How event planners can transition to in-person events
What do you miss the most about in-person events? Drawing from memory, the embrace from the rustling wind, side-talks that you can’t mute with a button, building meaningful connections, and struggling to hear your own words amid many voices are experiences to anticipate, as things are quickly returning to normal.
About 42% of event planners have already begun hosting in-person events, 71% are sticking to virtual events and not hopping on the in-person trend, and 34% are adopting the hybrid event model currently, and in forthcoming years. Which are you?
Your event objectives influence your event model; it’s not just a matter of convenience or preference. In the end, you want to achieve radical results irrespective of the strategy you deploy. However, our focus today is on in-person events, as it’s gradually becoming the new normal.
If you choose to pivot to in-person events or opt for hybrid events, it may not be a walk in the park in its first iteration, but it is attainable. Most importantly, you need to prioritize safety measures and reduce risks for your attendees, partners, and staff. It’s not something you’ll get the hang of immediately, but this guide provides a step-by-step blueprint for planning safe in-person events throughout the year.
Roadmap for in-person event preparation
The roadmap for In-person event preparation is a fundamental part of the pre-event stage that highlights everything needed at your event to ensure its success. An event roadmap positions you to make decisions and execute strategies.
No event can be successful without a blueprint—a plan that details how you want to host an event. It’s like going to shop for groceries without a list; it makes your visit to the grocery store purposeless. Including the prices of the items and where to find them is a great way to successfully purchase groceries. The same concept applies to planning an in-person event.
Here are the things you should have on your to-do list:
- Choice of Venue
You want to use a venue that is safe and comfortable. Remember, COVID-19 hasn’t fizzled out completely, so you have to be on the lookout for that. Whether you choose an indoor or outdoor event venue, ensure that there is room for sufficient ventilation, considering the number of persons in that space.
- Seating capacity
Asides from COVID-19, some attendees might have existing medical conditions like asthma and claustrophobia. Therefore, you should settle for a venue with indoor-outdoor possibilities, to expose attendees to fresh air and avoid clustering them. Also, the number of people likely to attend the event should determine the size of the venue. It’s impossible to implement your social distancing plan if the sitting capacity is tight. You need to ascertain how many people can safely fit into the room, including your staff, backstage crew, and caterers.
- Manage Budgeting & Staffing
The importance of managing your finances properly for events cannot be emphasized well enough. Budgeting is the nucleus of event management. It determines the choice of venue, hired staff and equipment, speakers, refreshments, logistics, and resources for safety protocols. You want to be very realistic with your budget. Having a shortage of any item could become an event horror story. Utilize a budget solution that covers everything you need to deliver an on-site experience. Then, allocate extra funds for miscellaneous expenses.
- Carefully plan your guest list and agenda
Ensure you are convinced about the nature of the event—large or small. Remember, larger events require more expenses as well as a large number of people in attendance. Think carefully about transitioning to in-person events with full force. Having a shorter guest list and providing a solution for virtual streaming might be advisable.
Additionally, it’s better to keep your activities short because of your attendees’ attention and retention capacity. Attendees who have become comfortable with concise streams throughout the pandemic may adjust to the in-person reality slower than usual.
- Communicate event Itinerary proactively and consistently
There is nothing wrong with ‘over-communicating’ your event process, but there’s everything wrong with not communicating enough details. You need to be detailed with your communication, especially considering the current reality of hosting in-person events. Attendees need to be properly informed of the safety guidelines and their role to play in realizing them. The best way to ease your attendees’ minds is to be clear and consistent in informing them on what to expect, particularly for sitting arrangements and safety measures.
Furthermore, adopt a pre-event, event, and post-event communication strategy. It’s great for branding and building trust. Communicate your hospitality arrangements to your community before the event to avoid any discomforting surprises upon arrival. Then, post your health and safety requirements on your event’s website and proactively use email and social media to keep everyone up to speed.
On the day of the event, you need to install signage in strategic points to inform attendees about safety guidelines, event descriptions, and activities. After the event, you can send out feedback forms to determine your attendees’ event experience. It also helps you keep in touch with attendees for future events.
- Keep partners and sponsors in the loop
When you collaborate actively with sponsors and partners, it boosts your camaraderie and encourages them to support you more. Ensure you update stakeholders constantly on your event plans, particularly the budgeting. Inform your partners and sponsors of everything you are communicating with attendees and share more details on the event insights and analytics. During the event, provide opportunities for sponsors to engage with attendees and attain feedback.
- Perform multiple test runs
This tip brings to memory, the popular sound quality test statement—testing the microphone..1…2. You need to test your microphones, cameras, decoration, and sitting arrangement before the day of the event. You don’t want your attendees to perceive you as unprofessional and disorganized if they spot many hitches from the moment they arrive. Conducting test runs helps you determine faulty equipment on time and get replacements, so you don’t have to delay your event start time. You can never do enough test runs for an event because mishaps are still likely to occur on the event day. Not conducting test runs at all is a far worse approach to take.
8 Safety guidelines for in-person event success
- Covid test results
The best way to ensure that you’re not permitting infected persons into the event venue is to request proof of negative test results or vaccination from attendees before the event day. Attendees can submit the document via email or present them on-site. Communicating this as a compulsory activity will make every attendee feel calm and safe, knowing that, their health isn’t at risk.
- On-site Health Scans
This is another effective way of ensuring that infected persons don’t mingle with other attendees. You can partner with companies that provide on-site testing; it gives confidence to attendees that all persons permitted into the event aren’t infected. Your attendees can be better assured of safety if on-site testing is deployed in tandem with the presentation of test results.
- Social distancing floor plan
You will have to ensure the distance between attendees is safe, by limiting the number of people at a table or seating area. This could make the seating arrangement planning more tedious than usual but it’s worth it to be safe rather than sorry. You can measure spaces by using a 6-foot-to-scale grid to design a floor plan. You need to create a floor plan for every room and have it physically displayed at the entrance of every room.
- Mask Up
Masks help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other air-borne diseases, You need to inform your attendees to come with their masks or you can provide masks and gloves at the entrance of the room for attendees who don’t have masks. Here’s a branding tip: provide branded masks with your company’s identity crested on them. It’s a good way to promote your brand and position yourself as a company that is compliant with health and safety guidelines.
- Sanitizer dispensers
Using sanitizers reduces the risk of transmitting the virus from person to person, through physical contact. Again, you can provide branded sanitizers that promote your brand or your sponsors’, as souvenirs. You just need to ensure the ample supply of sanitizers at every attendee touchpoint. It’s advisable for you to provide sanitizer dispensers for a touchless experience.
- Touchless interactions
Partner with an in-person event solutions provider to offer touchless event technologies for touchless registration and entry. Utilize NFC machines to scan badges and QR codes for touchless payments and integrations. The popular way to provide refreshments to a large number of guests is usually buffet service, but it’s not advisable for safety. It would be better to package meals for attendees to take home.
- Color-coded status stickers
Attendees don’t have to permit physical contact by word of mouth, because their name tag stickers would do the work. An example would be using green to approve handshakes, yellow for elbow and fist bumps, and red as a strict disclaimer to avoid touching.
- Safe Exit Routes
Typically, attendees rush out of the hall immediately after the event ends. To avoid body contact, you need to have multiple exit procedures in place. Attendees can exit in groups and follow the directions of floor markers while entering the elevator. Whichever plan you choose to adopt, ensure your attendees are well informed.
How to effectively communicate safety guidelines at in-person events
Sometimes attendees might not comply with the safety guidelines because they may not know how to go about it. You have to keep them informed on safety measures to take. Also, direct them on how to perform these tasks. A good example would be floor signage in high-traffic areas to state that attendees are meant to be 6ft apart. It instantly communicates social distancing without having to say much. You can as well erect signage to direct attendees to sanitizer stations. On-site signage helps you communicate faster and better to a wide audience, particularly for guests that are not proficient in the official language of the event.
This may be the fifth time you are reading this, but it is so important that it has to be well emphasized. Ensure you communicate your entire event safety strategy to your attendees so that they are fully prepared, especially if they are required to present documents like their COVID test results. You can send pictures of the event location with the seating arrangement included, allowing attendees to visualize the space.
Additionally, pay attention to safety measures recommended by the CDC to keep attendees in the loop, throughout the entire process. Lastly, make arrangements for virtual streaming; some attendees are still skeptical about in-person interactions.
Safety guide pamphlets
This document briefs attendees on all the health and safety protocols that will be deployed during the event. It is usually sent before the event; in case attendees are not comfortable with some arrangements, they can inform you ahead of time. The safety guide should include requirements for the gate pass, on-site precautionary measures, and sanctions attached to flouting safety policies if any.
Scaling through hitches
Every backup plan should have a backup plan
A great plan must address challenges that could occur during the execution of the plan. A greater plan should detail multiple strategies to resolve those issues. Event planners need to put on their black hat (Edward Bono’s thinking hat) to subject their plan to scrutiny— fish out mishaps that are likely to occur and provide multiple solutions. Don’t just settle for two microphones. There’s a possibility that they could become faulty on the day of the event. Make arrangements for multiple cameras, safety tools, and more rooms. In order not to encounter disappointments, plan early and plan BIG.
The hybrid way could be a great alternative
As advised earlier, don’t be in a haste to plan a big in-person event yet, because this is the transition stage. You need to consider that many attendees might still prefer virtual events to physical events. You have to provide solutions that cater to the varying needs of attendees. Hybrid events are quite popular at the moment, as it is said that 34% of marketers intend to add hybrid events to their event portfolio.
In the case of unforeseen circumstances occurring at your event, you need a clause that protects your interests. The Force Majeure relieves all parties of any responsibility, in the event of unavoidable and uncontrollable happenings such as a disease outbreak, civil insecurity, or natural disaster that could threaten the event attendance. Ensure that the venue you choose has provision for this policy.
It’s important to insure your event, just to be in a safety net. There’s no limit to the number of unforeseen events that could occur. You have to come prepared to face them. Having insurance ensures that you are not badly affected if you need to postpone or cancel your event.
In-person events are back and they are here to stay! The only issue is the transition might take a while, because of the COVID-19 variants that have emerged in recent times. However, that shouldn’t be a deterrent. With effective communication and ample safety measures implemented, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Also, it’s impossible to have a 100% hassle-free event but you can plan towards it and provide multiple solutions for every likely challenge.
Finally, it’s recommended that you explore hybrid events if you’ve been on a virtual event model for a long time, this is for event quality and safety purposes. Don’t get too excited to hop on the in-person trend and host a large event; it may be difficult for you to control. Instead of spreading your legs too far apart, take baby steps, monitor the trends closely, try out a few strategies, be flexible and then plan for a full transition afterward. With all of these executed, you are in a better position to begin the transition to in-person events.