Six Event Industry Trends for 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns have undoubtedly impacted the event industry. For the first time in our lifetime, in 2020 every kind of event, from weddings and birthday parties to conferences and launch events, were cancelled or moved online. The event industry is in the most precarious position it’s ever seen and the future is shrouded in uncertainty. The outlook for events will depend on factors such as resurgences of the virus, medical advances, restrictions on travel, the economy at large and many more. The event industry is rapidly evolving, yet one trend is certain: virtual event options are here to stay and, alongside traditional in-person events, will become fixtures in most meetings and event programs going forward. Additionally, there will be trends that remain regardless of the COVID-19 situation. Overall, staying in step with event management changes can help you plan and execute more successful events. Here are six event trends you can expect to emerge in 2021.
More Outdoor Events
As the risk of COVID-19 spreading is thought to be less significant outdoors, consider planning your event in an outdoor area, such as a terrace, garden or outdoor theater. Outdoor events both accommodate a larger group of people while also easily providing a comfortable and safe distance between attendees. Additionally, consider using tape marks or other indicators to clearly delineate social distancing protocols. Outdoor events can last a little longer than indoor events (current recommendations ask to limit indoor meetings to half hour intervals) but you should also include several breaks throughout to give people a chance to stretch their legs.
Adherence to Social Distancing Protocols
If you’re planning to hold an event indoors, provide space —- one or two empty seats — between attendees. Some event planners also suggest organizing tables six feet apart or using more tables to be able to separate people. You should also expect lines to enter and get around your event, so prepare with six-feet markers on the floor and other clear reminders of social distancing. Plexiglass barriers at booths or other common areas will facilitate communication amid social distancing needs. You may even want to consider a different venue or a smaller guest list than originally planned to limit your event’s density. Whether you achieve this by lowering your headcount or scaling up your venue, you need to avoid creating crowds and the risk of spreading the virus. Once you’ve done that, the next step is to cover as many bases as possible by layering in other measures, such as making masks mandatory.
Health Screening Areas
People want to know that they’ll be safe everywhere they go, which is why health screening areas will be a must for events in 2021 and beyond. Some of your health screening should take place in questionnaires distributed to guests before the event, but be prepared to set aside an area at the venue’s entrance for temperature checks. Many large sites, such as airports and arenas, are starting to implement thermal scanning upon entry. It’s an easy way to create an atmosphere that highlights safety and caution, while also minimizing the threat of transmission during your big meeting or event. If quick COVID-19 testing kits roll out in 2021, consider requiring all people to take the test in order to be able to attend the meeting or event. This will help keep the risk of transmission to a minimum and will also provide a feeling of safety and security for all of your event’s attendees.
Increased Sanitation Procedures
For the comfort and safety of your meeting or event attendees, it’s important to practice strict and visible sanitation procedures. Before, during and after your event, rigorously clean and disinfect all surfaces, bathrooms and high-touch areas, such as microphones, doorknobs, handrails, speaking lecterns and elevator buttons. Set up hand sanitizing stations in multiple areas of your meeting or event and require attendees to make use of them before entering the venue. Additionally, have an area for extra masks if someone forgot to bring one. Discourage handshakes or physical touching between attendees and post signage that communicates your event’s health standards and guidelines. Work with a catering company that adheres to strict sanitation guidelines when preparing food, and consider offering pre-packaged meals or snacks to avoid crowding at buffet tables. Individual disposable cutlery and beverage containers should also be available in order to minimize the chances of people sharing food containers.
Making Sustainability a Priority
As we’ve become more aware of our impact on the world around us than ever become, sustainability has become a hot trend for the event industry. In fact, it should be considered an ongoing priority. Focusing on sustainability and the reduction of waste means guests will expect sustainable incentives and eco-friendly initiatives when they attend events. When planning your event, consider the food, travel and power resources that will be needed. Sustainable practices such as recycling or avoiding plastic use are great examples of reducing an event’s carbon footprint. Consider holding your event in the daytime and using primarily natural light, as this will lessen the use of electricity; choose a venue that’s conveniently located so guests will use less fuel for travel. Additionally, renting furniture allows you to achieve sustainability because you’re not purchasing items that will be thrown away.
More Personalized Events
With potentially smaller groups attending your event, you’ll want to consider the needs of each valued guest. During events in 2021, we can expect to see a greater degree of personalization for guests through apps, gamification, polls and more, delivered directly to their smartphones. By inputting their interests and data into an app, attendees can receive personalized schedules and even be matched with others for networking. Guests’ preferences can also help dictate the menu, theme and speakers. Plan for more breakout options and consider setting up tracks that allow attendees to customize their experience. Additionally, if you understand the expectations of your attendees, you’ll be able to tailor every aspect of your event for them. This will result in a fulfilling event experience all around.