Two years into the pandemic, the events industry may not yet be back to where it was, but it is certainly getting closer. In-person events have been held safely for a while now, and with worldwide cases significantly decreasing, they are returning as both organizations and individuals crave the return of face-to-face interaction.
Still, in-person events are not without their risks. It is important to be prepared for all possibilities and to keep attendee health and safety at top of mind. The realities of event planning have also changed given the labor shortages and supply chain slowdowns prevalent throughout the industry. To help you make the most of your in-person events, we’re sharing our best practices for every step of the planning process.
Sourcing and Negotiating
When choosing your destination, consider both cost and accessibility as well as COVID travel restrictions. Although you can travel freely within the United States, a negative test is currently required to enter the country, and international destinations may require a negative test, proof of vaccination, or both. In some countries, proof of vaccination now includes a booster shot.
Once you have chosen your destination, start sourcing early to ensure all contracts are finalized with time to spare. Venues and suppliers across the world are working with smaller teams, so the contracting process will take longer.
Smaller teams often mean changes in service; the quality will still be there, but the scope may be different. Plan accordingly during negotiations by discussing how labor shortages will affect your event. Get everything in writing and make it as specific as possible so all parties can manage expectations. Luckily, venues and suppliers are prepared and willing to work with planners to find creative solutions that meet everyone’s needs.
Of course, many venues are still recovering from the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. Coupled with inflation and supply chain delays, this means costs will likely be higher compared to pre-pandemic pricing. Work with your planner to identify what items are must-haves for your event and what can be cut or scaled down for the sake of the budget.
Airlines continue to add new flights to their schedules, so group air travel options are plentiful. Still, not all pre-pandemic flight routes have returned, and what was once a non-stop flight may now have a layover. Fares have also changed—be prepared to increase your pre-pandemic travel budget as airlines have raised their prices across the board. One thing you don’t have to worry about is health and safety. Airlines continue to disinfect their planes daily and extensively clean high-touch areas between flights, plus most planes are equipped with hospital-grade HEPA air filters.
On land, arrange ground transportation if possible. Some destinations have a shortage of taxi and rideshare drivers while others have unpredictable price surges. Ground transportation may be an additional cost, but it is well worth the ease and peace of mind.
We recommend an M&IW air travel specialist goes on-site with your event to help with the unpredictability of travel, particularly for large programs. If flights are cancelled or rescheduled, you will have an air travel expert on hand to resolve and reschedule itineraries as necessary. They’ll work and communicate with your attendees quickly and efficiently to ensure everyone arrives home safely which takes the stress off your shoulders.
It was true before the pandemic, and it’s still true now: Communication is key! Attendees want to know exactly what to expect of in-person events, so all messaging should be clear, concise, and comprehensive. This includes both pre-event communications, such as emails, and on-site messaging, such as signage and verbal instructions at check-in.
If you don’t know exactly what your event will look like or what the specific health and safety guidelines will be at the time of the event, that’s okay! Acknowledge that gap and assure invitees that more information is coming. Many events are now saying that they will follow the CDC’s guidelines and any local rules or regulations at the time of the event. This reassures attendees that you’ll be taking any necessary precautions, whatever they may be. Add a link to the CDC or local government on your event website so invitees can check the current guidelines at any time; this also saves you from having to manually update your site if those guidelines change.
The importance of clearly communicating health and safety expectations goes beyond physical safety; emotional safety is just as important. Some attendees may be fully ready to return to in-person no matter what, while other attendees may be more hesitant. Meet your attendees where they’re at and be prepared to answer their questions before they even think of them.
Emergency Preparedness Plan
If Emergency Preparedness Plans, or EPPs, were important before the pandemic, they’re crucial now. While the ultimate goal is always to prevent emergencies before they happen, that isn’t always possible, and an EPP ensure your event staff know how to react to keep everyone safe. This extends not just to COVID but also to natural disasters, active shooter situations, and more.
There are three phases to M&IW’s Emergency Preparedness Plan: prepare, monitor, and respond. Within each phase, there are different responsibilities at the corporate level versus the event team level. Every organization’s EPP may look a little different, but it is important to be as comprehensive as possible. Learn more about M&IW’s EPP here.
On-Site Health and Safety
In-person events are more attendee-centric than ever. At the end of the day, it’s about what will keep attendees safe and healthy. Some questions to consider during the planning process include…
- How do we make the arrival experience as touchless as possible?
- What PPE is required and how is it being distributed?
- How is traffic moving through the common areas and into and out of meeting rooms?
- What signage is needed and where should it be placed?
- What is the best way to set up the meeting room to ensure proper distancing?
- What health and safety services are being offered in advance of travel, on-site, and post-program? M&IW is proud to partner with InHouse Physicians to provide on-site medical staff and daily health questionnaires.
For more information and helpful tips, check out our checklist for on-site health and safety during a pandemic.
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About Meetings and Incentives Worldwide, Inc.
M&IW is a global event management firm specializing in virtual, hybrid, and in-person experiences of all shapes and sizes as well as consulting and enterprise strategies. As an entrepreneurial organization, we place customers at the center of everything we do and prioritize their needs through our core values of quality, agility, flexibility, and innovation. M&IW is a third generation, privately held, certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) in business for more than 50 years. Our headquarters is located in Wisconsin, USA, and supported by a remote workforce across the US and in the UK, China, Ethiopia, and Brazil.