In this time of uncertainty, I know so many of you are looking for answers, for direction, for some understanding of what the future will look like; I am too. While there are a lot of important industries and areas that I cannot speak to, one area I feel qualified to give my opinion on is events.
I love events. I love planning them. I love all the moving parts, all of the details, the adrenaline. I love orchestrating an experience, working with my clients, making their life easier, and most importantly creating an opportunity for true connection for the attendees. I
love the energy that fills a room when we bring people together to work towards a common goal, whether that be awareness, fundraising, community, celebrating a milestone, or any of the hundreds of reasons we host events. The bottom line is, I love bringing humans together.
It is clear that this landscape looks completely different right now as we navigate government restrictions, but what will the future of events look like?
There is going to be a slow return to a new normal. Normal isn’t going to look like it used to, as much as we all might want it to. We need to accept that a new normal, a new reality, is what we are all in for and need to adjust to.
Regarding events, when we can start gathering together in-person again it is going to be a gradual increase to larger numbers, with restrictions we haven’t had to consider before. We are no longer going to look at venue capacity as the fire marshal number. We will have to consider more space for people, whether that be the physical distancing government mandate of 6 ft., or just a comfort level of the people attending.
Hybrid events will be the movement of the future. What is a hybrid event? A combination of
in-person and online so that we make the event accessible for everyone. The reality is, as life begins to return to our new normal we are going to have people adjust at different rates. So while one person may be comfortable going to an in-person event with a room full of people they don’t necessarily know, others will not. The discomfort may come from a health perspective or something else, regardless, we need to acknowledge and respect their choice. As event planners and hosts we have two options. One, we dig our feet in and say, come and take part, or stay home and miss out. The second option, and in my opinion the only option, is to meet people where they are at. Give guests the option, attend in-person or join us online. Of course, the experience will be different, but different doesn’t mean bad. As planners, we will be creating two experiences within one event. We need to engage those in person and create a different engagement plan for those attending online.
As our numbers allowed gradually increase, we will have no option but to offer hybrid events. Perhaps that means we have 15 tickets available for in-person and once those sell out we have online attendance tickets. Or perhaps this will mean a staggered event, where we repeat the formal program throughout the day or evening as people come in their designated time windows. Another option is “satellite” events with smaller groups in different locations and we use technology to create a cohesive experience between the satellite events. This might mean the emcee in one location, entertainment in another, physical auction items at another. So each location has a different experience, but we all take part in each venue.
Another component we need to consider is safety protocols in a way we have never had to
consider them before. How will we ensure health safety, physical safety, and emotional safety for everyone attending? Are masks a necessity or an option? Do we take temperatures of all guests upon arrival? Do we encourage foot taps instead of handshakes? Do we have bathroom attendants cleaning stalls after every use? There are a lot of protocols that need to be considered and I’ll save the full flush out of that for another blog. What we need to think about is which of these protocols are mandatory (government regulated), which are we morally obligated to do, and which are there to give our guests a feeling of safety and security?
So where do we stand? In my opinion, we need to be prepared for a new normal where events will permanently look different. We need to meet people where they are at and offer them options that allow them to feel comfortable and take in the event experience in a way
that feels best for them. We need to expand our role to include two event experiences in one and ensure that regardless if people take in an event in-person or online, that it is memorable, that they feel engaged, and they received value. Most of all, we need to make sure everyone feels safe, feels important, and feels taken care. But in the end, wasn’t this always our job?