COVID 19: How the pandemic is affecting events now and into the future
3 September 2021
Thinking back to a time where we would sit shoulder to shoulder at a conference, shake hands as a greeting, and cheerfully mingle at a cocktail function – it almost seems like an alternate universe.
At Sauce, our events team have worked on everything from on-farm workshops and regional conferences to industry gala dinners with hundreds of delegates and guests.
It is widely accepted that COVID-19 will continue to affect events for years to come, so how do you plan an event in this new landscape, and what will they look like moving forward? While we don’t have the highly sought-after crystal ball, there are some elements that will be inevitable for the short term and beyond.
Consult the guidelines
For the foreseeable future, government guidelines will determine how events operate, as well as inform how many stakeholders will be able to attend. In recent times, with the rules ever-changing, this has been difficult to navigate. However looking forward, we can hope for consistent guidelines on running events in a COVID safe way. Each state government has guidelines for events on their respective websites. As an example, the NSW Government has an Event Starter Guide.
Assessing and mitigating risks
It is the responsibility of the event organiser to identify and manage any risks associated with COVID-19. Mitigation can and should include: hygiene best practice, social distancing practices, and that check-in and mask wearing protocols are met – as a minimum. Assessments and plans should be thorough, outlining all risks and how they will be addressed. Having a plan in place then eases stress for the event organiser, as well as any stakeholders.
The hybrid model
Where previously virtual options for events might have been a ‘nice to have’, meeting through the screen has now become an integral part of both our everyday and events landscape, and we can’t see that shifting any time soon. But it won’t be all Zoom and gloom – while virtual is the current modus operandi, there is the desire to return to face-to-face events. The upside is that the pandemic has accelerated the development of the virtual meeting and events space, and it will likely remain as an additional offering once events resume in person. Whether an event is virtual, in person or both will depend on the style of the event, but the undeniable benefit is that events can now extend their reach to those unable to be in the room.
With delegate numbers being reduced due to restricted venue capacities, the result is smaller events. This has the benefit of a more intimate attendee experience. However as mentioned above, this is where the hybrid model will allow for further inclusivity.
Content is key
In adapting to the new delivery style – whether smaller in person events, online, or both – content must be considered. What was presented at a physical conference in 2019 can not simply be delivered to camera for a Zoom call. Event organisers now need to think carefully about how to engage their audiences according to the delivery style
If all else fails
After sitting on the precipice of constant cancellation, the pandemic has forced us to not only think of the worst, but face the worst. The events industry, like many industries in the last 18 months, has been forced to become agile and adaptive. A risk assessment should consider if an event will face postponement or cancellation, and how this will be executed with suppliers and delegates.
The future is bright
When events do return to their full scale, it will be with the knowledge and wisdom that the pandemic has imparted on the industry. They’ll be more considered, smarter and efficient. And it’s a new era we can’t wait to work in with our clients.
Read our article on planning a remarkable conference for more tips to make your next a success.