What You Need to Know for Hosting IRL and URL Events
The event industry can change in an instant. The world has just learned to navigate fully virtual events, but now it must tackle a new challenge: the move to hybrid events and the return to in-person ones.
So what do you need to know to overcome this challenge? We interviewed the CEO of our outstanding event partner cred, Caitlin Bartley, to understand what she is seeing as events begin to take place in person once again. Here’s what she had to share.
Caitlin, thank you for taking the time to sit down with us. So, to begin, what are the top three trends you’re seeing in the event space?
First, live events are back! Event teams are thinking through the best way to host and engage attendees in person, whether it’s in 2021 or 2022. There’s an amazing energy and general excitement from event organizers, attendees, speakers, vendors, and sponsors who are keen to reap the benefits from in-person events that we’ve been missing out on.
Second, the scaling up of virtual experiences. Having been home for more than 17 months, we’re experiencing some virtual fatigue. Event organizers who are keeping virtual or moving to hybrid are needing to really step up to find new, captivating ways to keep attendees engaged from behind a screen.
Third, the opportunity for innovation. Our industry was rocked and forced to completely transform overnight in March 2020. It’s an interesting time where we won’t just return to pre-COVID tactics but rather see a blend of traditional methods mixed with lessons learned from virtual events. An exciting time for the industry to re-create best practices!
What does the timeline for in-person events coming back look like?
The calendar is filling up fast for fall—September and October—which is notoriously known as the busy season for conferences. Some in-person events are happening currently or are planned for later this summer, but we’re mostly seeing event organizers announce their dates for fall or 2022.
There are still a lot of questions around corporate travel policies and general confidence in being back in large crowds. It will just take a few larger, successful events occurring to gain momentum.
Which locations seem to be in high demand for in-person events?
Cities that opened earlier tend to be popping up as popular places to host, but most events are sticking to locations they hosted live in prior years: SXSW in Austin, SaaStr Annual in the Bay Area, and Money 20/20 and CES in Vegas.
COVID-19 is still a concern in many places. What additional steps do event planners need to take to ensure the safety of their event?
Communicate more than you would otherwise. Create a health and safety page that outlines your approach and guidelines as well as how you’re making safety a priority.
Also, seek guidance. Every state has different mandates that are constantly changing, so ensure you stay on top of it. Hire a consultant who specializes in this area and can help you dot the i’s and cross the t’s.
In addition, put yourself in the attendees’ shoes. Think through what questions or hesitations you would have if you were attending, and make it a point to not only address those but go above and beyond to both surprise and delight the attendees while making them feel comfortable.
Do you think virtual events are here to stay?
Short answer? In the short term. Some event organizers have discovered the benefits of virtual events, like lower costs, broader reach, and longer living content, make that type of event a better choice for them and they’ll continue to leverage it in the future.
That said, we’re seeing the majority of event organizers eager to get back to in-person events in all their glory. A tiny percentage will stick to virtual full time, a decent amount will host hybrid events for the next six to 12 months while confidence for traveling builds, and the rest will jump right back to in-person. If all goes well, the virtual-only event world will be minimal by this time next year.
Are there any new platforms or recent updates to virtual platforms that we should know about?
A lot of them, such as Swapcard and Welcome, have been working hard and fast to push out updates and new features as we learn best practices by trial and error. If you’re still leveraging virtual and seeking a new platform, go back and revisit ones you’ve considered in the past; they’re likely to have several new features that might make you reconsider if they’re right for you. If you need assistance, we at cred and our partners at The Craftsman Agency can help identify KPIs and find the perfect platform to suit your needs.
What is the most unique activation that you have seen recently?
There’s so much opportunity to still unfold with our collective creativity as a partnership, especially with live events returning and hybrid being a new medium. In the beginning of lockdown, the magicians and mixologists really shook things up, but that’s now fatigued and we’re looking for the next new thing. One unique activation we’ve seen recently is Def Poet and singer Shanelle Gabriel. She provides a recap of speaker content and themes on the fly in a unique and captivating way. Check her out!
What is your advice for event organizers right now?
Plan to be adaptable, but also be bold! There is so much energy and appetite for events right now that it’s a great time to experiment with new engagement tactics, formats, sponsor packages, and more. It’s been a rocky year for the events industry but the resilience built from the past year on top of the excitement for live events returning creates a tremendous opportunity for innovation.
That’s all our questions for now. Thank you again, Caitlin!
After being in front of screens for a year and a half now, it’s great to see people planning to gather safely for events once again.