Toby Heelis is the CEO of Eventopedia. He has spent the last 20 years leading the meeting and events industry operating and marketing event venues.
Your Event Might Be COVID-Secure, but What If Attendees Still Aren’t Comfortable?
Any respected and well-run venue will be ready and waiting for bookings, with the doors wide open and COVID-friendly measures in place to ensure all attendees are safe and distanced. However, venues are likely to operate at reduced capacity, meaning the event cannot reach its full potential.
Many people across North America and in the U.K. are still reluctant to attend events, and organizers also run the risk of closing their doors to those from outside of those countries. Despite the issues, there is still much that can be done. After all, the events industry has always been an adaptable one.
In England, for example, live events cannot exceed 30 guests at the moment. The most obvious solution for hosting larger events is, of course, the hybrid format. Over the past months, the events industry has been adapting to the online landscape, and those who’ve had a head start will also be the first to embrace hybrid events, even with a small pool of live attendees.
Hybrid events can offer the “normal” experience to a number of guests, while also providing the option for countless others to attend remotely at a reduced price. It’s a great way to get the live events sector up and running again, something the industry has been waiting for during these past months – venues, service providers and countless freelancers who rely on live events.
If we want to see successful hybrid events becoming the norm, we need to address two urgent aspects. Firstly, regarding the virtual aspect of going hybrid, attendee engagement has been a big struggle, and it will need to be improved. Virtual events are still relatively new to most, and event profs are constantly learning how to offer a more engaging experience. Secondly, when it comes to the live aspect of hybrid events, a key issue to be addressed is a lack of confidence.
Despite the need to restart live events, many event professionals are mainly planning to organize virtual events in the near future. There’s a palpable lack of confidence surrounding live events – in the preventive measures of venues and event planners – that generally isn’t justified.
For live events to get back to business, we first need to reduce fears and regain a sense of security. The good news is that the sector is addressing these issues. We can see numerous events associations pushing for more information, clearer best practices, more data and more unity.
The overwhelming majority of venues and event organizers are already following the requirements for safe events – they’ve been preparing for this moment for months. And in order to properly adapt to cater to the industry, transparency will be key. Guests as well as event professionals will want to easily see that all the measures are in place. Various types of accreditation could be a potential solution for reassuring the public.
Events in 2021
As we’re nearing the end of this year, the events sector is anxiously waiting for 2021. What next year will look like will largely depend on how the COVID-19 crisis evolves, but there’s good reason for hope.
Most likely, 2021 will be a busier year for the events industry. We will be better prepared next year, in all aspects of event management. By the end of next year, virtual and hybrid events will have evolved significantly, and event professionals will know how to make the most out of the increasingly helpful technologies.
Live events will also recover gradually, as public confidence increases. Yes, live events will still have to run at reduced capacity for the time being, but the flexible industry will find ways to make it work. For example, venues are allowed to host multiple simultaneous events as long as they adhere to specific measures and the groups don’t overlap. Thus, we might see venues dividing their larger event spaces to adapt to the new situation, hosting many smaller events. And these smaller events, which will require space and various services, are a great first step for a recovering industry.