better!