Event Planning – what does the future look like?

One of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely been the prevention of in-person interaction. Whilst stopping us from gathering with family and friends (made especially difficult as the guidance on this seems to change frequently), the events and meetings industry has also been severely affected by the current situation.

Whilst there was some light at the end of the tunnel, we are now heading into the autumn and winter months, a.k.a. ‘flu season’. This paired with the steady increase in COVID cases – not just in the UK but globally, means we are now looking at, at least one month of very tough restrictions/Lockdown.

However, the industry adapted before and it can again – after all, in business the most important skill to have is to be flexible and capable of adjusting to the situation at hand.

In times of uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to be certain that you can generate new ideas and use your creative skills to ensure your business’s survival in the months ahead.
In order to come up with the new ideas, it’s important to look at the opportunities for the industry in the coming months. So, what will the future of the events industry look like?

Let’s take a look:

1. Social distancing
Perhaps the most challenging aspect for an industry that requires face-to-face interaction in a social setting!
However, some ways event planners can get around social distancing include:
– Hosting an event or meeting for smaller groups in a larger venue to allow for adequate social distancing
– Adopting new seating arrangements which maintain the 2m distancing whilst encouraging conversation at the same time
– Having a smaller number of attendees, and/or having a mixture of in-person and virtual participants

2. Registering participants
It goes without saying that maintaining social distancing is very important in hindering the spread of coronavirus. Why not come up with creative ways to ensure this is upheld when registering attendees?
For example, set up different sign-in or self-scanning posts during event registration – all positioned two meters apart, with signs encouraging distancing between the attendees.
To avoid handing out badges and leaflets, why not email or send these in the post or encourage participants to print them out at home to take with them to the event?

3. Refreshments and pick-me-ups
Another hurdle with event planning is how food and drink will be delivered in a COVID-safe way.
Coffee and tea stations were instrumental in keeping people refreshed and rejuvenated. Platters of biscuits and cakes are certainly not safe now and may not be for some time.
Consider using disposable cups for the tea and coffee machines and providing packaged biscuits and cakes to help attendees feel safer and more confident during in-person events in the future. Supplying the attendees with their own printed mug to keep all day and take home.

4. Mobiles and social media
Another major draw at these functions is the interactive sessions, particularly Q&As many of which involve a microphone being passed around the audience.
A minimal contact approach can be maintained utilising social media – commenting or sending a question before or during the event using an appropriate hashtag or a DM (direct message) to the speaker’s phone.

5. Publishing event guidelines
Many will still feel uneasy and uncomfortable about attending a function in these difficult times, especially with cases on the rise again.
To ensure guests feel safe, be sure to publish on your event website, or even send participants an email beforehand, explaining how social distancing will be observed.
These measures could include:
-Thermal scanning
This significantly reduces the risk of the spread of coronavirus, and most events will do or might already (depending on when you are reading this) require this.
Thermal scanning is an expected extra layer of protection and will encourage people to attend the events as they will feel safer in doing so.
– Sanitising and decontamination
An adequate amount of sanitising stations should be available to attendees, and signage should encourage the use of them. Perhaps making it mandatory for guests to sanitise when entering the venue would make people feel more confident in attending.

Providing promotional masks to participants is also a good idea to ensure the safety of those attending.

Regularly disinfecting the surfaces and door handles, equipment and seating areas is vital in ensuring minimal transmission and instilling confidence in attendees.

It is likely that we will continue to witness a surge in hybrid and virtual events due to their ability to reach audiences across the globe.

The key to success in holding hybrid functions is extending engagement post-event such as an after-show giveaway or follow up email to all the attendees.