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Events Coming Back: 5 Things Event Professionals Need to Consider

Events will come back. They will come back in different shapes and formats. And they will come back stronger.

While event professionals have shown an almost unlimited supply of resilience this year, events are meant to come back next year: in-person, live and face-to-face. 2020 has been a year of forced change, of virtual meetings and webinars, but in 2021 we will EVENT again.

As the event industry is slowly regaining its strength and optimism, we can certainly expect a high degree of innovation and creativity in event design and live experiences in the new year.

In these times of change, what do event professionals need to consider when bringing back in-person event experiences?

1) Recruiting, Human Resources & Event Staffing

The role of event professionals has evolved dramatically in 2020. With events moving to the online world, the technology expertise of event professionals has become a crucial skill to succeed in organizing webinars, virtual events and online conferences.

When it comes to fulfilling last-minute requirements for customers, event professionals are pretty much used to demonstrating agility, flexibility and customer-centricity. The challenge in 2020 was to bring event experiences to the online world, understanding the tools needed, and embracing the fine differences between virtual and onsite experiences, including new benefits such as increased possibilities to grow an event community and dive into unprecedented event analytics.

Technology-savvy profiles would still be highly regarded in 2021 as we slowly moved towards more hybrid events until in-person experiences fully return to normal.

The crisis also forced many event organizations to reduce staff levels. Numerous highly qualified event professionals lost their jobs and are now looking for new challenges. This presents great opportunities for many event companies and suppliers to find highly qualified event professionals to fill roles in the near future.

2) Health & Safety

As events start to pick back up, they will need to continue incorporating standard safety measures that have been established in 2020:

  • In many countries: Wearing face masks and providing hand sanitizers and disinfectant at events
  • Ventilation systems to ensure clean air inside exhibition halls and venues
  • Distance between event attendees and glass barriers as protection measures between event staff and attendees, for instance at registration counters
  • More spaces utilized at events to avoid heavy accumulation of people in one spot
  • Ongoing cleaning and more in-depth sanitization procedures

With more and more people being vaccinated, the comeback of greeting rituals may appear intriguing. But there are certain open questions that remain unanswered for now:

What will it be like to finally meet people again? Will we shake hands? Will we ever get back to these standard rituals? Will a certain amount of distance and uncertainty remain? Will new hygiene measures enforced remain the new normal beyond 2021?

3) Catering

Catering is a crucial element of the event experience as it also plays into the entertainment and networking experience of attendees. We all missed the fantastic conversations during coffee-breaks, networking lunch events and gala dinners in 2020. Not to mention the bad filter coffee served in between breakout sessions and the overpriced sandwiches at trade shows. But we also missed the yummy dinners and the creative catering ideas that stood out of the crowd.

So how will these evolve as we are literally hungry for live event experiences? The F&B component of an event definitely plays a significant role at VIP dinner events and exclusive networking events. The better the perception of the quality, the better the experience.

With the return of in-person events, catering offerings need to be reimagined to respect new hygiene standards. Buffet style breakfast and lunch are being replaced with a la carte options. Finger food and platter service are being serviced on individual plates. Hygiene measures are being reinforced in the kitchen as well. The whole food and beverage service is being reimagined to avoid any potential safety risks.

There will also be a change in the distribution of alcoholic beverages. According to the Eventmanager Blog’s report “10 Event Trends for 2021”, the consumption of alcohol will most likely need to be reevaluated at events. This is due to the increased risk of interactions when event attendees loosen up. Inhibition can be a great threat to security measures in place to prevent community transmission.

4) Hybrid Events – a temporary trend?

While many event industry experts are convinced that Hybrid Events are here to stay, the hybrid model isn’t a sustainable option for many in the industry, especially venues. While many managed to successfully reimagine their offerings to meet the needs of the new event formats, let’s not forget that their primary source of revenue comes from booking spaces and selling food and beverage at events. Both options become limited with hybrid experiences that tend to have reduced in-person attendance.

Event organizers also seem to struggle when it comes to monetizing the virtual part of their event. How much are people willing to spend to attend events online? How much is the virtual experience worth? Are there ways to include sponsors to help increase or help off-set event revenue? And no to mention that hybrid events may incur additional expenses for organizers including AV production and the need for a virtual event platform to deliver the online experience.

Finally, behind each in-person event organized there is not only a venue, but also hotels, restaurants, and many more local businesses that benefit from having event attendees stay a few days. Events are a major driver for the economy and local governments will make sure to extend their support to encourage face-to-face events to return in their city as soon as time permits.

5) Unique Event Experiences

While in-person events become smaller, the overall experience will become even more important. The challenge will be to market these experiences as unique and high-quality events to convince attendees there will be a lot more in store onsite than online.

We will see a tendency towards:

  • Intimate events with few attendees
  • High quality networking and the possibility to have a conversation with every participant
  • Meaningful conversations thanks to more time per attendee

Conclusion

Many expect 2021 to mark the return of in-person events, and we are no different. We need to prepare our venues, our teams and our processes to ensure we deliver the most memorable face-to-face or hybrid event experiences. The event industry has been waiting for this moment, and while we may have some obstacles in early 2021, it will come, we will event again.

Event professionals, stay strong!