The past two years have brought immense change to the world. All industries and people have had to adapt to the changing economic, political, and social climate as a result of COVID-19. Many of these changes have drawn attention to the value of technology and the opportunities that it presents for people to connect going forward. It may seem like we’re on the other side of the pandemic, but we’re not yet in the clear.
At the same time, it looks like we may be headed into a global recession which will continue to make planning for the future extremely difficult. Travel and tourism, meetings, and events have arguably been some of the hardest hit industries since the beginning of the pandemic. Despite these not-so-positive realities, there are strategic actions that you can take to ensure the best chance at success and brace for impact, whether that be another pandemic wave or recession.
When the pandemic first hit in March 2020, event planners had to think quickly about what their plan of action would be. With everyday activities – from school, to work to shopping – moving online, it only made sense that events would follow suit. Virtual events provided a solution during a time when in-person contact was impossible. After two years of most events taking place online, the industry is now experienced and well-versed on how to successfully run a digital event. While organizations have recently turned back to in-person or taken on a hybrid approach, virtual events have not been eradicated and should not be written off.
Virtual events have the most staying power in the case of any unforeseen circumstances, and, in today’s unpredictable environment, virtual events can still be advantageous as they have many benefits, including increased reach and accessibility and lower costs. At the same time, expectations have increased for virtual and hybrid events since before the pandemic as experts have made the most of technology to create immersive and exciting experiences for the audience. Continuing to stay up-to-date and informed on event trends is necessary to brace for impact and make the transition back to virtual (if necessary!) seamless.
Additionally, it is important that people remain at the epicentre of planning. This includes both the internal team and outsourced partners that you are working with. Just some of the skills required of a 2022 event professional include technical competency and platform knowledge. Make sure that you have the skills, expertise, and resources needed to plan and execute a modern-day event, regardless of the format. Stay aligned with your network and regularly check in with those around you to see how they are doing and provide them with additional support if needed.
Finally, if the pandemic has taught us anything, it is the importance of contingency planning. While this has always been a part of an event professional’s job, now more than ever, there should not only be a plan B, but also a plan C in the case of unforeseen circumstances. Contingency plans should be intentional, discussed at the necessary levels of the organization, and clearly communicated as needed to event stakeholders. Some things to keep in mind could be potential restrictions regarding in-person capacity, vaccination policies, or unexpected expenses. Take plenty of time to be sure that your contract covers everything and takes into consideration this need for flexibility. Avoid grey areas and have all possible situations accounted for and covered in your contract including cancellation, force majeure, liability and attrition to name a few. Most importantly, ensure your contract clauses are balanced and protect both parties. Lastly, have a strategy in place to communicate internally, make decisions, and inform attendees should unanticipated events occur.
Navigating unpredictability is difficult in the events world but keeping the above tactics in mind can make things easier. Always be ready for anything and take advantage of the opportunities and lessons that the pandemic has provided for the industry.
Carly Silberstein, DES, CED, VEMM, is chief executive officer at Redstone Agency. She has years of experience leading marketing and event teams that service corporate clients, not-for-profit organizations, and professional associations in a variety of industries. She is also an active member of the Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE), Meeting Professionals International (MPI) and the Canadian Society of Professional Event Planners (CanSPEP).