Prior to COVID-19, event planners already had a laundry list of items to consider when planning in-person events. Now, the pandemic has added a whole new list of considerations to ensure the health and safety of all involved. I am always striving to learn new things, challenge ideas and provide value to our events team and clients. That’s why I recently decided to complete the Pandemic Meeting & Event Design Certificate from the Event Leadership Institute (ELI) in partnership with MPI. This course highlighted the new ways in which we must think about events. It covered topics ranging from new event timeline considerations, risk management, sanitization, food and beverage handling, and venue implications to design well-informed, future-forward events.
The course was broken down into 6 modules. It featured live online class meetings, a peer-based community forum and a TON of resources. Below, I have highlighted what we discussed each week and shared what content resonated with me the most.
Developing a New Event Strategy
There is a constant need for planners to pivot, re-create and revise their event strategy as the implications of the pandemic change daily. During week 1 we utilized tools such as a situational analysis, explored the best methods for effective data sourcing, as well as discussed intentional strategies and designs to meet the needs of all participants in an event in a post/pandemic environment. What resonated with me the most from the content from week 1 was that it is OKAY for your plans to change course and it is important, now more than ever, to remain agile and adaptable. This means being open to continuous experimentation and real-time adjustments, continually mapping the flow of attendee sentiment (ex. surveying members to gauge their willingness on attending an event in-person, travel, sanitization, etc.) and having contingency plans in place.
Project Oversight & Risk Management
During week 2, we covered how to develop an event SOAR (which stands for strengths, opportunities, actions, and results). What I found most interesting in this module were the risk assessment models to help with planning. We discussed how to transfer risk, budget for it, and reduce the negative effects on your event. The main areas we explored to mitigate risks included insurance policies, seeking legal advice to review contract clauses, and utilizing waivers.
In week 3 we covered experiential design, crowd flow, and spatial design. It is important to consider the look and feel of key event elements to ensure that they can be conducted safely. How will the following components of your events look with a newly developed design format whether in person or online: product demonstrations and launches, trade show booths, networking and social components, and dining? These things should be thought about early in your planning!
Site Selection & Evaluation
Who needs to come? When does it need to happen? When does it need to occur? Those are the 3 main questions to explore when it comes to site selection and evaluation. What’s important to note from the week 4, is that you may need to ditch your standard site selection template. There are now a lot more factors that come into play than the venue alone. When determining a site for your event, you will also need to take into account a number of things:
- What’s going on in the news in your potential host city/country;
- Can a virtual inspection be hosted;
- Confirm the housekeeping practices at the host hotel;
- Determine what rules and regulations are in place at the destination airport;
- What are the food and beverage practices; and
- What security protocols does the venue have.
Attendee Experience & Safety
Ultimately, the event is for the attendees. It is crucial that their experience and safety remains at top of mind. When developing your event, it is important that it is attendee centric from inception to execution. As much as possible, it is important to create a contactless experience. This can start from the registration process and can flow through different facets of the event such as: mailing a swag bag in advance, digitized data, using QR codes for scanning session attendance, pre-packaged food and drinks, virtual business cards, and assigning attendees to specific rooms.
Onsite Event Standards & Response Plans
Now that you’ve made it through all of the processes above, you need to make sure that everyone is on board to execute the plan. In week 6, we explored guidelines and enforcement protocols for various event elements and how to train onsite teams to mitigate risk. It’s important to set attendee expectations before the event. This ensures they are aligned with your vision and have them buy into your standard of safety. Things to consider include ensuring your event has a “guest-centric” approach, staggered and controlled arrival times, event protocols such as handwashing, masking and distancing, and a post-event plan that attendees can be contacted should any symptoms arise. Ultimately, focus on what you and your team can do to make the event as safe as possible.
This course provided me with the insight, tools and resources to prepare my team and clients for when we return to in-person and hybrid events. If you have any interest in broadening your skills and pursuing your professional development, I encourage you to check out the ELI for more courses they offer.
Redstone congratulates Shayna on achieving this very important certificate which is bound to prove its value when in-person events make a comeback. Are you looking for event management services for a virtual, hybrid, or in-person event? Check out our event management services or reach out!