It’s Now Time To Plan For Safe, In-Person Gatherings.
by Clare Jackson
*This article first appeared in Houston Woman Magazine, Fall 2020
Are you tired of Zoom calls and stuck in the quarantine blues? Now is the time to wake up and take action. As the CEO of an independent event management and marketing firm, I’ve experienced many recessions over the last 32 years. While virtual calls and events have gotten the job done over the past six months, there is no replacement for in-person interactions with your customers and employees. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s meetup!
There is no doubt, in-person events are going to look different going forward. As you break free of quarantine and return to safe socializing here are a few things to consider.
Space Is Key
Most Houston venues are currently operating at a 25-50 percent operating capacity. Gone are the days of crowded business luncheons or gala events. Look for venues that offer more than enough space to accommodate your guest count. When in doubt, take advantage of the Houston climate and explore outdoor venue options. (See our list on this page.)
Use Multifunction Venues
The George R. Brown Convention Center, with meeting rooms and exhibit halls of various sizes, a ballroom and a theater, as well as Discovery Green, with its copious green spaces and fully wired amphitheater, are going to be in high demand. Their versatility and room to spread out are unparalleled.
Target Your Key Audience
The old adage that 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your clients is more relevant than ever. Target that 20 percent for your in-person event. This will easily help you keep your guest list small while also providing the time for one on one interactions with each in-person client.
Entertain Smaller Groups At Multiple Events
To limit the number of guests in attendance, host the same event for different, smaller groups over the course of a week or two. Doing so not only allows for social distancing but also allows you to target your messaging to groups of customers with similar specific needs. In essence, each group receives a totally different experience by simply tweaking the messaging that relates to them while the pre-event collateral, venue, food and beverage, etc. remain the same for each event. Ultimately, these intimate gatherings will provide relevant, quality conversations with a specific and measurable result.
Hybrid Events Are Here To Stay
As we navigate the comfort levels of individuals and the corporate policies in place to promote social distancing, we will continue to see an uptick in hybrid events where some guests attend the event in person, while others join from the comfort of their homes or offices. While hybrid events are hardly new to the large meeting and conference world, they are now being utilized by the non-profit gala sector and even being utilized for milestone events like grand openings. Allow those who are unable to join in-person to engage with your company and the event attendees in real-time remotely. Providing a professional, broadcast-quality experience is essential to audience engagement.
Go Digital, Not Virtual
Maintain engagement and excitement utilizing the latest technologies. Personalized digital invitations and pre-event marketing is essential to generate excitement and to communicate your event safety protocol. Event apps are more important than ever. Eliminate the need for paper agendas and programs by creating an event app. Event apps can be integrated with the event registration platform to provide seamless data capture. Additionally, encourage all attendees to create a digital business card within the app so they can avoid exchanging (and misplacing) paper ones. Not only are you preventing sharing materials, but also adding a green element to your event.
As you begin navigating the logistics around your next in-person event, be sure to stay up to date on the ever-changing local, state and federal regulations and recommendations. Let the CDC regulations be your guide and, then, be even more conservative. Most importantly, follow a thorough checklist. Whatever your purpose, it’s time we meet!
Sullivan Group’s Houston Area Outdoor Venues for Social Distancing Safe Events:
- Discovery Green
- Hope Farms
- Houston Polo Club
- The Lawn at Lovett Hall at Rice University
- The McGovern Centennial Gardens
- The Rustic, Downtown Houston
- The Clubs at Houston Oaks
- The Heritage Society at Sam Houston State Park
- White Oak Music Hall