November 10, 2021
Live events are coming back, but they are not in full swing yet. According to a recent EventMB State of the Event Industry survey, about 78% of event professionals from across the globe are currently planning live events. But if you thought planning a live in-person event was a challenge before the pandemic, post-pandemic live events pose even more obstacles.
To help organizations prepare for the unexpected, we sat down with Bob Russo, Executive Director, Strategy & Creative at VDA, for a chat about the return to live events in the latest episode of the Team Building Saves the World podcast.
As live events are making a comeback, Russo explains that we need to get creative in how we approach event planning moving forward.
In this article, we’ll cover some of the most common challenges you might encounter when planning live events in 2022 and offer effective solutions.
Define Your Event Objectives
Challenge: When planning a live event, whether it’s big or small, companies often have trouble pinpointing what they want to achieve with the event.
- Ask yourself if the event has a purpose. Are you looking to increase sales, promote members of your organization, or is the event part of a broader HR strategy? Defining what you want to accomplish will help shape the rest of your decision-making process.
- Set clear objectives for the event. This is different from defining goals because objectives have to be measurable and should have a completion date. If the goal is to increase employee engagement, your objective might be to get at least 95% of your workforce to attend.
- Draft an action plan with all the steps you and your team need to take to achieve the objectives. For example, to achieve the employee engagement objective, your action plan might include a step to survey employees to determine which activities best align with their interests.
Align on Scope and Budgeting
Challenge: Without a clearly defined event scope, you risk running into organizational issues and overspending on the event.
Knowing the scope will help you plan out your budget and avoid unexpected expenses. Before you sign any contracts or make any commitments, define the Five W’s and How:
- Who are you hosting the event for?
- What type of event are you hosting?
- Where will the event take place?
- When does the event start?
- Why are you organizing the event?
- How will you ensure everything goes according to plan?
In the planning stage, your budget doesn’t have to be set in stone. However, you should try to stick to it as much as possible, especially if you have limited resources. The last thing you want to do is exceed your spending limits due to poor planning on your end.
Your event budget should account for the following expenses:
- Equipment and technology
- Health and safety
Form an Event Planning Team
Challenge: Understaffing is a major issue in event planning. You might not realize that you’re short on staff until the day of the event when it’s too late to hire more people.
- Form a planning committee well in advance. Give people roles and define their responsibilities. Someone who is a good planner and organizer could be your Event Manager. If you have tech-savvy people on your team, ask them to provide technical support before and during the event. And if you’re not good with money, ask someone who is to take on the responsibilities of an Accountant.
- Make sure everyone is aware of what each member of the planning committee is doing. If someone gets sick or isn’t able to carry on with their duties, for whatever reason, another team member should be able to step in and take their place.
- To keep everyone in sync, consider using project management tools such as Trello and Asana, or a simple calendar app. These tools will give you an overview of who is working on what and help you track progress.
Determine the Size of the Event
Challenge: With COVID-19 restrictions shifting almost daily, it’s difficult for event planners to calculate the event size and know exactly how many people will be allowed to attend on the day of the event.
- When planning live events in 2022, be sure to monitor COVID-19 restrictions in your area. While most states have dropped restrictions, there is a list of coronavirus-related restrictions by state.
- According to the CDC, live events fall into the category of large gatherings. To adhere to rules in your area, consider limiting the number of people attending the event if necessary.
Find the Right Venue
Challenge: Finding the right venue and booking it during the best of times poses plenty of challenges. Now that planners are faced with booking events during COVID, there are even more factors to consider.
When deciding to book your event indoors or outdoors, ask yourself these questions:
- Is there enough space to fit everyone comfortably?
- Can I ensure proper physical distancing?
- Does the venue have the right technology for the event?
- Do I have good communication with the venue management?
- Does the venue allow you to test out everything beforehand?
- What are the food and beverage minimums and contract terms?
Always have a backup plan, especially if your event is outdoors. If Mother Nature drops in unannounced, you should have an indoor venue on speed dial that allows last-minute bookings.
According to Russo, a lot of people are currently encouraging capacity challenges, and they should read venue contracts carefully.
“The venue says, ‘We can hold a thousand people. Well, not anymore. Really, we can only hold 500 people.’ And they’re also facing a contractual issue because a lot of times with larger live events, you get the room for free. But you have a food and beverage minimum that’s based on a thousand people because you can fit a thousand people in there.”
Promote Your Event Internally and Externally
Challenge: It’s not uncommon for event organizers to overlook the fact that they need to promote their events. Whether you’re organizing a large gathering or a small team-building activity, basic marketing principles still apply.
Before deciding which promotional and marketing tactics to use, knowing your audience and where they spend their time is crucial.
Internal marketing tactics
- Message employees directly via internal chat applications such as Slack, Teams, or Skype
- Send direct emails to employees
- Post announcements on internal bulletin boards or company Slack channels
- Set calendar reminders for all those who should attend
- Call or send private text messages (if appropriate)
When sending out invitations, make sure they are reaching the right people. If you’re tailoring team-building events to smaller groups, you don’t want to book an event for 20 people and have the entire company show up because you invited everyone by mistake. See our free downloadable save the date and invitations here.
External marketing tactics
- Create and distribute engaging banners or flyers
- Post on company channels and tease the event to create buzz
- Create events on social media platforms
- Send out invites to media outlets
- Promote the event in the company newsletter
- Pay for ads on social media
- Offer prizes to increase the number of registrations
In addition to this, promotional material that you distribute to your employees or externally must include basic information about the event:
- Event title
- Date and time
This might seem like common sense, but in the chaos of planning a live event, you won’t believe how easy it is to forget simple details.
Factor in COVID-19 Restrictions
Challenge: Not taking into account that some people are still uncomfortable with attending in-person events.
- All your attendees must feel safe, and it is your responsibility to ensure proper health safety measures are in place. Keep a close watch on CDC guidelines and local and state regulations on gatherings. Consider physical distancing, mask-wearing, contract tracing, and what to do if someone gets sick after the event.
- Inform your attendees about the safety measures that will be in place ahead of time. Encourage attendees and staff to get tested for COVID-19 and stay home if they feel ill.
Prepare for the Unexpected
Challenge: What if the keynote speaker is unable to attend on the day of the event? Do you have a replacement? These unexpected scenarios are more common than you may think, and you should always have a backup plan for the main aspects of your event.
- Hold a planning meeting where your team will discuss everything that could go wrong with the event. Some people might have more experience than you in planning live events, so getting their input is critical. Filter out the most likely scenarios and prepare contingency plans.
- When booking vendors, make sure the contract defines their responsibilities in case they are unable to fulfill their obligations.
- For large gatherings, factor in the costs of possible worst-case scenarios into your budget. You don’t want to be thinking about money when you have to front the costs to find a replacement for one of your vendors.
Plan for a Virtual Experience in Advance
Challenge: Since some people are still reluctant to attend live events, attendance may not be what you had anticipated, or something unexpected has happened and you have to reduce the size or cancel the live event.
- Be prepared to go virtual or plan the event in a hybrid format from the start.
- Don’t approach the virtual experience as an afterthought. Make sure the event is impactful for the virtual audience as well.
- Let all event organizers, vendors, and speakers know if the event will be virtual or hybrid in advance so they can make their own arrangements and not get caught off guard.
As Bob Russo from VDA explains, “savvy companies are going to be planning for a live and a virtual component. It will depend on what type of a program they’re doing — how robust that virtual program is versus how robust the in-person program is going to be.”
“Live events are all about social interaction and creating emotions, and companies will need to find a way to do that on the virtual side as well.”
Consider Hiring a Professional
Challenge: Organizing live in-person events is a daunting task that requires experience and expertise, something most businesses don’t have in-house.
- Whether you’re hosting an international conference or a live team-building activity for 100 employees, hiring a professional event organizer will save you time, money, and headaches.
Don’t know where to start? TeamBonding offers a variety of in-person team-building events and activities that are perfect for standalone activities or to incorporate into a larger event. Contact one of our seasoned event specialists to book the perfect event for your team.