Alumni in Action: David Beahm ’83 is reimagining event planning amidst social distancing

A pioneer in the events industry, Beahm focuses on innovation and leadership as the world navigates COVID-19.

How do you adapt in the age of social distancing when you’ve built your career around the moments in life that bring people together? If you’re David Beahm ’83, you lean into uncertainty with a willingness to innovate and a generous dose of leadership.

As the founder of David Beahm Experiences and a respected thought leader in the global events industry, Beahm has served as the creative architect for countless stunning events around the world, often for high profile clients and Fortune 500 businesses. So what is it that makes a David Beahm Experiences event stand out from the rest? Beahm, whose company is headquartered in New York, credits his team’s ability to build relationships and incorporate personal touches in everything they do.

“Just like Elon, our big focus is making things personal and custom,” he says. “We get to know you and what you like.” Just a few months ago, that process happened face to face. Now, like much of the workforce, the “Beahm Team” has transitioned to virtual meetings as they work with clients to reschedule and reimagine every event on their books.

“Of course this impacts how we do what we do,” says Beahm, acknowledging the unknowns they face as an industry: When will it be safe to gather again in person? How do you reschedule events in a matter of months in an already saturated New York market? For Beahm, the path forward requires a commitment to innovation.

“We will need to look at new ways of doing things,” says Beahm. “We may move wedding dates to Wednesdays. We used to seat 10 people at a table elbow to elbow, and that will now need to change. But people crave human contact. Weddings will always be here. Love is love, and it’s really important that people can express their love. Galas have to happen, and the fundraising that takes place at those events works best in person.”

He also sees the events industry as well positioned to adapt to change.

“We’ve always had to be able to pivot on a dime,” he says. “Now we have to pivot even faster. Those of us in the events community are asked to be critical thinkers and masters of logistics. I see caterers feeding hospital workers and schools. Companies are fluid and focused on helping community at the same time. I think there will be greater opportunity to collaborate with your community and, perhaps, even your competition to make your industry viable and sustainable.”

Leadership has also been a hallmark of Beahm’s approach to the pandemic. When the virus first began to take hold in the U.S., he generously opened his property in Quakertown, Pennsylvania, called Thistle Dew Farm, to staff members seeking a refuge from New York. Now, he is working to transition production on the farm from flowers to food, with the hope of creating a victory garden and food he can share with the community.

On a whim, he has also started offering daily messages of encouragement to friends and family he is connected with on social media.

“This has taken everyone aback, and we’re all going through some stages of grief for what was and anxiety for what we don’t know will be,” he says. “I just wanted to remind people to stop and breathe. So I made a quick video, and the positive response I got was overwhelming. We’re not ignoring the bad things happening, but we can still live in a positive place at the same time. Happiness is an option.”

About this series: The Elon Alumni in Action series explores the stories of university graduates who are doing important and uplifting work as the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic.