What to Anticipate When Planning Post Pandemic Events
Since the start of the pandemic, the events industry has seen rapid and considerable change when it comes to holding events. To comply with pandemic response measures, many events were forced to switch to virtual, while in-person occasions became a rarity. Hybrid events that combined both in-person and virtual elements are now becoming more commonplace.
Now, as vaccination rates increase around the world and authorities are starting to open up cities to public gatherings, organisers are planning what they can do to ensure health and safety while restoring confidence in face-to-face events.
Kicking off any event begins with defining the goal of the event. Under current circumstances, you also need to figure out why opting for a face-to-face meeting is preferred over a virtual meeting. There is certainly greater opportunity for networking and more enjoyment derived from in-person events over the more impersonal virtual and hybrid options. What do you hope to achieve by in-person interaction and what strategies will you need to ensure are in place so that the event is both COVID safe, and successful?
You also need to assess and determine who your participants will be. Is it a networking event for professionals, or a product launch for prospective buyers? Understanding your audience will help in planning the event so it effectively and efficiently meets your audiences’ expectations. You can better plan out activities for the allocated time and format of the event.
This raises the question of the best venue selection. As a means of more easily transitioning from hybrid or virtual meetings, to face-to-face events, your audience may prefer an outdoor venue (weather permitting). An outdoor event may be more comfortable for those still apprehensive about virus transmission and can make for a more interesting experience for those that have been working from home for an extended period of time. Indoor venues are still a good option, but their sizing relative to the number of attendees should be considered. You will want generous spacing that allows for attendees to easily move around without feeling crowded.
Do The Research
As you plan your event, it may be useful to seek input from your attendees and your employees. There are likely to be some concerns about returning to face-to-face events, so ensure you and other planners are accessible to receive feedback, and answer concerns. People will likely want to call or email to learn more about the health and safety measures that will be in place. They may even want to share their own suggestions on how to enhance the event.
This is an opportunity to explore creative ways to hold your event, be it fully face-to-face or hybrid. With numerous hospitality businesses eager to reopen, you should have access to a wider range of options. Many venues on the smaller side, have been given the opportunity to apply for grants to expand into outdoor areas like gardens and car parks, offering more sought after larger, outdoor spaces for entertaining. Now is an excellent chance to do some research and explore how you can make better use of your budget to create a truly memorable event.
Make In-Person Events the Preference
When the pandemic started, most events shifted directly to virtual. This later evolved into hybrid events and now we are likely to start seeing a greater return to face-to-face events. With so many people having grown tired of working from home, with limited social interaction, the desire to get back to networking with others, even for just a few hours, is strong.
Event planners should firstly address health and safety concerns. From adhering to government directions, to taking suggestions from venue owners and attendees, every effort should be made to ensure your participants feel safe. There should also be an effort to ensure people feel their time attending your event was well spent. Depending on the nature of the event, the programme could include activities, or be held in a venue, that will add something different, and include a fun ‘change of pace’. This can include anything from a special keynote speaker, holding live auctions, live performances, or a qwerky venue. Adding elements of extra interest or fun into the occasion, can enhance even the most serious of events, as well as being a drawcard to lure attendees.
Be Sure to Record your Event
Playing back clips of the event is a good way to illustrate to people that life is getting ‘back to normal’ and that they should accept the next invitation that comes their way. Seeing others having fun and comfortably enjoying a day or night out, in a COVID safe way, can reassure people that it is time to return to in-person attendance.
Over the last couple of years, the government has gone back and forth on pandemic measures. Just as restrictions are eased, an outbreak occurs somewhere and we are back in lockdown. It has been an unstable situation that has made it difficult for businesses to cope, as well as plan events. Those that have survived have realised the need to be flexible and have contingencies in place. As we enter into a new year hopeful that the pandemic will soon come to an end, we need to be prepared for possible hiccups along the way.
Making use of larger venues is a good way to ensure you can comfortably accommodate attendees without worrying about spacing requirements. Consider working with venues more willing to negotiate short notice cancellations in case new measures come in that force postponement or cancellation of the event.
Adhere to Government Updates
Always check the latest Government COVID updates for events, and note, these are changing on a frequent basis. Ensure you comply with all requirements and even share pertinent guidelines with attendees when sending invites.
Due to issues of liability, you may also want to consider having attendees sign waivers. Consult with a lawyer to find out if and how you can do this to avoid ending up being held responsible for a possible infection spread, despite taking all reasonable steps to prevent it.
Face-to-face events inherently come with greater risks. It is important to ensure a safe experience not just for attendees, but also for the organizers and venue staff. Engage with the venue’s events team to understand the COVID Safe Policy they have in place for events and what they expect of organisers.
Hygiene should be a key priority with measures in place to ensure people can easily access the facilities they need. Steps may include a COVID safety marshall directing your delegates, scanning in with an event QR code, hand sanitising stations, self print name tags, socially distanced seating, and individually wrapped food for all catering breaks. The venue’s size should be suitable to meet the needs of the attendees, with enough room for working staff to get around and offer instructions.
Consult the Experts
Professional event and conference planners have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic, ensuring that all of their client’s needs and legal requirements have been taken care of, within the scope of Government directions at any given time. Engaging with a professional who is well versed in navigating the ever changing COVID landscape will streamline the whole event planning process (whether it be for a virtual, hybrid or face-to-face event) for you.