Author: Brent Milner
ATLANTA – January, 2022 – As corporate meetings rebound, a dramatic shift is occurring in the way event professionals are planning their events. The traditional six- to twelve-month turnaround time has been replaced with a much shorter planning cycle, which is now closer to twenty to forty-five days.
There are also questions on how to determine if hosting a virtual, hybrid, or face-to-face event is best, where the event should take place, and what type of venue makes sense. Lastly, what about agility – can the plan easily change (for example, going from virtual to hybrid) depending on attendee confidence levels?
"Though negotiating and servicing meetings in a tighter timeframe may cause some added stress, we consider ourselves client partners to help take some of that stress off the shoulders of the planner," states Jeffrey Byrne, ON Services Senior Vice President. "We have planned numerous meetings since the onset of the pandemic with less than a month's notice, and have received very positive client feedback."
Flexibility and transparency are critical to delivering the right content for a positive attendee experience. Whether planning for challenges around safety standards, how far or if attendees will travel, budgeting for hybrid events, and how to keep virtual audiences engaged, here are four key solutions to overcome them.
Challenge: Every state, venue, and company have different standards and practices for stopping the spread of COVID, which can make it difficult to evaluate various proposals and finalize details for events.
Solution: We follow the CDC's Readiness and Planning Tool for all our clients' hybrid and face-to-face meetings, no matter where they are within the United States. Planning for different event scenarios from the start of the planning process can take some of the stress off of the unknown changes that can occur around the pandemic safety protocols. Consider designing your event’s in-person floor plans for varying capacity requirements and creating content that works for both in-person and virtual audiences.
Challenge: International travel bans, increased variant spread, and the rise and fall of COVID cases in each state make long-term planning difficult.
Solution: Regional and local face-to-face meetings are more manageable, especially as we move into the summer months. It is encouraging that the CDC recently stated people who are fully vaccinated could travel within the United States and do not need to get tested before or after travel or self-quarantine. Refer to the CDC guidelines for travel throughout your planning process to ensure a safe experience for all of your event stakeholders.
Challenge: After a year without meetings and with many corporations impacted financially, upper management may look to cutting meeting budgets as a means to reduce cost. Budgets may also be the same as previous events, but how can budgets be maximized to include both virtual and in-person elements for hybrid events?
Solution: Educating your boss on the ROI of holding your meeting will be the key to success. Prioritize goals and content delivery, while getting creative with budget allocations where possible. For example, you might reduce what historically was a transportation budget line item and reallocate funds for live streaming. Or, tweak your opening reception expense to fund mailing swag bags to every person's home. Showing a pre-pandemic and 2021 proposed budget side-by-side will help.
Challenge: After a year of constant video conference call meetings, attendees are worn out and their attention spans to receive online content have lessened.
Solution: Not all virtual sessions are the same. Hiring an experienced event producer who can ensure your event will run more like a broadcast event, with quality video and audio production, is crucial to its success. Pre-produced digital content and post-event editing is something a full-service production company can bring to the table. Also evaluate the length of your video content, and whether it should be live or pre-recorded, to keep your virtual audience engaged.
"Supporting and adding value to our clients in the meeting environment they are comfortable with has been and will continue to be our differentiator in 2021," stated Richard Palm, Vice President of Operations at ON Services.
Since his start in 2005, Brent has been driving growth and success at ON Services with evolving responsibilities across operations, sales and marketing. Now, as Executive Vice President, he ensures that live event productions exceed client expectations. From general sessions that "wow," to breakout rooms that run smoothly and everything in between, Brent’s team delivers digital media services, audio visual technology and interactive systems that empower and engage attendees in a dynamic, immersive environment.