Hosting Your First Corporate Event Post-COVID
In the first half of 2020, business owners navigated the dangerous waters of COVID-19, seeking ways to keep both employees and customers safe. For a time, theaters closed, sporting events stopped and groups canceled trade shows. As the threat of the pandemic eases and restrictions lift, hosting a corporate event becomes more of a reality. You may wonder what things changed and which adjustments you need to implement.
One survey of 1,776 event industry professionals found 87% of events canceled due to COVID-19, and another 66% postponed. What will it take for people to feel secure enough to return to in-person gatherings? How do you prevent a resurge spreading from your attendees? Navigating the new landscape post-coronavirus requires attention to detail and some creative solutions.
The event industry will be different when get-togethers return. There are some things to keep in mind as you plan your first corporate event once restrictions lift.
1. Reduce Group Sizes
Event planners must be aware of recommendations for smaller gatherings. There are several ways of achieving small groups while still serving the same number of overall attendees. One option is to host a hybrid event where half the people attend one day, and the other half the next. The downtime allows for sightseeing or networking opportunities. Match people into groups of 10 or fewer, so they can get to know one another while still playing it safe.
The Small Business Expo offers small business owners an opportunity to connect with vendors and leaders in their fields. They already had a model for networking sessions. When attendees arrive, they get color-coded badges so that they can connect with others in their industry. Different badge styles could also help people know which areas they should be in at a given time to avoid congestion.
2. Revamp Your Sanitation Policy
People are naturally nervous after all that’s gone on. Think through your sanitation policies and what gives attendees peace of mind. Is everything in the dining areas sanitized after each gathering? How will you handle meeting rooms? Should you require face masks or make it optional? Think through screening procedures as well. At a minimum, you should ask attendees key questions before arriving, and scan temperatures at check-in and before entering significant events, such as the keynote address.
3. Focus on the Visuals
Since groupings may be smaller — and face masks and social distancing cut down on human interaction — create stellar visuals to guide people toward different exhibitors and information. The more eye-catching and informative your displays, the more impact they’ll have on your attendees. People may be more reluctant to linger at booths or attend parties, so pull them in with interactive design.
Look at the beautiful Sephora booth setup above. It’s bright and eye-catching and invites the user to step inside and check out the display. The layout is memorable and should stay with visitors even after they return home. The booth has aesthetics highlighting the look and personality of the brand.
4. Cut Costs for Attendees and Your Business
The hotel and convention industry loses not only revenue from domestic travelers scared to go out but also from international visitors. With travel restrictions still in place, hotels may struggle to survive.
Touch base with the venue often to ensure everything is in order. If you can’t get a reduced rate on your costs, try to negotiate fewer days for the event. Look for discounts for attendees and ways to decrease the money going out. Since gathering in groups is difficult, you could cut catering costs and let registrants purchase their meals.
5. Find Hybrid Solutions
While all business owners hope life returns to normal in the second half of 2020, there is still a possibility COVID-19 could resurge in the fall or another pandemic might strike. Think through how you’ll handle any last-minute changes. Can you take the entire conference virtual? Perhaps parts could be hosted safely, such as the exhibit hall with only a certain number allowed in at a time and clear markings on the floor about where to stand.
Organizations such as The Moose announced virtual conventions for summer 2020. Presenters tape their speeches and stream them during the event. While not as exciting as an in-person gathering, adapting to the needs and safety of members is paramount to a successful convention.
6. Tap Into People’s Excitement
In one survey of 1,000 adults in the United States, 83% missed attending real-life meetings and conventions. When things open back up and meetings resume, expect attendees to feel a sense of excitement. Tap into that emotion by creating a celebratory atmosphere. At the same time, be aware people may still need to keep some distance from one another, so seek out venues with plenty of space and seat people six feet apart.
Maintain Your Flexibility
The time after COVID-19 will likely bring challenges no one has yet considered. Be ready to make changes on the fly and remain flexible in the planning of events. Have a Plan B, Plan C and maybe even a Plan D as things unfold. Keep the lines of communication open with your registrants. How well you adapt to a changing conference landscape will dictate how successful your next event is.