The COVID-19 global pandemic has drastically impacted the event industry. 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 a second wave – it’s difficult to see how things will actually pan out over the coming year. 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 event professionals that want to evolve and adjust their offering.
Expos and Tradeshows
In the past, a successful tradeshow was typically defined as one that had a lot of foot traffic. With social distancing guidelines in place, a full expo hall will no longer be possible. To manage crowds and allow people to keep a safe distance from one another, organizers may need to expand tradeshow hours, allowing for staggered access to the expo hall. Organizers may implement an engaging option for delegates to attend the Expo or Tradeshow virtually.
Perhaps the biggest shift the event industry has seen over the past few months is the shift from in-person events to virtual events. As many cities and countries begin to open up their economies, events are being re-scheduled for late summer and fall. While most face-to-face events are set to resume when possible, a lasting trend of COVID-19 will be the increasing popularity of hybrid events and events held in virtual event spaces. When those who can’t attend physically have the option to participate virtually, that results in greater outreach and more attendees at lower costs.
Social Distancing During Events
During the design phase of your event you will need to go through everything with the venue and planner to ensure that expectations can be met on all sides. For this to be the case you need to be thinking about people flow, not just guests but other staff as well.
Potential people traffic jams could be around restrooms, bars, and registration, so a defined system will need to be implemented. 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 minimize queues and contact between people. Your event social distancing measures should be tested (just like a sound check) before your guests arrive. That way you can make any final improvements.
Catering & Food Safety
How will food and drink be served? How will the venue work with you to keep social distancing and safety as priorities, whilst at the same time delivering delicious food?
What is apparent to many planners is that buffets are no longer on the menu. They are gone – at least for the foreseeable future – so too are any communal condiments.
In addition, it’s vital to eliminate lines of people waiting to be served food, opting for food that is ready-to-go. Consider requesting these meal kits served on environmentally friendly disposable plates, trays, etc.
Venues should have hand sanitizer stations available at the event space entrance and exit. As an additional safety measure, it would be best if entrances and exits are kept separate.
Reduced Numbers of Guests
Even if all lockdowns were lifted tomorrow and there was no threat to the safety at any event, it’s possible that attendance numbers would be reduced. Some people will not want to travel to events, especially if they have become fans of virtual ones.
At the moment, with governments across the globe issuing edicts and guidance, it is an uncertain period and is not the time to expect the same delegate numbers as pre COVID-19. That said, a reduction in numbers that physically attend can also be a positive change.
However, having reduced in-person numbers, doesn’t mean you need to lose numbers overall especially if you create a hybrid event that engages your virtual delegates. It’s worth bearing in mind that lots of people have joined virtual events and that should definitely continue when in-person events become common again. There is no point in excluding and potentially alienating a major audience that you have created in the lockdown period.