COVID-19 has been especially harsh on small businesses. Brick-and-mortar retail took the bulk of lockdown consequences and many are out of work from employers “tightening their belts.” But the hospitality industry has suffered more than any other.
For event marketers, virtual and hybrid solutions have helped them serve clients, despite cancelling or downsizing pre-planned events. But doing business online is not the same and soon, in-person events will return, notwithstanding a few critical adjustments.
Ismail Sirdah is the owner of Lulu Promotions serving the greater Atlanta area. Before event promotions, Mr. Sirdah was a hospitality entrepreneur and developed a talent for relationship management, particularly among Spanish-speaking communities. He advises fellow event planners and hospitality businesses to be patient as the world emerges from one of the most dangerous pandemics in history.
The truth is, no one knows for sure when or how event planning will return to a pre-COVID “normal.” And the main reason for this uncertainty depends on how quickly the hospitality industry will recover. Event venues that remain in business now operate on shoe-string budgets and are restructuring their contracts after losing millions of dollars to widespread cancellations.
Thankfully, there are ways that event planners can still get the job done while remaining flexible to current constraints, according to Ismail Sirdah.
Virtual and Hybrid Events
Virtual event capabilities are no longer solutions for “techie” planners. Rather, virtual events are a must. If the in-person event falls through, then the virtual event plan kicks in. If nothing else, virtual events are the back-up plan.
But for many planners, virtual setup is now a critical part of the main plan. The idea is that the organizer plans the in-person event but includes a virtual option to participants. As a result, hybrid events — a combination of in-person and virtual facilities — grew more popular in 2020 and are likely to become more popular in 2021.
Holding outdoor events removes much of the risks associated with the coronavirus spread, as well as logistical challenges surrounding venue availability. So long as planners keep social distancing in mind, it is feasible to maintain in-person events while the COVID-19 threat dissolves slowly.
Focusing event planning to smaller regions helps reduce travel. Even as the pandemic subsides, many will be anxious about traveling. Thanks to hybrid event technology, planners can retain attendance while keeping in-person events localized to communities, says Ismail Sirdah.
Virtual Event Engagement
It is not enough to create virtual or hybrid events and expect online participants to get the same experience. Ismail Sirdah notes that planners and affiliates must station key personnel at the computer to promptly engage online attendees.
Whether utilizing free event tools like Facebook Live or using a hybrid event platform like Hubb, online attendees will have questions and feedback. Anticipating this online engagement makes the hybrid event approach more sustainable.
Ismail Sirdah on Safety Protocols
Event planners must take steps to pandemic-proof their events. That means accommodating those with health concerns and recognizing that venues are operating differently than they used to.
Promoters should take extra precautions and keep sponsors and attendees informed of hygiene best practices, such regular hand washing and (while the COVID threat lingers) social distancing, says Ismail Sirdah.