Questions to Consider Before Hosting In-Person Events
Monday, April 19, 2021
Prior to COVID-19, hosting in-person events like annual conferences, tradeshows, meetings, and symposiums, was the highlight of the year for many associations and their members, allowing like-minded peers and partners to get together, network, and learn. With the recent availability of COVID-19 vaccines, the return of in-person events in 2021 may not be that far off. Now, the question is, “Is your organization ready to host an in-person event?”
Association Perspectives recently spoke with Linda Benck, Cynthia Cortis, and Kelly Sapp, three event directors at SmithBucklin, on what organizations need to consider, and potentially plan for, before hosting in-person events. While each event will have its own needs, below are questions your group should ask when considering the possibility of hosting a safe, in-person event:
- Do you have industry buy-in? Before getting too far into planning your event, your event team and stakeholders need to decide if an in-person event is the right decision for your association. Consult with prospective attendees, exhibitors, and your organization’s leadership to determine their interest, buy-in, and support in meeting face-to-face. Ensure that the industry optics of meeting in-person are also positive.
- How will you adapt quickly to changes? If other external factors, outside of your control, impact the original plan for your in-person event, it’s important that your event team adapt and quickly work through these challenges. Think through “what ifs” for moving to a virtual event, adjusting the plan for any new local regulations for room capacities, shifts in the latest CDC guidelines, and more. Quick and clear communication to stakeholders and partners is key as you assess your plan B.
- Will changes to location guidelines impact your event? While the CDC has guidelines and recommendations available for in-person gatherings, it’s imperative that you also check the state, county, and city guidelines of your host city as there may be additional restrictions in place. Be sure to look into what rules your partner hotel(s) may have, as well as restaurants in the area and nearby airport(s). How will your event be impacted if a mask mandate is lifted or if a two-week quarantine period is instituted for travelers from certain states in your host city?
- How can you incorporate additional costs for safety precautions? Added safety measures mean additional costs for new event logistics including PPE, cleaning services, expanded security team, infectious disease professional consultation, etc. Did you build your initial budget to include these additional costs? Do you have a flexible financial forecast that will allow for any unforeseen expenses associated with safe meetings?
- Are your venue partners ready for in-person? For many organizations, it’s been some time since event contracts were signed and communication with partners occurred on a frequent basis. As COVID-19 is still ongoing, it’s vital that your event staff have an open line of communication with your event partners, such as the hotel, convention center, and general contractor. Many venues have been closed or reduced operations, meaning their staff may not be on the property. Ensure your event team establishes open and frequent communication as soon as possible and have transparent conversations about space changes, liabilities, and hotel restrictions.
- Are there additional safety measures you’d like at the event? Is a non-staff security team onsite an option for your client to address attendees not following guidelines? Is it crucial that all attendees be provided PPE or is it going to be expected that they come with their own? It is important that your board of directors ― and if applicable, a volunteer planning committee — is familiar with the risk mitigation efforts that are being implemented so they can support and help evangelize adoption onsite.
While we are all missing in-person events and connecting with others face-to-face, it’s important that your organization take an in-depth look at the pros and cons of hosting an in-person event during this time and consider the best option for all parties involved.
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