With strategies to ease restrictions on gatherings and some countries and provinces opening up their economy many event professionals are keeping a close eye on how things will go. Events will likely look different for some time. It is with this understanding that the Saga Events team are considering what future events might look like. Although events of all sizes will be impacted, large gatherings will likely still be on hold for a while. Taking the current guidelines set by experts the first events will likely be gatherings of up to 50 people, then 100, gradually increasing as time passes; so, with these considerations we focus on trends most likely to be seen in smaller events.
Pre Event Considerations
The Audience - Business travel is likely to be reduced for some time and as a result, the majority of your live event audience will be local. This will impact entertainment, catering, and other design elements. You don’t necessarily need to play up your local offerings as most of your audience will already be familiar. However, keep your goals & brand in mind when making decisions, and don’t neglect your online audience who may be international.
Virtual, Hybrid & Multi-hub Events - Let's just get this out of the way. Virtual and Hybrid event options are going to be prevalent and all events are going to need to consider this. We’ve already released a virtual 101 blog (link) but you will need to consider your online audience offering and invest in a good multi-cam streaming set-up for your events. We wouldn’t be surprised if many breakout sessions are conducted 100% online with viewing rooms available at the live event. Multi-hub events where several smaller gatherings of 50 people around the world each have their own mini-event shared and linked to the offerings of the others may also become more frequent during the early roll-out stages of these events. Rather than selecting who to invite you could have 50 people in Vancouver, 50 in London, and 50 in Boston each with their own venue, running a different “stage” of the event.
Social Distancing - Gone are the days of tightly packed ques and rows and rows of seats. Social distancing will be a common trend at gatherings for some time. How this will take shape is a mystery for many organizers but will have a large impact on several areas of the event.
Registration - Registration system will likely have spaced out ques with people a minimum of 2m (6ft) apart. In order to ensure the safety of your event staff, in-person registration will be reduced as much as possible. Self-check-in stations will become the norm and we predict many agencies will be taking a closer look at RFID & Facial Recognition technology as this reduces the need for person to person interaction. It is always good practice to have an in-person check-in counter for late registration or troubleshooting and the plexiglass dividers currently seen at grocery stores will be surrounding the once open registration stations.
Venue Seating - With social distancing becoming the new norm, it is unlikely that we will see theatre-style seating as the preferred arrangement. In fact, most of the preferred seating arrangements were chosen because they allowed for the greatest attendance numbers without compromising visibility, but this needs to be re-considered. Of the classic seating styles, classroom seating is likely to make a re-emergence as it provides a natural distance between rows and those next to them. Designated seating may also become common. Creative agencies will take this as an opportunity to create unique seating options. Saga Events predict some events will have spaced out "zones" with comfortable armchairs and complete with a writing/dining surface, light, charging stations, etc. Comfort will be key and the keynote will become even more like a show. Popcorn anyone?
Networking - Networking in person will also need to be done via social distancing. Online meeting systems will be important even for live events, and on-site meetings will likely involve purposely designed meeting areas with barriers. We are excited to see what our team and other agencies come up with.
Catering - The self-serve system will have to go. No more dining together while networking or self-serve buffets. Catering is going to shift to table service with your pre-purchased (or through an app) meals being brought to your seat. We may also see an increase in materials like copper which have antimicrobial properties to help fight off the virus.
Disinfection & Cleanliness - Organizers will be required to ensure that all surfaces are frequently disinfected. Antimicrobial surfaces are a good bet if budget allows, but anything that people touch will need to be considered. Extra requirements & responsibility when it comes to cleanliness will mean that all aspects of the event need to be reconsidered. What was once considered best practice may not be as realistic anymore.
Tech - We briefly mentioned facial recognition and RFID before but we suspect these will become quite prevalent. Facial ID recognition combined with thermal detection could help flag any potential attendees who have caught the virus. RFID can be combined with Apps to allow for ordering and delivery of food wherever you are in the venue and can be programmed to create warnings for both the attendee and organizers if people are getting within the allotted 6ft from one another. RFID also has the added benefit that most things such as session sign-in can be done through tapping in and reduces human contact. Other technological advances are sure to pop up to help support event needs.
Venue, Space & Budget - The above also means that your venue choice is going to need to accommodate the greater space requirements and your budget will need to be aware of this. Outdoor venues will become even more sought after. Whether venue vendors will be able to supply this need is still yet to be seen. Live events may become more exclusive and the price associated with them may rise as a result of the above. However, a good agency will always be able to help you find the best options for your budget.
Post Event - will require a thorough follow-up with attendees and ensure they get in touch if any symptoms arise. Organizers will need to be proactive and can’t wait until an attendee tests positive to hear about it. We need to issue frequent check-ups on health and potential symptoms and let everybody else know as soon as possible if something does arise.
Live events are not dead, but there is no guarantee we will be going back to “normal” anytime soon. There will be changes, but as with anything in life, challenge must be met with ingenuity and this can be an opportunity to expand your outlook on what events mean and create even greater experiences for our audience. If you would like to discuss how you can take your virtual event even further feel free to get in touch with us @ www.wearesaga.com