In Germany we have a saying, ”totgeglaubte leben länger”. In Movies, they often say, “The King is dead. Long live the King.” Those two statements describe quite well the situation in the event industry since March 2020.
A few fast facts:
- The meeting industry supported 3,2 million jobs in Europe in 2019
- The global events industry size was valued at 1,300 billionUSD in 2019
- 93% of senior-level business managers said that face to face meetings improve their ability to close deal
No one really knows what events will look like in a post COVID-19 world. With government guidelines changing all the time – and the looming risk of dealing with Corona until the end of 2021 – it’s difficult to see how things will actually pan out over the coming year. Even when face to face events resume, the reality is likely to be that for a significant amount of time, attendees will be split between those willing and able to attend physically and those who will not.
Recently, however, I have seen a number of interesting articles across industry sites and news which give organisers a lot of good information on what live events may look like in the ‘new normal’ and some of the things they need to think about for their future planning.
I have tried to gather some of the advices and estimations you may consider when encouraging attendees to come to your events:
Hygiene Standards That Are Second to None
Whilst venues are sure to be subject to massive scrutiny to demonstrate 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. The venue chosen for the event must be one that takes the business of hygiene very seriously. Whilst all venues will claim that they do this, you should be able to tell how committed they are. You can find out by asking about their cleaning disciplines: ask about issues such as, how many staff they have assigned for cleaning, how often they clean and where they clean. Is the venue missing any obvious hot spots?
With the probability that a second wave of the coronavirus will impact countries across the world, most venues will be very concerned about their hygiene standards and are likely to be increasing their activities in this critical area.
Social Distancing that Works
Event attendees will want to be sure that the activities on offer have been fully considered to ensure 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 work in reality? It’s easy to state that your program is socially distant. For this to be the case you need to be thinking about people flow (not just 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, maybe 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 sound check) before your delegates arrive. That way you can make any final improvements.
Acceleration of Contactless
For some eventplanners 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.
Some delegates will have a hard time to minimise what they have to touch. That works the other way around as well. Delegates may not want to accept their printed badge from the receptionist. And they may not want to pick up a printed programme or brochure – they’ll probably 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.
Paying by contactless for any purchases or catering will also be important. If the only way delegates and attendees can pay is by cash, make sure they know in advance and manage expectations
Content That Truly Stands Out
The content offered by planners has to be even more enticing and valuable than it was pre COVID-19 for all the reasons mentioned above. But basically because, people are likely to be making different choices than they were before. Being in lockdown will have enabled people to stop and think about what they are doing and which events they really want to go to. In addition, that includes looking at their travel habits. Also, if they have been experiencing good virtual events, they may want to continue that on from the comfort of their home, rather than come to your live event.
If the content isn’t overly exciting, the networking and social aspects will have to be fabulous. Now is the opportunity for content levels to be raised. This will separate the planners that really understand content and what that means. They will be able to differentiate themselves from planners that don’t.
Hybrid Events is the future.
Actually, hybrid events are well-known just not in the event industry. If you look at E-Sport, you had have hybrid Events since the industry started.
The event industry can learn from that and create a different interaction with attendees, even if they are not physically at the event. You can increase the reach and the attendance and get a higher engagement with your audience by combining offline and online.
Furthermore, your own costs will be reduced, by having less people on the ground. In addition, you will reduce environment costs by creating less travel and waist.
Even your partners and sponsors will get a much powerful opportunity because they will have a much larger audience. Something we learned from E-sport.
Mobile Apps and Social Media
Minimal physical contact prohibits passing around a microphone during an interactive session. Luckily, social media pages and mobile apps can make up for the shortcoming. An attendee can post a question or comment using the event hashtag. It will also be best to allow guests to send questions to the speaker’s screen using their phones without jeopardising anyone’s health.
Events Post COVID-19: Changing Delegate Behaviour Takes Time
Changing behaviour for anyone takes time. Time for the new behaviour to become a habit. Your delegates and attendees will need a lot of ‘hand holding’ and guiding to begin with. It will be up to you to encourage and help them or else all your hard work of putting on an event that is safe and provides a great experience will be of little value.
Make sure you communicate effectively. Always work in conjunction with the venue and other event providers as they have wisdom and experience that can be invaluable.
Post COVID-19, events will be different. It’s time to let go of any old thinking and embrace the change. There are all sorts of opportunities for planners that want to evolve their offerings.