Live events are coming back! I think we’re all beginning to see the light at the end of this pandemic tunnel. The US is showing strong positive trends with cases and CDC guidance is getting more and more lenient with its restrictions. For events, this means people are starting to see opportunities to gather again in person.
So, all of you event planners, how can you prepare for this? I’ve got 5 tips to share as you get back into the zone of planning in-person events.
Tip 1: Make plans based on current actual guidelines.
Hopefully restrictions will continue to ease over time, allowing for larger gathering sizes and more activity options. But don’t make any assumptions. If your event is within the next six months, make your plans using current government guidelines. One of the biggest challenges is securing speakers and panelists in an environment with changing travel protocols. If you try to project what those protocols will look like in the future, you risk committing participants who have to back out. In turn, you’ll have to update your communications and promotional material, and you risk losing attendees who register for specific presenters. All of this destroys your credibility for future events. It’s a huge hit, so play it safe by assuming current live event guidelines will persist.
Tip 2: Create backup options for flexibility.
I love the idea of creating plans B1 and B2. B1 is your backup plan if the restrictions continue to ease. B2 is your backup plan if the restrictions get tighter. Assume for now that both of these scenarios are equally probable. This means your venue, catering, and lodging needs could scale up or down, and your contracts should be written to account for those possible changes. Add livestreaming & virtual event attendance options to give yourself further flexibility (more on that later).
Tip 3: Check the venue’s local guidelines.
The United States currently has some national mandates, but the majority of restrictions are mandated at the state and county levels. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your local guidelines are the same as the guidelines for your live event venue. Also, venues themselves may have additional requirements mandated at the company level.
Tip 4: Communicate frequently with your attendees.
Live events are more than just events…they are experiences. Ensure your attendees know exactly what to expect for every step of the way. Tell attendees what the state, local, and venue restrictions look like. Tell them what you will be doing to provide any of their needs. Will you have hand sanitizing stations? Will you provide masks at check-in? And even beyond the COVID elements – will you have signs for where to park? Are you providing meals? How do attendees check in at their hotels? Whatever your plans are, just make sure the attendees are clear on what to expect.
Tip 5: Make sure a virtual attendance option is provided.
It’s hard to beat the in-person experience of an event. But these days there is so much cool technology that can make virtual attendance a powerful experience, and don’t forget you may still have targeted attendees who will not be able to attend in person. You can do multiple livestreams, customized event pages, real-time breakout room videoconferencing, Q&A, Chat, Polls… Honestly the options for virtual attendees are really robust. And why limit your event to in-person event attendees? Scale your reach using virtual events platforms to impact as many people as possible. Whether you use Parcy, or other hybrid event platforms, make it easy for your attendees to feel included in whatever way they are participating. This will help you with Tip #2 as well – if you need to scale the event up or down, hybrid event platforms will help you do that without limiting your audience.
Personally I can’t wait for live events to come back. I’m excited to see and hear on the front lines that we’re starting to think that way again. Live events have so much energy. But I’m also convinced that virtual event tech has blossomed in this past year, and it will only help live events become stronger. The event of the future is hybrid – meaning it has both live and virtual attendees. Even if we return to 100% pre-COVID normalcy, in what scenario would smart event planners NOT add virtual features to their events? Be smart as you re-enter the live events atmosphere. I’m Team Hybrid, all the way.
What tips did we miss? Let me know!