We all know the expression about “best-laid plans.” So often, the things that can go wrong do, and we’re faced with having to adapt to those changes. Concerns about the Delta variant of COVID-19 have proven to be no exception, with this strain considered even more contagious, and spreading fast in many regions throughout the world.
After much talk of reopening and a greater return to in-person events, the winds are blowing in the opposite direction, including here in the Bluff City. Everyone is naturally jittery, with memories of 2020 still fresh in mind.
But whatever the next few months bring, we’re here to get you prepared for the next phase of events, starting with these three tips.
Managing Expectations, Including for Plan Bs
Whether you’re in a client role or a planning role, the past year and a half has given plenty of people a feeling of whiplash, as local and national governments and health authorities regularly update guidance based on fast-evolving situations. Companies with global operations have particularly felt the cycles of lockdowns and re-openings.
All this feeds into healthy skepticism for organizations as they chart out the next stage of events. For event managers, setting clear expectations from the start, while also providing clients with that extra bit of attention, can go a long way in staying realistic and preventing disappointment, not to mention a cancelation. You cannot control what happens out in the world, but customer care is entirely within your grasp.
It’s crucial for event managers and planners to identify how the relationship will work early on, including expectations for regular communication.
Being Responsive to Trends and Developments
For every plan made or detail arranged in an event proposal, equal attention should be paid to an alternative that can be quickly mobilized into action when outside forces make Plan A impossible. Think of supply chain disruptions preventing custom gifts from arriving at an event, or a surge in COVID-19 cases preventing the in-person half of a hybrid gathering. Clients need to be able to visualize how the alternatives will look, as well as what they will mean in terms of the setup of the event. Of course, all potential pivots should be clarified in the contract – more on that to come later – as much as possible.
For a while, it might be necessary to select a point-person on your team who oversees both monitoring the virus situation and updates to new rules, perhaps on a weekly basis. This, combined with well-defined expectations, will afford your team the ability to work proactively with clients to stay ahead of a potential change before it emerges. Anticipation is key.
Where events are hybrid and involve in-person interactions, health and safety protocols must be front and center. This is not only about having a plan, but also communicating it clearly, and having policies in place and accessible to everyone. Don’t be afraid to make decisions that prioritize everyone’s safety, such as mask-wearing, even if recommendations exist rather than legal mandates.
Going With the Flow
In earthquake-prone regions of the world, buildings that receive seismic retrofits are braced to move with tremors when they come, rather than being seriously damaged by the shaking.
For event management companies, now is the time to consider how capable you are of switching over to virtual events with the least amount of disruption possible. Take inventory of your internal technological capabilities, as well as the strength of your networks. Even in “normal” times, no one can pull off an event worth talking about alone.
As an example, during the pandemic, Behind the Scenes was able to launch a large virtual event halfway across the country with less than 24 hours’ notice, both because of our extensive partner networks and their preparedness to shift. That, too, is an important factor. So, never be afraid to ask how your partners would handle another period of significant disruption.
Finding the Silver Lining
Believe us when we say that you weren’t alone in getting excited about a long-awaited “return to normal.” But there is still good news.
Whether you are just starting to formulate contingency plans, or you’re taking time to sharpen the tools in your playbook, thriving through whatever comes next is about adapting your operations. From workshops to corporate conferences, hosts can safely and effectively pivot to alternatives, while still delivering unforgettable outcomes for their audiences.
This column originally appeared on the Greater Memphis Chamber Momentum blog.