How to plan the transition back to in-person events

Marilena De Niear

February 23, 2022

    At the beginning of the 2020 pandemic, most businesses involved with in-person events scrambled to maintain their live events. Immediately, event planners looked for alternative ideas to retain their current ticket sales while keeping clients happy. Soon after, people worldwide became accustomed to the concept of virtual events. What started as a transition to virtual events quickly became an ordinary procedure for event planners.

    After nearly two years, events are transitioning back to in-person. Currently, event planners have the task of recapturing their virtual audiences and making them feel comfortable returning onsite. Below are our tips on how to transition back to in-person events.

    Keep Communication Open

    Understandably, attendees will have some reservations when it comes to deciding to attend an event in person. Above all, you will want to be transparent that your onsite event’s purpose is to have face-to-face interactions. Make sure you continuously communicate with your attendees, team members and vendors on what they can expect. Through your online event registration website, emphasize how you plan to provide an engaging in-person event. Furthermore, on the site’s ticket tiering and registration page, ensure there is additional verbiage clarifying the event is onsite. Therefore, this will lessen the confusion of your visitors and instill confidence that you’ve captured the right audience for your event.

    In addition to your registration page, include informative pages to keep your attendees and exhibitors up to date. Before planning your event, make sure you and your team have gone over what you’ll need to accomplish.

    Exhibitor Page – Make sure to include a list of sponsorship packages that exhibitors can choose from to market their services. Encourage them to build out inviting booths to make attendees want to talk to their sales team. Let them know how many attendees you are expecting so they can plan accordingly. You’ll want your exhibitors to supply enough giveaways for your expected guests. Use an expo management tool to help your exhibitors build digital floor plans. This will help them plan to have enough space for their items. Additionally, you can use this tool to collect payments and quickly provide the details of their exhibit.

    Agenda Page – Include a detailed agenda page that lists the different types of activities and where you’ll be hosting them. This can be your first opportunity to show off the extent of your event. Furthermore, create a mix of sessions, dining, exhibits and entertainment to keep your attendees interested.


    Upgrade Your Health and Safety

    Most likely, attendees will be apprehensive about returning to onsite events. Start your transition back to in-person events with strict health and safety procedures listed on your website. Make attendees feel safe by requiring face masks and vaccinations. View our blog, “How to Safely Return to In-Person Events,” to learn more about how to implement these guidelines.

    Let your attendees know that you have taken new steps to minimize health risks. Hire a safety officer and provide a unique phone number to be able to contact them. Thus, attendees can quickly notify your event staff if they find anything that might endanger attendees. Similarly, show attendees how you’ve gone the extra mile by providing as many contactless options as possible. Provide contactless onsite event check-in by placing barcodes on your event ticket to pair with an on-demand badge printer. Therefore, attendees can walk up to a printer, scan their barcode and have their event materials automatically print out.

    Health and Safety Procedures Page – Frequently provide the latest CDC protocols and event requirements on a dedicated health page. Prepare your attendees for what documents they will need to upload ahead of time and what steps they’ll need to take onsite.


    Provide Interactive Sessions

    Most attendees sat back and watched sessions virtually in the last two years. Even though many live webinars offered a Q&A section, fewer attendees felt the need to ask questions live. Since these sessions could also be accessed on-demand, live attendees also decreased, resulting in less interactions between speakers and attendees. Change up how attendees view sessions by hosting them through panels or broken-down groups. During panel sessions, attendees can spend more time getting their most pending questions answered right away. Attendees can then have more control over the session topics. Furthermore, they will have more opportunities to participate while creating an open discussion. 

    In addition, ask your speakers to create subtopics to allow attendees to join discussion groups of their choosing. In these broken-down discussion groups, attendees will have the chance to dive deep into a more appealing topic. Also, attendees will get to know their peers through these smaller intimate groups. Besides attendees asking fewer questions during virtual sessions, there was also a lack of attendees asking questions to each other. Panel and group sessions can instantly make people feel connected again and more excited by learning in a way they did not have the option to during the pandemic.


    Create Engaging Exhibits

    Inspire attendees to reenter the exhibit hall by having your exhibitors apply the latest 2022 event technology trends. Utilize gamification techniques to increase engagement and entertain attendees. Have exhibitors provide touchable tech so attendees can take surveys, view videos and watch virtual tours. Use a mobile app where attendees can digitally access the exhibitor floor plan. Have attendees walk around the venue to find prizes or information at exhibitor booths.

    Encourage your exhibitors to take advantage of virtual and augmented reality (AR). AR can change the way people interact at events giving attendees a more fulfilling experience. Use wearable tech or an app on a mobile device to have attendees experience AR technology with images found throughout an exhibit’s booth. Visitors can use their technology to scan an image to see a video or object appear before them.

    Allow your exhibitors to collect as many leads as possible while making attendees feel safe. In other words, have your attendees add lead retrieval to their exhibitor packages. If a barcode is included on your event badges, exhibitors can scan attendees’ badges to collect their information automatically. Thus, this eliminates the physical contact of exchanging business cards and coming too close together for an extended amount of time.


    Splurge On Networking and Entertainment

    Attending a virtual event does not provide attendees with the same personal or authentic meeting opportunities. Consequently, attendees miss the ability to have fun with their coworkers and clients. Go all out with your networking events and entertainment. Besides asking questions at sessions and visiting exhibitors, the most prominent face-to-face interaction attendees missed was social activities. Host a cocktail hour in the exhibit hall to attract attendees to exhibitors’ booths and encourage attendees to mingle. Lastly, have a fun entertainment night by either hiring a performer to come to your venue or creating an offsite activity. You can purchase event space at a local bowling alley, bar or golf venue.


    Make the Transition Easier

    The transition back to in-person events can be daunting. If you feel overwhelmed by managing your event logistics or would like to implement the tips above, contact Expo Logic.

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