As the pandemic enters its third year and vaccines and boosters become normalized, “…people are slowly starting to ‘live’ again, seeing friends and family and even attending—or planning to attend—live events,” according to a recent Bankrate.com poll. Consumers have missed the excitement of live programming, from graduations to conventions, but after several years under lockdown, audiences are cautious. Their hesitancy poses a challenge for event planners who are being asked to mitigate that anxiety and host well-attended live events. In this blog post, we'll help you do just that by sharing some best practices for overcoming audience hesitation in a post-pandemic world.
- Embrace hybrid
The biggest and most obvious change in event planning, post-Covid, is that most events are now hybrid—which means you're now planning for two audiences: in-person and remote. The key to wowing both audience segments is interactivity. You'll need to ensure that remote audiences can be seen and heard in the event space, and you’ll want to include hybrid-focused events like trivia or virtual/in-person karaoke to bring your disparate audiences together. Event planners should embrace technology and innovation as part of their live programming—even if they don't have a remote audience. As one respondent suggested in the same United Talent Agency survey: "[Event organizers should] blend the real world with the digital world to enhance the experience. This could be everything from deepening the experience with social media to augmented reality/virtual reality." READ: THE POWER OF INTERACTIVITY: 10 CREATIVE WAYS TO ENGAGE YOUR HYBRID AUDIENCE
- Provide the opportunity for real-time connections
People haven't had live networking opportunities in nearly two years, and they are yearning for the chance to build new relationships, learn, and connect on a personal level with their colleagues and other professionals. Remind your attendees why live events are unique by making ample time for networking, socialization, and interpersonal connection. To boost attendance ahead of the event, don't forget to highlight those networking opportunities in your marketing materials.
- Make adjustments to address safety
Audience members today have many questions about attending live events. Will other participants be vaccinated? Do I need to wear a mask? What, if any, protocols will be in place? To ease attendees' worries, event planners need to be clear and up-front about these protocols. Here are some safety tips to help your post-pandemic live event go smoothly:
- Set the standard ahead of time about vaccine requirements, mask-wearing, and social distancing based on local ordinances and your company's values—and make sure your vendors understand these expectations.
- Determine how food service will differ from pre-pandemic events. Instead of a buffet, for example, consider individually packaging food items or hiring a catering team to serve them.
- Plan the configuration of your event space ahead of time so you can communicate that information with participants. You may want to have a contingency plan in place to shift your seating arrangements depending on Covid case counts in your area.
- Finally, if your seating is different, post-pandemic, your sound and image projection may need to change, too. For events with a larger footprint, you'll want to adjust your AV so your socially distanced audience can see, hear, and participate in the action in real-time.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate
Regardless of your protocols, communication with your attendees is critical. You want your audience to feel safe—and that means reassuring them that you're keeping their safety top of mind. Many organizations are choosing to share their masking, vaccination, and social distancing policies ahead of the event. Some are also sharing their backup plans and refund policies ahead of time, so audiences know what may happen if an event has to go virtual or hybrid at the last minute.
- Embrace the "new normal" with support from a production partner
During the pandemic, we all learned that there's no substitute for in-person connection. But that doesn't mean that live events will return to business as usual. Instead, post-pandemic live events offer the opportunity to reimagine in-person programming with safety—and innovation—in mind.
If you aren't sure how to start embracing the "new normal" in events management, consider enlisting the support of an expert production partner. The right partner will have the tools and expertise to help you create an exciting event, so your attendees' first foray back into the events world is a positive one.
To learn more about how Stagedge can help you boost audience engagement at your next hybrid event, contact us and let's start talking!