Sandra Collins, Director of Strategic Communications at The Collective, BCD Meetings & Events, shares the key considerations corporate clients need to take into account as they transition back to live events…
The UK Government has now lifted Covid restrictions at home and for inbound travel. Social distancing is a thing of the past and mask wearing is optional; so, it’s back to (pre-pandemic) business as usual for the events industry, right?
Not necessarily. Technically we may be free to meet, celebrate and travel but how do people actually feel about being back in a room with hundreds or even thousands of delegates? How does that impact your event planning and on-site operations? Just because restrictions have gone away, concerns may not have done for some people and we, as event professionals, need to allow for that.
Mindsets have moved over the past two years with hybrid working and virtual meetings contributing to that change. Here at The Collective, we are seeing growing demand to get back to live events and having conversations with clients around how we operate those for them. Here, we consider the key areas that impact on planning your next face to face event post pandemic…
Location, Location, Location
Without a doubt getting the right venue in the right location is going to be at the top of the agenda for your next live event. When considering our clients’ requirements, we are looking even more closely at the size of the event and matching it with the optimum space available. Can we make delegates more comfortable by using larger check in, refreshment and breakout areas? Let’s think about making the think about making the plenary more spacious or staggering breaks to avoid crowding? Despite the uncertainties of the British climate, it’s worth considering if practical outdoor spaces can be utilised, such as a covered terrace. How about natural daylight, open windows and doors? All of these can make delegates feel more relaxed and the event more comfortable in that first foray into face to face.
Each venue’s health and safety policies will need reviewing, some may still have procedures in place that need to be adopted into your delegate journey. Most importantly, how are their contracts when it comes to flexibility, postponement or even cancellation? The Collective always comb through the small print but now there’s an extra layer of detail to consider. All of these need careful review before picking the perfect venue.
All in the detail
When it comes to delivering an event, as we all know the devil is in the detail, and those details need to include all the operational elements that can impact on your delegate’s journey. In particular, identifying any suppliers control measures, health and safety planning, security requirements and hygiene protocols that have to be built into the experience. Covid safety is still necessary, so don’t forget the basics such as hand sanitiser and anti-bacterial wipes in all your event spaces.
During your risk assessments it’s worth thinking whether there should be an enhanced medical response plan alongside the usual safety and crisis management cover.
It’s good to talk
For me, events are all about communication. The communication to the delegates, with each other and of course, the event content. A clear, well thought our Comms Strategy is more important than ever to educate attendees and maximise compliance with any protocols and requirements in the run up to and during the event. People want clear two-way communications now more than ever before, and it’s vital to set expectations and reassure people so they can clearly understand the guest journey throughout. A robust registration with efficient delegate management will allow you to gather relevant data, including Covid 19 declarations if necessary, as well as allow for delegate questions and feedback.
If your event is overseas or hybrid, the relevant Government regulations and travel advice plus access information must be clearly delivered well in advance, so delegates can make informed decisions.
What are my options?
Virtual events have been the go-to through uncertain times but nothing quite beats the thrill of live, in-person events. Connecting, networking and celebrating all feel so much more exciting when you are physically in the room; after all people are social creatures who crave that human connection! There’s no getting away from the fact virtual has allowed people to engage across the globe and, from a sustainability viewpoint, is an efficient option. That’s why it is worth discussing if a hybrid option should be included for those who still may not or cannot travel. Having a more flexible agenda or on demand access to conference sessions also allows people to attend on their own terms.
What’s Plan B?
Let’s not forget that Covid hasn’t gone away. According to the media, numbers are rising but thankfully without the severe illness we saw pre-vaccination. Your planning has to factor in that at some point staff, speakers and attendees may well come down with the virus before, or even on the day, of your event. We have experienced this ourselves recently with team members testing positive the day before going onsite. Contingency planning allowed us to continue without issue but while a delegate could switch from attending in person to online if you have a hybrid event, that’s not an option if your event director or cameraman is unwell. We recommend speakers make themselves familiar with each other’s content in case of last-minute changes. Consider keynote speakers presenting remotely, if they are well enough, rather than in person. Here at The Collective we have strong, experienced production and operations teams as well as back up from a wider team back at the office, which is a game changer if the worst happens.
There’s a lot to think about and some considerations will now permanently be part of the planning process going forward. It’s business as usual, except that there’s now a new “usual” for us all to get to grips with.