The global COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world and many industries and businesses. One such badly hit industry is the event/exhibitions industry. Till then, virtual meetings and conferences would be the thing. Many conferences, meeting and events across the world were canceled and postponed indefinitely owing to the global pandemic and social distancing rules implemented to secure oneself from the dangerous virus. There were also instances of transforming the conferences to a digital platform and conducting them virtually over a small audience and with lesser output.
What would it take to organize events post COVID-19?
Hosting meetings and events post COVID-19 would require people and event management companies to adjust on a large scale. It would require a combined effort of all the sectors to kickstart the industry again. For holding events and conferences, deciding venues would also require focusing on the primary requirements of health and safety protocols, social distancing arrangements, and safe food and beverage to ensure a healthy and safe environment. Venues play a crucial part in an event, and to organize an event in the post-COVID-19 world, the organizers will have to implement distancing practices in the venues and adhere to extra precautions.
One of the real problems the industry would face in the long run is that it would be tough to re-organize an event when they don't have any timescale. As there is no specific time limit of complete eradication of COVID-19 or its control, it is hard to predict any rescheduling of events soon. To add to the woes of the events industry, there have also been media reports which suggested that Coronavirus could re-surface next winter, making event organizers more nervous about committing time and money to rescheduled events.
How will event organizers prepare for post-COVID-19 events?
The venues of events should be fully equipped with thermal scanning facilities, as this is must-have security for people willing to attend the event. A lack of thermal scanning equipment would add an element of risk for the attendees.
Having a proper sanitation policy is another critical requirement for any event organizer looking to prepare for future events. It is essential to have a ready plan for handling the attendees who may contract the virus at a hotel or while attending an event at the hotel. The organizers should practice:
- Social distancing & protective equipment
- Temperature checks
- Isolating & contact tracing
- Sanitation & disinfection of common areas
- Policies and procedures for workforce contact following positive coronavirus tests
When it comes to food and beverage arrangements in the events, buffets would be a thing of the past, and seated dining would be a much viable alternative. Another effective option would be pre-packed meals that attendees would pick up, or have the boxed meals that can be placed at their seats during the event.
Things to consider for meetings, events and COVID-19
In the present scenario, preparedness and crisis management should be the two most essential things for event planning. For an event post-COVID-19, organizers need to consider five primary things:
2020 saw the cancellation of many significant events like the Mobile World Congress, IMEX, ITB Travel Trade Show, or the Geneva Auto Show. If an organizer thinks they wouldn't be efficient to arrange the safety of participants, or if they foresee any logistics issues due to travel restrictions, it would be a good thing to cancel the event. the organizers should then communicate the adverse effects of the cancellation and delivering high standards of service to suppliers, sponsors, and the attendees who had registered. A clear and professional communication strategy would also be needed, and the message should be delivered openly and clearly to avoid any miscommunication.
Significant events like the Olympics, the ILC International Liver Congress or Open Networking & Edge Summit have postponed their event dates owing to the pandemic. Postponement, though, is not a unilateral decision as hosting an event at a later time requires the approval from venue managers, suppliers, as well as sponsors. Organizers should advise and seek opinions from the attendees before choosing this option. However, the postponement of an event may not be an option for the ones where the focus is on the delivery of cutting-edge information or time-sensitive data.
The third option to consider is a relocation that is maintaining the event date but choosing a new location. However, relocation may leave organizers with limited choices of venues, travel arrangements, and accommodation. Also, there are added financial costs to be incurred in this owing to the pre-reservation of venue and accommodation. Once the event is decided to be relocated, organizers should communicate the new details promptly to everyone involved in the event.
Over the last few years and in 2020 itself, the world has witnessed a breakthrough of new technologies that have transformed the events industry. One such breakthrough is virtual meetings as an alternative meeting format that allows the attendees to meet and interact with one another remotely. Virtual and hybrid events are the two emerging options to consider in case the event cannot be cancelled, postponed or relocated.
Virtual events allow attendees to be present irrespective of the travel restrictions. The attendees receive the same information as in a person-to-person meet. Virtual events are a perfect option for event marketing and sponsorship strategies where planners are always ready for any eventuality.
Hybrid events are another option which include a mix of live and virtual components. In this kind of event, a particular count of people may be present in a physical location, while the influential audience would attend the event remotely.
Every kind of event has its pros and cons- be it an in-person or a remote experience! For the organizers, the challenge lies in identifying the meeting model that would suit the situation well and go forward with it efficiently. In the present state, however, hybrid and live events are an optimum choice. They should be a primary consideration for organizations that have significant events lined up shortly.