Across the globe no one is very clear on how the events will shape up post the COVID-19 Pandemic. With government guidelines changing and risk of effectiveness against the new variants of the Coronavirus. It’s very difficult to figure out how things will work out over the coming months.
Even when the in-person events will resume, attendees will be divided into segments. Those who are vaccinated and not completely vaccinated. Those who are willing and able to attend and those who will not.
All of us have seen a lot of interesting articles across different industry sites and news outlets that give event planners a lot of good information. How in-person events will look like in the new normal world and some of the key points they need to keep in mind for their future planning.
Take a look at some of the key things. Consider while encouraging attendees to come to your in-person events:
Even if all lockdowns are being lifted tomorrow, there was no threat to the safety of any delegate. It’s still a possibility that attendance numbers would have to go down. Some people will not want to travel to events who do not want to expose themselves to any risk. Others who have become fans of virtual ones will want to attend from the comfort of their home or office.
With the government issuing new rules regularly. It is an ambiguous time to expect the same delegates as pre covid times.
While having reduced numbers doesn’t mean you need to lose numbers overall. Especially if you create a hybrid event that engages your virtual delegates numbers as pre-COVID-19.
People have experienced virtual events and that will continue when in-person events go live again. There is no point in excluding and separating the audience that was created during the lockdown period.
The content is going to King in the coming times. Content offered by planners has to be even more appealing and valuable than it was pre-COVID-19.
People have seen a lot of content during the lockdown period. They will be making different choices than they were before.
Also, if they have been experiencing good virtual events, they may want to continue that. From the comfort of their home is easy choice over your live event.
If the content isn’t exciting, the networking and social aspects will have to be fabulous. Now is the opportunity for content levels to have raised.
This will separate the planners that understand the content and what that means. They will be able to differentiate themselves from planners that don’t.
Though venues are sure to be subject to massive scrutiny to reveal that they have top-level hygiene standards in place, other event suppliers and planners also have a key part to play in encouraging confidence for delegates.
Planners will have to look out at how the activities they have planned can be performed in a safe and hygienic manner. For example, simple things such as passing a roving microphone between delegates to ask questions will need to be factored in and managed safely.
Event delegates will want to be sure that the activities on offer have been fully considered ensuring that they are safe. Some delegates will care more about this than others.
In the design of your event, you will need to go through everything with the venue to ensure that expectations can be met on all sides. But how does this actually work? It’s easy to state that your programme is socially distant. For this to be the case you need to be thinking about people flow (not delegates but other staff as well) and their behaviour.
Potential people traffic jams could be around the toilets so a definite system will be needed. One person in, one person out etc. could be used. Remember also to factor in how people can move easily through any narrow corridors and walkways. Think about congestion points like registration desks and how they can be managed. Consider the use of self-service check-in kiosks that minimise queues and contact between people.
One-way systems are operating in shops. You could adopt some of their techniques for your events. Your social distancing measures should be tested (just like a soundcheck) before your delegates arrive. That way you can make any final improvements.
How will food and drink be served? How will the venue work with you keep social distancing and safety as priorities, whilst at the same time delivering delicious food?
What is apparent to many planners is that buffets are no longer on the menu. They are gone – at least for the near future – so to are any communal condiments.
Plus, there will be other touches such as venues not having people waiting in line to be served. What should be on offer from venues is food that is ready to go. Hopefully, it will be served on disposable plates etc., which hopefully will be environmentally friendly. Or at least, those are some of the things event planners can ask for.
There are probably going to be limits on the number of delegates in the catering area at any one time. And planners may decide to give delegates fixed time slots to adhere to.
Venues should have hand sanitiser stations available at the entrance and exit to the area. As an additional safety measure, it would be best if delegates left through a different exit to the one that entered through.
For some planners, the COVID-19 crisis has acted as a catalyst that’s accelerated some of their activities especially when it comes to going contactless.
Technology has enabled planners to provide delegates with touch screens, event apps, sensor beacons and facial recognition to name but a few. For those planners that embraced this technology at their events, the idea of accelerating contactless will not be a surprise. And the more contactless, the better.
Some delegates will be at your event doing their hardest to minimise what they have to touch. And that works the other way as well, for you as the planner. Delegates may not want to pick up lanyards that are hanging in a big bundle. They may not want to accept their printed badge from the receptionist. Again, they may prefer using contactless check-in kiosks. Equally, they may not want to pick up a printed agenda or brochure – they’ll prefer using an app instead.
Whilst you may have contactless registration, you will need to think about security bag checks and how they could be handled. Maybe delegates need to accept that security is required to touch their bags and delve inside. Or possibly there is another way. At the very least security personnel should be encouraged to wear disposable plastic gloves when carrying out searches.
Paying by contactless for any purchases or catering will also be important. If the only way delegates can pay is by cash, make sure they know in advance and manage expectations.
It’s actually going to be a tough time for event planners and organisers to adapt to these new normal practices. Changing behaviour takes time and it is difficult to change habits built over years. But it’s time for new habits and new behaviour. The faster we change the faster we will bounce back.
It will be up to you to encourage and help the attendees or else all your hard work of putting on a safe event while providing a great experience will be of no value.
Some delegates will ignore your warning and some may have not understood them. Some will do it as they don’t like to wait longer than needed. Understanding people’s behaviour is important. It’s important for you to find out how people are adapting to this new normal practice.
It’s important for you to understand what actions to be taken to change the attendee’s behaviour. Communicating these practices effectively and clearly is of prime importance. Work with the venue and other industry peers who have wisdom and experience that can be invaluable.
Post pandemic Live events will be different. It’s time to let go of old planning and thinking. Embrace the change and adapt to the new normal. There are all sorts of opportunities for planners that want to evolve their offerings and provide safe events for attendees.