After two years of setbacks, shifts, and virtual sessions, many companies are now ready to resume in-person events. Being able to reconnect in person is a cause for celebration. But with COVID cases still fluctuating (and many people taking extra precautions as they return to events), planners and producers need to mindfully prepare for their first major events. Here’s what to keep in mind as you get ready to reintroduce in-person events.
Keep changing expectations in mind
After two years of virtual interactions, peoples’ comfort levels with in-person contact may have changed. To help everyone feel more at ease, think about how to safely facilitate face-to-face interactions at your next gathering. This might mean seating fewer people at each table or providing color-coded bracelets or stickers that reveal whether attendees prefer handshakes, fist bumps, or no contact. Being aware of changing expectations and preferences will help you create an event that cautious and carefree guests alike feel comfortable attending.
Implement safety measures
As you plan both large and small events, keep the CDC’s safety recommendations in mind. Decide whether you’ll require attendees to provide proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 tests (and add this information to event sign-ups so attendees know what to expect). For larger events, consider adding a Health and Safety Event Manager who is responsible for keeping up to date with changing CDC and company guidelines and exploring ways to improve health and safety outcomes. Through planning ahead and preparing for various situations that might pop up, you can create a safer environment for everyone.
Set yourself up for success by setting expectations early. Start with regular team check-ins to ensure that your team, vendors, and support staff are all aligned on safety protocols and event plans. You’ll also want to keep attendees updated on what to expect. Sending emails with a detailed schedule and relevant safety-specific details is a good way to set expectations in advance.
Update your budget
From gas pumps to grocery stores, prices are on the rise nationwide. As you put your preliminary budget together, you’ll need to take these increased costs into account and adjust accordingly. If you’re planning to do both hybrid and in-person events, remember that your budgets will go up compared to historicals (but your audience size and KPIs should too).
Choose the venue carefully
Finding the right venue has always been one of the most important building blocks of any event. But after many festivals, staff retreats, and parties were canceled during the height of the pandemic, there’s a pent-up demand for live encounters. This means that you may have more difficulty than expected booking your desired venue and date. To reduce this risk, begin planning as soon as possible. As you narrow down your list of top contenders, consider booking indoor/outdoor venues or choosing larger spaces so there’s more room for social distancing.
Utilize touchless technology
To create a streamlined, safe approach for your event, consider investing in touchless technology. This might include setting up no-touch sanitizer stations or scannable mobile QR codes for badge printing. Providing contactless experiences can cut down on stress and simplify key parts of the event.
Release post-show hybrid content
To increase reach and viewership, consider releasing on-demand content after the event. In addition to reaching individuals who may not have been able to physically attend, on-demand content allows attendees’ to refresh their memories anytime. With digital fatigue running rampant, flexible-viewing opportunities can make it easier for viewers to stay engaged on their own time.
Create a contingency plan
The best-laid plans can often go awry, especially in today’s world. To make sure you’re ready for the unexpected, put a contingency plan in place. Schedule team check-ins to discuss what your strategy will be if you need to postpone the event, have an understudy for your main speakers, stream pre-recorded sessions virtually, or switch to an entirely digital model. By brainstorming various scenarios in advance, you can set everyone up for success and help attendees rediscover the serendipity of live events.