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5 Things to Consider When Planning an In-Person Event in a COVID World

In-Person Event

It’s official, friends. In-person events are making their comeback. And while we love virtual, hybrid, and in-person hold a special place in our hearts at EBA too. That’s how we started way back in the day! Northstar Meetings Group reported that global hotel group room nights in Q3 2021 reached 53% of Q3 2019 levels, which is huge, as last year it was at just over 20%. Large events have happened successfully throughout the year like IMEX in Las Vegas and many more like CES are happening in 2022. Confidence is growing, safety procedures have been perfected, testing is more widespread, and people are ready to meet in person again. But as a planner, what do you need to consider when planning an event with international attendees? Here are a few places to start: 

Do Everything You Can to Make Attendees Feel Comfortable

The key to bringing in-person event business back is ensuring that all attendees that do return to live events feel comfortable. Therefore, your team must devise a thorough health and safety guide that spans pre-planning, execution, and post-event. Here are a few things you should do on-site, which you can advertise to your prospective attendees pre-event to make them feel more secure purchasing their ticket:

  • Contactless check-in
  • Frequent & visible cleaning of high-touch surfaces
  • Require masks, temperature checks, vaccination cards, and/or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the event
  • Provide wristbands, pins, or lanyards in different colors that visibly share comfort level
  • Implement traffic control in high-traffic areas like the show floor and keynote with arrows on the ground or staff directing people
  • Consider catering options that are pre-boxed, or served behind plexiglass by masked servers
  • Close meeting rooms for 30-minutes between sessions for proper sanitation, and advertise you’re doing that as a part of your event procedures

Create a Plan B for Your Plan B 

While all planners are pros at plan Bs, COVID takes it to an entirely new level. We’re mostly talking about the c-word. Cancellation. If you have to cancel your event due to COVID, how do you manage that? Even before you send out that first invitation, you need to have a plan for how to communicate a cancellation or pivot to virtual to your attendees, how you’ll refund all or part of attendee tickets, a virtual platform in mind for your use case, and you may even want to have some virtual communication prepared to ensure you don’t lose your attendees and they’ll join you online. 

It’s all about making sure you have all your bases covered. It isn’t easy, it isn’t straightforward, but it is important. And in the off-chance this happens, you’ll be so happy you were prepared!

Ensure You Select a Venue That Takes COVID Seriously

We talked about this in our blog about sourcing for hybrid events in-depth. You want to ensure that the property you select has all the policies, procedures, and appropriate staffing levels to execute your event safely. This means ensuring they have a commitment to their customers that outlines exactly what they’re doing to combat COVID-19 at their property. This way, paired with your company’s policies and procedures, you’ll be safer than ever on-site, as will your customers and guests.

Make COVID Testing Simple

Especially for those planning international events where countries will require testing for entry, you want to make testing easy and accessible. This BizBash roundup has a list of seven companies that will help do on-site testing. That means pre-event testing if you want to incorporate rapid tests required to enter or post-event testing for attendees to use when traveling home. 

Some forms of insurance will reimburse for COVID testing, so that’s something to consider when planning!

Negotiate Your Contracts to Incorporate Flexible Cancellation

If there is one thing we’ve learned over the pandemic, it’s that the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. As much as we want to be positive and optimistic, as planners, it’s our job to prepare for the expected, unexpected, and “man, we really hope this doesn’t happen” incidents. So, try to negotiate lessened cancellation fees. Work in contract clauses like rebooking that will allow you to put some of your cancellation fees towards a future event. Even if the event goes flawlessly, on time, and as scheduled, you always want to have that layer of security. This goes for all your vendors, not just the venue. Remember that! 

Prepare for Higher Costs

Northstar Meetings Group found that in terms of events for next year, planners’ top concern is the rising costs. Hotels and event venues are adding additional (and sometimes hidden) service fees, as well as increasing catering costs to cover inflation on food and beverage items. Audiovisual teams are dealing with increased demand due to hybrid and virtual, with staffing shortages. Other event vendors must recoup lost income from the pandemic and raise prices to keep businesses afloat. Costs to clean and keep everyone safe add up as well. So, remember this when planning an in-person event, and don’t get down on your team if budgets are slightly higher than anticipated. It’s the landscape right now, and no one is immune.

Need Help Planning an In-Person Event or Meeting in 2022? 

A lot of things are fluid when it comes to planning an in-person event right now. If you don’t plan events daily, it can quickly get overwhelming. We get it! And that’s precisely why we’re helping many clients create thorough plans for their 2022 in-person events. Let’s talk about your event vision for this year and start planning how we’ll make it happen safely together!

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