So, what’s next? What’s going to happen over the next few months? When is it safe to start planning more events? Is 2021 still too early for an event?
These are the questions we are constantly receiving from our event planners stuck in coronavirus-limbo.
Each day we are progressing, learning more about the virus and receiving updates from the CDC on new protocols being put in place. So the big question is, as an event planner, how can you start preparing for future events to ensure they don’t get cancelled?
How can you craft a safe environment for staff and guests, while following CDC guidelines?
We’ve put together a complete event planning checklist for any future event(s); we’ll walk you through what to consider before starting your plans, marketing and promoting your event, implementing safety procedures, risks to consider and everything else you’ll need to know before getting started.
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Select a date with a low possibility of being cancelled
Right now we are waiting out the virus.
Waiting for a vaccine to be created and distributed around the world. So, I’m sure you know what we are going to say. If you’re planning an event, select a date that is at least a few months out from today. We recommend having your event at least after November 2020, however, the farther out in the future the better.
If you’re planning an event for a few weeks from now, the possibility of it getting cancelled is extremely high. However, an event planned for next year has a high chance of actually happening.
Of course, this doesn’t matter if you’re hosting a virtual event; everyone at home will be eagerly waiting to log into your event!
Have a B plan or be prepared to postpone
With any event, you should always have a backup plan as part of your event planning checklist in case something goes wrong. Currently, that ‘something that could go wrong’ is the existing current pandemic, COVID-19.
Even if you’re event is in 2021, have a B plan that covers the following situations:
- Increase in COVID-19 cases and/or deaths
- State laws have changed regarding events and the coronavirus
- Your area become a high-risk population for COVID
- Venue cancelled
- Vendors cancelled
- Talent, guest speakers, special guests cancelled
- Weather problems (if outdoor event)
- Minor gatherings are no longer permitted in your state or county
Demonstrate your new safety protocols and procedures
The health norms have changed and the event industry is changing with it. People want to know how you’re keeping a clean, pathogen-free event.
What are your new safety protocols and how are you implementing them?
Even if a vaccination for the virus has been created by the time of your event, the world isn’t returning to normal anytime soon. Hand sanitizing stations and masks will still be around.
Marketing your event, which we will touch on later, isn’t all about highlighting your performers, new features, vendor booths, fun activities etc.
Now, you also need to convince people that their health is your number one priority above all those other things.
What should your new procedures consist of?
Staff procedures and safety:
- Highly encouraged all staff to stay home if sick.
- Staff should limit close contact to guests and stay 6 feet away at all times
- Provided your team and vendors with masks and gloves
- Train staff on different touchless practices when working
- Assign cleaning and disinfecting shifts throughout the event
- Train staff on proper hygiene; covering coughs, washing hands, changing gloves etc.
- Provide water bottles for staff to combat dehydration
- Encourage staff to stay home if sick and have standbys ready
- Teach your team about all health regulations and protocols for COVID-19
- Know what team members and attendees fall under the high-risk category
- Practice hand washing techniques with the team
- Provide the team with all necessary sanitary materials; masks, gloves, wipes, etc.
Maintaining a clean event space:
- Work with a venue that allows social distancing
- Manage your traffic with lines and one-way traffic flow procedures
- If applicable, announce friendly reminders on a loud speaker about social distancing and hygiene
- Use signage with visual cues to demonstrate proper health procedures
- Mark off 6 feet with ground tape for social distancing
- Provide hand sanitizing stations, gloves, masks, first aid to all guests if needed
- Clean and disinfect every 30 minute minimum
- Provide disinfectant wipes by doors if guests have to open or close them
- Follow all local, state and federal regulations and stay up-to-date
Running and operating the event:
- Have first aid and responders ready
- Limit any travel - encourage out of town guests to attend the event virtually
- Limit guest capacity to what is considered safe for your venue
- Encourage sick attendees to stay home. Give them a credit if they have to cancel.
- Decrease event hours or break the event into smaller shifts
- Follow this guide on running a touchless, risk-free registration
Later on we will talk about how you can ensure your guests are aware of these safety changes.
Know the laws in your area
Just like knowing the different permits you need for hosting an event, you need to do your research regarding requirements for hosting events during COIVD-19.
A good place to start is with Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They cover everything from mass gathering restriction, event requirements during COVID, stopping the spread of germs etc. The CDC also covers all current laws being implemented for each state in regards to hosting an event.
Or you can simply go to your states government website where more resources specific to your area should be available. You can also type in “your county name COVID” in your search engine and a plethora of resources should appear.
Consider the risks first (benefits should outweigh the risks)
It’s important to ask yourself what the risks would be to planning your event when you are. Now more than ever, you need to consider all the possible risks of having your event in comparison to the benefits.
The benefits should always out weigh the risks; if not your event might not be the best idea during this time.
Ask yourself the following questions when evaluating your risks vs benefits:
Is your event in a high-risk area or is your target market considered a high-risk population?
Is your event interactive, meaning germs can be spread easily? Or can you eliminate these risks?
Do you have the resources for a cleaning crew, sanitation stations, masks, etc.?
Can you obtain a venue that has plenty of space for social distancing?
Are people traveling to your event or is it local?
Can you opt for catering versus buffet style eating to cut cross-contamination and spreading of germs?
Are the cases of COVID going up in your area?
Do you have enough staff and/or volunteers for monitoring social distancing and other safety procedures?
Implement a communication strategy
Guests will be asking the same questions you are.
Has there been any changes to the event?
Is there a chance of cancellation?
What are the new procedures for a safe, risk-free event?
How will we implement those new safety procedures?
It’s crucial to have a strategy in place for keeping guests updated and informed as your event gets closer. Doing so will also offer them comfort in knowing you are staying on top of recent changes and considering all health-risks.
Here are Purplepass tools you can access from your account for staying in touch with the guests:
1. SMS Marketing tool: this tool provides an easy way to stay connected with guests via text. Send quick updates, alerts, changes, promo codes, ticket discounts, etc. all to their smartphones.
2. Email integrations: Use Mailchimp or Constant Contact to import your guest lists and create mass email campaigns for event updates.
3. The Email Customers tool: Purplepass’ email tool lets you create custom emails from within your account without using a third party software. Import mailing lists based on advanced filters, write your message and schedule a sending time.
More ways to stay in touch:
- Social media
- Direct messages or calls
- Direct mail
- Alerts on your event page or website
- Blogs or content creation online
- Press releases
Stay connected to guests via text
Purplepass' SMS messaging tool
Start promoting your event ASAP
The benefit of promoting your event now, even if it’s happening in 2021, is because why not?! Why not give people something to look forward to while being trapped at home. We’re all home online shopping, binging out on Netflix or seeking out relationships online while waiting out this pandemic.
While everyone is online, nows the perfect time to start pushing your event.
We’re all searching for a silver lining, something to get us through this period of limbo and isolation. Your event can give people something to look forward to and get excited about.
Start talking about it now!
- Make announcements and share on social media and conduct ticket giveaways
- Email marketing
- Create an event page via Purplepass or a website
- Post your event to an event discovery site (Eventful, Evensi, Groupon, etc.)
- Create a Facebook event
- Work with vendors and special guests for cross-promotion (have them promote on their own platforms)
- Send direct mail and invitations
Build a COVID marketing strategy
If there is anything that has drastically changed during this pandemic, its marketing strategies worldwide. Commercials and ads are now being directed towards remote and work-from-home lifestyles, online and streaming platforms or sanitary products.
It’s all about bringing experiences to your home and products that are going to support these new habits.
Your marketing strategy should be adjusted to address the following concerns of anyone attending events.
How is your event safe?
Are there any risks accompanied to attending your event?
What are you safety and health procedures?
How are you going to run a clean event?
What are the benefits to attending your event?
Why should I attend?
These are the concerns you need to address in your marketing; make sure you are answering these common questions in your marketing campaigns.
Note: I recommend surveying future guests or past customers when crafting your marketing strategy. Ask or offer a poll to understand what their concerns would be for attending your event. Then use their feedback when building campaigns for promoting your event.
Of course you still want to follow the basic practices for promoting an event, while adjusting the campaign to also cover these new questions.
Here’s our list of common marketing strategies for event promotion:
- Create an event page, website or Facebook event
- Use social media ads, stories and live streaming features
- Post on event discovery sites
- Go traditional with posters, flyers, direct mail, business cards, etc.
- Cross-promote on multiple platforms
- Create and post videos highlighting your event
- Send monthly newsletters about your event (email marketing)
- Create content and start a blog
- Put out press releases
- Conduct a ticket giveaway to get people interested
- Use coupon codes and loyalty programs
- Post to your community event calendar
- Reach out to industry influencers and form partnerships
- Seek out sponsors
We’ve listed above the common practices we see our event planners use when promoting their events online. Now we are going to list out other ways you can market the changes your event is undergoing in order to support new health concerns.
- Use a registration that supports assigned seating, so guests have to choose their seats upon checkout instead of just general admission tickets. At checkout, mention that assigned seating is being used to enforce social distancing.
- Update your terms and conditions at checkout to reflect all the changes in response to COVID-19.
- Use email marketing to send mass emails with changes being implemented as you continue to plan you event (as a way to update your customers of changes to the event).
- Use evidential support to show how you are running a clean event. Use videos, photos, live streaming of behind the scenes; anything to document different aspects you are adding to create a safe space.
- Post photos of your new sanitation stations or booths.
- Live stream your venue to show the space and room people will have for social distancing.
- Post images of branded masks you will be providing at the event.
- Interview the caterers or vendors on their safety procedures for battling the spread of COVID-19.
- Blog about your registration system being fully online; creating a touches experience at the gate.
Define your refund policy (Refund-friendly, partial or zero refund?)
Before posting your event, you need to clearly define your refund policy. Decide if you want to offer refunds for cancelled events or credit to return to any future events.
Are you going to be refund-friendly or strictly no refunds?
You can also consider offering partial refunds; guests can receive a refund on tickets, but you still collect any service fees, taxes, etc.
Plan a touchless event experience
What do we mean by touchless?
Touchless is eliminating the amount of exchanges between a person and an object and back to another person; the passing of germs basically. The less interaction and exchanges the lower your risk for spreading the virus and other pathogens.
Start with your even gate
Use wireless equipment, scanners and digital tickets to limit things that require “touching”. Instead of printed receipts and tickets, send everything via email. Guests can pull up tickets on their smart devices or, if they prefer to print, wireless scanners make scan easy at a distance.
For payments, limit or require card only transactions. Use a credit card slider so guests can process their own payments or require online purchases and advanced sales only.
Smart planning - thinking ahead
Think ahead before booking your venue and event location.
Is it an open space with enough room to social distance?
Look for an open-floor plan, possibility outdoors, where a one-way directional flow of traffic can be implemented. Also look for a separate entrance and exit to space guests out as they come and go.
Consider not serving food
Food is tricky. It all depends on how you dish it out.
If you require a full dinner or meals, consider a catering service rather than buffet self-serve style.
Catering eliminates any contamination from guests getting their own food as well as foot traffic; instead guests can remain seated and be served at their tables.
Limit different types of interactions
Games and activities that involve pieces you need to touch in order to play are probably not a good idea. Again, this encourages exchanges of people passing germs to other people participating. Instead, play games that don’t involve parts like trivia, Jeopardy, scavenger hunts, etc.
Keep doors open to avoid touching handles, don’t shake hands and try to shorten your overall event time.
Also, consider live steaming your event in order to avoid media coverage and having extra bodies at the venue. If media is necessary, create a designated space outside of your venue, in a separate room, etc. Media can cover your event from a distance. This will decrease foot traffic, heavy crowds and congested areas where germs like to spread.
Have the media go live so people online can get involved. Live streaming requires little equipment and crew, meaning less people at your event.
Using Purplepass for your next event
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