With some states opening up, is there a chance that conferences will come back in the Fall, if not the summer? For organizations that have conferences coming up, should you wait or go ahead and plan to go virtual?
All the signs are pointing to a prolonged lockdown across the country. We think it’s only prudent to plan for a virtual meeting or a hybrid event now and in the foreseeable future. Why?
You won’t have the same number of people at an in person event anyway. Even if states start allowing conferences, there’s no doubt that attendees will have to distance, and many people will opt to stay away, which both point to fewer attendees at your next conference. So your choice will be to go 100% virtual, or create a hybrid event where a few people attend in person, and the rest attend online.
You’ll need time to create an immersive, engaging virtual conference. As one client put it, “a web page that links to a bunch of Zoom meetings does not equal a conference.” It will take time to research vendors, work with your presenters and exhibitors, and design experiences that are different but (almost?) equally engaging and satisfying.
Holding a conference during a pandemic is a giant pain. Have you seen the CDC guidelines for mass gatherings? Right now, the CDC recommends that gatherings of more than 250 people be cancelled or postponed. If a local area does allow a conference, the distancing, sanitizing and procedures necessary will double (more likely quadruple) the workload for meeting staff.
Employers will likely limit staff travel. As an employer, I have a responsibility to keep my staff safe. So for the foreseeable future, I won’t allow attendance at in person meetings, air travel, or hotel stays. It’s just not worth the risk to the staff and to the company. I know I’m not alone. My Amazon rep says office staff are not required to report back to the office until October. My sister-in-law says Google has already told their staff to plan on staying home through the end of the year.
So meeting planners, what’s your plan B? Plan B should be a virtual or hybrid meeting. Start planning now.