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A how-to guide for organizing a successful in-person event

With the holiday season in full swing, and 2022 just around the corner, businesses are actively weighing their options about event planning. A process that is inherently stressful has become even more uncertain over the past few weeks, with a new COVID variant generating concern and prompting changes of plans.

Still, organizing an in-person event remains a possibility, one highly likely to succeed with appropriate planning and a confident mindset. As you work with your event planner to wow audiences and leave a lasting mark on the occasion, the following points should be kept in mind to ensure the best possible outcome.

Tip #1: Go small to go big.

What may come to mind when picturing a face-to-face gathering is a large conference room full of people from far-flung destinations, mingling together in close proximity. Before the COVID era, we thought almost nothing about this, but such a scenario could be risky now.

Instead, you may consider either a smaller in-person event, with the number of attendees capped at a lower level, or holding several micro-events at the same date and time. The latter idea could be made possible by choosing a larger venue with several separated conference and meeting rooms, or, if this proves too cost-prohibitive, going with an outdoor event.

Some companies have also chosen to reimburse their employees for get-togethers they organize on their own, such as a group of five or six eating dinner at a restaurant. There is still plenty of opportunity to leave a mark on this kind of arrangement, such as by sending a gift basket or activity kit to each gathering. In some ways, this is the same as one big event: Remember that at large gatherings, people typically split off into smaller groups anyway.

Tip #2: Ensure your plans are confirmed with partners and suppliers.

Whether an event’s logistics are more intricate, like the examples above, or more straightforward, partners and suppliers need to know the where, when and how of the event, down to the punctuation marks. It’s crucial that all your materials, decorations and equipment for the event arrive in enough time, either to set things up at a physical venue or to ensure that several separate gatherings have everything they need to share the same experiences.

Even if it means over-communicating, everyone’s lines should be kept open. Simple avenues for questions and concerns are best, with partners, third-parties and attendees alike all needing to know for sure where they can go if they have a question or run into an issue.

Tip #3: Plan ahead – and preserve flexibility.

Consider this the equivalent of checking the weather before setting up a picnic in the park. And if you’re holding an outdoor event, it’s worth taking this metaphor literally.

If you are traveling to reach a destination, or if your attendees are coming from different parts of the country or world, assessing things like local COVID infection rates will help you determine how strict your masking and social distancing policies need to be, or even things like event size.

It’s also worth ensuring that contracts reflect these standards and expectations, as well as confirming that extensive plans are in place in the event certain participants like keynote speakers can’t make it. Arranging alternatives, up to and including pivoting to a hybrid or fully-virtual gathering, should be a priority in your planning process.

Tip #4: Perform a post-event review.

Even highly successful events can benefit greatly from taking stock. Whether it’s particular things that were a hit with audiences or went well, or hiccups that happened unexpectedly, a comprehensive review will allow you to gain insight that can be applied to future gatherings – especially as future conditions remain uncertain.

Tip #5: You have more options than you think.

Remember, companies still benefit from what is a nearly unprecedented level of choice when it comes to putting on events. These days, most everyone in the sector is familiar with putting on hybrid and virtual gatherings that are effective and impactful. But with widespread vaccines and testing for COVID-19, face-to-face events have become possible and, given the right conditions, safe options once again.

If the amount of choice feels overwhelming, rather than liberating, remember to stick to the facts and evidence, whatever decision you make about an event. Go with your comfort level, and that of your audience, and once you make choices, be confident about and stick with them.

When it comes to embracing in-person, it’s always helpful to think outside the box – or outside the room. And for strategic help putting these tips and more into action, the creative team at Behind the Scenes is just a call or email away.


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