When planning an event, we’ve always had to weigh factors, such as holidays and seasons, that helped determine the best time to host it. Now as pandemic restrictions are being lifted and more people are getting vaccinated, we have to decide not only when to host an event but also whether to host it virtually or live.
A question I’ve been hearing a lot recently is “If we host a live event, will they come?” I believe the answer is yes! People are eager to meet face to face and step out from behind the camera. But, you’ll need to provide attendees with a compelling reason to attend and assure them that you are prepared to host them safely. So, when is the right time to host your event live? Here are five factors to consider.
We’ve all gotten used to the ease of virtual. So, for both private and business events, you’ll need to build value and interest that will sway your attendees to toss aside their sweatpants and decide that the benefits of attending your event outweigh any possible travel risk. For some, the value may be the opportunity for personal connections and for others it may be the chance to participate in event experiences that can’t be duplicated virtually. And let’s not forget the power of FOMO—it’s so real, especially now!
2. Attendee Frame of Mind
Consider your attendees’ frame of mind. If they’ve been less restricted with travel or social gatherings, then they probably won’t be as concerned about attending a live event. If, however, your event will be one of their first trips in months, or even a year, then the prospect of getting on a plane and meeting others face to face may make them uneasy. If you don’t know how they are feeling, send your attendees a short survey to ask them directly.
If you are restricted to hosting your event in a particular city, the answer may already be decided for you. At the time I am writing this article in early April, in Washington, D.C. events are limited to 50 people for outdoor events and 10 people for indoor events. While in Arizona, all restrictions on organized events have been lifted. If your event has a global reach, you’ll want to consider the travel restrictions in the U.S. and in the countries from which your attendees will be traveling. Depending on the limitations, you may want to consider hosting multiple international live satellite events or even a hybrid event.
4. Duty of Care and Attendee Safety
I recently completed the Pandemic Compliance Advisor for Meetings Professionals training course produced by Health Education Services. The course stressed that meeting professionals have a responsibility to act with a Duty of Care.
Our Duty of Care includes our duty to recommend, plan and inform. For example, do you have the resources (labor and financial) to ensure the safety of your guests? Are you prepared to follow all of the federal, state, and local guidelines? Will you require onsite covid-19 testing and temperature checks? Have you clearly outlined in your pre-event communications what your attendees can expect to see once onsite at the event and a Code of Conduct for them to follow?
Talk with your venue and supplier partners to ensure they are aligned with your position on event guidelines and that they, too, are prepared to mitigate risks. Have you confirmed that your venue has their GBAC STAR Accreditation and that they are prepared to execute cleanliness and safety measures?
A great resource to refer to is the Meeting and Event Design Accepted Practices Guide created by the APEX COVID-19 Business Recovery Task Force. The guide includes “Trust Points” for you to keep in mind when deciding whether to host your event live or not.
5. Finances and Contracting
A discussion about the feasibility of hosting an event wouldn’t be complete without considering your budget. For business events, are your attendees or their companies in a position to spend the necessary dollars to attend? If sponsorship dollars are an integral part of your event income, are your sponsors in a position to invest?
How flexible are the terms of your venue and supplier partners’ contracts if you need to cancel the event? Ensure their commitments to cleanliness and guest safety, including costs and responsible staff, are clearly outlined in their contracts so there’s no confusion later.
It’s ultimately up to you and your clients to decide when’s the best time to host your event live. By being prepared and taking the right steps, your attendees’ will walk away from your event feeling cared for, excited by their experience, and eager to attend their next live event!
Paul Tramonte, CMP, is a pandemic compliance advisor, principal designer of Paul Tramonte Events, a full-service event management and consulting agency. With experience across market segments in both hotel and third-party event management roles, Paul has concepted and led high-impact global events, including intimate social affairs and luxury weddings to large multi-day conferences, executive retreats, trade shows and experiential brand projects.