Before 2020 hit, most businesses didn’t worry about when to plan an event or how to get past the fears people might have of gathering in groups. Humans tend to fall into two schools of thought. They are either ready to get out and mingle after being confined and limited for months on end, or they are still a bit scared and reluctant to attend big events for fear the virus is still out there, or another right behind it.
According to the CDC, older adults are at an increased risk of COVID-19. Around 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States were in those 65 years and older. While that may not be the case with every pandemic going forward, it does shape the way companies host events and gatherings for the foreseeable future.
Once corporations receive the all-clear in their state and are ready to host a trade show, there are some rules of thumb to follow. Keep in mind attendees will have different levels of comfort in mingling with others.
1. Go Virtual
If your event is in the near future, it might be safer to organize a digital gathering. If the virus surges again, or another arrives, you’ll already have the setup and plans to accommodate people from a social distance. Another advantage of virtual conferences is the reduction of overhead. You don’t need to hire caterers or rent space to host a digital gathering.
Pass reduced costs on to registrants, who might have had their salaries temporarily cut due to shutdowns. You can also attract an entirely new audience who couldn’t afford your event before.
The Comparative International Education Society (CIES) conference moved to a virtual platform for 2020. Some of the things they’re doing to give the online meetup a real-world feel include connecting participants via a calendar and keeping a content repository. People can access details on their own time, making the online version convenient for any schedule.
2. Know Federal and State Guidelines
Some states still have mandates requiring citizens to wear a mask or limit contact to smaller groups. Your gathering may not be for your local area, so familiarize yourself with recommendations via the state and county websites before hosting an event. Don’t try to skirt around any suggestions. It’s best to err on the side of caution. Not only does this practice protect attendees, but it also shows you care about their health and well-being as well as that of workers helping put on your plans.
3. Entertain Your Audience
By the time the shutdowns from the pandemic pass, people are tired of staying at home and watching the same Netflix series and chatting online. Keep in mind that they’ll be ready for a bit more excitement and some hands-on, interactive displays.
If you’re planning a presence at an event, such as a booth, think about immersive experiences for the best approach. How can you draw visitors into your space and educate them on what you do? Find ways to stand out from the competition.
Blueprint Studios shows some fabulous ideas for immersing attendees in your area and creating experiential displays. They designed 31 different booths, each needing a custom solution to highlight a beauty product. Since Sephora sells from many different brands, each presentation needed to be unique but still tie all the sections together. Participants entered a world filled with images from the brand, and three-dimensional wall art was what tied all the stalls together while still allowing them to stand alone.
4. Continue Tracking Results
A lot of advertising and sales went digital during the pandemic. However, as restrictions lift, companies may return to a mix of both on and offline promotions. One thing you should keep even after the epidemic is tracking how well marketing efforts work. Not only do you want to attract the right audience to your event, but you want word-of-mouth to spread.
5. Enable Networking
People often attend an event solely for networking opportunities. One of the disadvantages of a virtual function is the inability to make close personal connections with others. Whether your gathering is physical or digital, find opportunities for attendees to connect. Match a mentor with a newbie. Open chat rooms with small groups. Host a workshop and allow those participating to ask questions. Hold virtual parties and gatherings and use online icebreakers to get to know each other.
THAT is a conference for web developers. In 2020, their entire gathering is online. One of the more interesting things they’re offering is something called Open Spaces. They allow attendees to choose a topic and create a conversation around it. The discussion is two-sided, so new subjects crop up in the course of talking.
6. Educate Attendees
People may feel uncertain about attending an in-person event after the pandemic. For some, it will have been months since they networked with other professionals. Many companies moved to a remote or hybrid-remote option during the pandemic. Seeing the reduction in overhead, brands stayed with remote work as an option for at least part of their workforce.
Before people arrive at your event, make your expectations and safety precautions clear. If the area requires masks, provide one at check-in with your logo on it. Explain the process to keep people distanced from one another and clarify what cleaning procedures are in place. Work with the venue to ensure appropriate spacing guidelines.
Have an Emergency Plan
The situation with the pandemic is still very fluid. Even when the danger passes, the virus could circle back around, or another one could take its place. Now that you’ve seen what a pandemic can do to your corporate event planning, always have a backup plan.
It’s smart to plan an in-person conference, but know what you’ll do if the worst happens, and you have to move to a virtual setting instead. Have a Plan B and maybe even a Plan C. Hopefully, things will run smoothly, but if not, you’ll know exactly what to do.
Lexie is an IoT enthusiast, an aspiring Olympic curler and a web designer. She enjoys hiking with her goldendoodle and checking out local flea markets. Visit her design blog, Design Roast, and connect with her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.