If the past year of lockdowns has taught us one thing, it’s to not take anything for granted. That’s especially true when it comes to making plans for the future, and more so if you’re an event creator. Although rules and restrictions can change regularly and with little notice, there are ways events professionals can cope with the uncertainty. All you need is a flexible mindset and a pandemic planning checklist.
If you’re wondering how to plan an event during these times, here’s some advice to help you through.
1. Be willing to evolve
You may have planned your dream in-person event, only to encounter new restrictions on gathering sizes. Instead of feeling downhearted, try to adopt a more flexible outlook. Thanks to the past year of innovation, there are now many ways to transform an in-person event into a virtual one – even with little notice.
Popular streaming tools like Zoom, social media platforms like Facebook or YouTube, and dedicated virtual venues have made it easier for event creators to take their events online. We’re not just talking about webinars, either. Exercise classes, food events, and even music festivals have all managed to switch to remote since 2020.
As well as bringing some joy into people’s lockdown lives, broadcasting your event online makes it easier to reach a wider audience. Attendees don’t have any geographic obstacles, so they can tune in from around the UK – or the world. Plus, there are fewer issues for attendees who need to commute, find a babysitter, or worry about accessibility. Pivoting online also allows you to expand your skillset by learning how to use new technologies or working on your virtual communication abilities.
2. Always have a back-up plan
As well as adapting your mindset, it’s also a good idea to incorporate contingencies into your planning process. Conducting a risk assessment for your event is a great place to start, but it’s sensible to have an online back-up plan for any in-person event, so that you’re prepared if restrictions suddenly change.
This will involve a bit of in-depth planning – you don’t want to be scrabbling around and working out logistics at the last minute. Decide on a format to use in the event of moving online. For example, will it be exactly the same as the offline one, just held over a livestream? Will you need to send anything to attendees, such as tasting packs for a food festival or art supplies for a craft-along session? Then select which online streaming platform is best for your needs, and spend some time familiarising yourself with it. You should also have an email drafted and ready to go, alerting your audience to the change.
3. Build a support network in advance
Building relationships with others in the industry is more important than ever. Times are tough, but you’re not the only one dealing with this situation. Asking your community for support has lots of positive outcomes. As well as giving you the opportunity to talk openly about your challenges and feelings, a support network also gives you access to people who may be able to provide invaluable help. Some may already be experienced in running virtual events, while others may have connections with a valuable sponsor in your niche. All you need to do is put yourself out there and ask.
4. Be ready to cancel
If your event can’t be postponed or moved online, then it’s important to acknowledge cancellation as a real possibility. Nobody ever wants to pull an event, but sometimes it’s the only option. Facing up to it beforehand is better than being unprepared.
As part of your planning process, draft a cancellation announcement so that it’s ready to send as soon as restrictions change. Your audience are likely to have heard about these changes at the same time as you, and will have questions. Being able to answer them quickly will help to build trust and maintain your positive relationship. As and when you can find new dates for your cancelled events, be sure to communicate them as soon as possible. If you’re looking for an event cancellation announcement sample to help, use these handy email templates.
5. Prepare for the return of in-person events
While COVID-19 restrictions are likely to be part of our lives for a while, unrestricted in-person events will be back at some point. Right now, professionals have time to prepare. In the post-lockdown age, risk assessment for event planning is likely to look different. You can take this period of downtime to get your head around revised health and safety protocols, social distancing strategies, and contactless technology. (Eventbrite can help with the likes of timed entry slots and contact tracing.) Plus, you can explore creative ways to address restrictions at your next event, like bubble pods or branded face masks.
Although people can’t wait to get back out into the world, it’s also likely that attendees will be nervous at first. Look into ways to make your audience feel more comfortable through clear communication before and during the event – this can help to reduce their anxiety. As always, it’s important to stay on top of current restrictions and guidance. As well as listening to the government’s briefings, you can stay up-to-date with COVID-19 news in this industry round-up.
The events landscape may have changed over the past year, but there are still plenty of opportunities out there. You just need to be flexible. After all, lockdown measures don’t have to mean the end of your business. It could be the beginning of a new path with a stronger community and greater potential growth.
For more help on dealing with the pandemic, check out our COVID-19 resources for event creators.