Our industry has been shaken to its core since Q1 of 2020. Everything we took for granted is out the window. Thankfully, happily, luckily, we will soon see the return to face-to-face meetings and events—but are you ready? Three important issues—the appetite for in-person meetings, the appropriate delivery method, and operational changes needed for face-to-face—are on the minds of corporate and association planners.
Your company very likely has a pandemic task force. To start your planning, reach out to them to be sure that preparing for in-person meetings is on their radar. If there is no task force, I suggest collaborating with event marketing, security, human resources, and corporate communications as you consider steps needed to return to face-to-face for your organization.
Below are three questions to ask in the run-up to in-person meetings:
Who will show up at my F2F event?
Conduct multiple pre-event surveys to measure face-to-face versus virtual attendance. Who is really willing and able to attend? Especially for meetings scheduled through the end of 2021, the challenge will be to uncover not just if people want to attend, but whether their travel policy or budget will allow it. You need realistic participant numbers for planning and risk-mitigation purposes.
Which delivery method should we use?
Should the event be face-to-face, virtual, or a combination hybrid? Create a decision matrix that will steer you toward a delivery method that works best for your goals, budget, and audience. Here are the kinds of questions you’ll need to answer to create your matrix:
• Initially, will employee meetings and events remain virtual?
• What is the goal? Building a new team? Enhancing education or skills? Sales growth?
• Will the most important revenue- and pipeline-generating meetings and events be reserved for face-to-face delivery?
• What makes sense for hybrid delivery? These are prime candidates for a hybrid format:
- Conferences where expanding the geographic reach of the audience is critical
- Events where significant amplification of attendance numbers is a success factor
- Meetings where inclusiveness and diversity of perspective is essential
How has the pre-planning phase changed?
As we transition to a post-pandemic world, both suppliers and buyers need to demonstrate due diligence regarding the duty of care for meeting attendees and supplier staff who are helping to deliver the event. During the pre-planning conversations and the pre-con meeting, new topics for discussion should include:
• sanitation protocols
• how positive Covid-19 cases are managed
• utilization of vaccine passports
• current social-distancing guidelines
• the process that would follow a mandated Covid-related business shutdown
Answering these three questions will give you and your team confidence in successfully returning to in-person meetings.
Betsy Bondurant, CMM, CTE, is president of Bondurant Consulting.