Guest column: When all that’s certain is uncertainty: Navigating the event industry’s “new normal”

Event management and planning professionals have worked through especially turbulent times over the past year. A number of emerging trends, such as the much-discussed shift toward hybrid events that combine a smaller in-person audience with a bigger virtual crowd, are set to accelerate and take up more of the landscape over time. And for a number of companies, continued uncertainty will mean a greater interest in completely virtual events.


Both hybrid and fully virtual are going to present a challenge for event management professionals in the long term. The more of these events there are, players in the industry will have to innovate to remain creative, cutting edge, and original.


Among the many ways to navigate this changing climate, three ideas in particular stand out, helping those in the events industry continue to wow clients while adapting to current realities.


Optimizing Your Alternatives For Clients


Contingency planning should be highlighted upfront, not only in the contract or agreement, but also in preliminary discussions about the event. Plans B and C need to be as clear and detailed as plan A. If plan B involves online team-building exercises or games, for example, say so, because this addresses the expectations, and hopefully excitement that attendees have built up.


When something a client wants isn’t feasible because of COVID-19 or any other restriction, put as much thought and effort into creating appealing alternatives. It can be helpful to think of this as your “detour” route. This road should be as smooth and appealing as the main one.


Leaning On Your Network


Even during the height of COVID-19 disruption, our firm was able to help pull off an event for a New York-based client within 24 hours, because we had local partners we could quickly call on. Relationships are everything, and you never want to be in a place where you’re having to dust off your contact list after having not used it for a while.


It’s crucial to regularly check in with your network to see how they are doing, what you can do to help them, and their plans to handle another period of disruption.


Returning To The Fundamentals


The fundamentals of our business are essentially the same, no matter what. Disruption and rapid change are what events are all about.


For example, even if an event needs to be paused, the purpose behind it never went away. The way to tackle this is to get creative with marketing, such as through quizzes, prizes, and other ways to interact with the event’s audience and keep them plugged in. It’s a balancing act of not inundating audiences, but instead generating a feeling of suspense that leaves them wanting more information. Besides, half of an event’s success is what happens afterward. Occupying the space outside of it creatively is what keeps momentum going.


Resilience and flexibility are the name of the game in today’s event planning world. But I relish the challenge - and with a bit of preparation, so should you.


This column originally appeared in ConventionSouth.