As the country continues to work toward a complete quarantine rollback, we are starting to see people slowly returning to a life that somewhat resembles ‘normal’. Part of this return is the reemergence of the live, in-person event. Once more, we find ourselves able to step out from our homes and engage in life head-on. Concerts, conventions, sporting events, all of these things that we have missed so dearly are returning, slowly but surely. Among all the excitement, however, there are some considerations that need to be accounted for to ensure that these live events are safe and enjoyable for everyone involved. This means event producers should take the new COVID safety protocols for spacing, catering, and swag distribution into consideration; as well as the fact that orders will need to be placed earlier, and sites booked far ahead of time, to allow for the longer processing times that the pandemic era brings. These new steps allow us to be more meticulous, more intentional, in allowing enough time to schedule events and enough space to ensure public safety. 

But how exactly do we take into account these new variables in a post-COVID world? According to Senior Event Producer, Laura Mullen, it’s all about variety. “Events will need to be omni-channel,” Laura says, “This means in-person, virtual, [and] digitally on-demand… Some people can’t wait to leave their homes, others have developed the expectation that brands come to them. We have to meet our audiences where they are.” This means being respectful of guests’ boundaries when it comes to quarantine and social distancing, as well as understanding that everyone from guests to vendors are dealing with the loss of income that many have had to deal with this past year. “Understand,” adds Laura, “that vendors and partners may not be as flexible with extending credit or throwing in extras. And be as compassionate as possible – our providers have had an impossible year and will need to run their businesses efficiently and carefully to rebuild.”

In the wake of last year, the events that are most likely to bounce back with speed are outdoor ones. Outdoor events allow for better social distancing, better air flow, and lower risk of infection. That said, COVID-weary event-goers still have certain expectations as we continue to make our way out of the pandemic. Other safety protocols, according to Stefany Arias, must be taken into account. “Sanitizer dispensers stationed throughout events, and frequent wipe-downs are expected to be the norm.” She also points out the ‘new normal’ for service workers is unlikely to change anytime soon, “Event employees … will probably be masked and gloved through the rest of the year.”

When putting together a live event, one option Stefany suggests is springing for a tent, which is a great way to allow these same outdoor benefits but with the feel of an indoor event that can appeal to many. To allow for social distancing and increased air flow, Stefany suggests that brands invest in tents “three times the size they would spring for under pre-pandemic conditions.”

Considering all of this, organizers will need to take into account new ways to engage attendees. Those of us who set new priorities during the pandemic aren’t interested in investing time in activities that aren’t engaging. Intentional use of the virtual event is a great way to engage audiences who may not want to participate in person. “Have fun with formats,” Laura suggests, “scaling up [an in-person event] with a digital or live-stream extension … gives additional guests a chance to engage at home. Is there a gift you can send to remote guests in advance to encourage product trial and social sharing? Finding ways for attendees on- and off-site to feel included will help you scale engagement.”

Guests are not the only people coming back to live events. Importantly, so are the people hosting them! Stefany recommends reaching out through products and extended engagement with creators, artists, and vendors as they move beyond quarantine and back into the face-to-face world. 

Finally, quarantine has strengthened our bonds with our homes, our hometowns, our families. Take this time to remember communities in need, “Anchor your events in charity or social impact partners that have an immediate connection to your brand,” Laura says. These ties to our communities are stronger and more important than ever. Community, unity, empathy, and patience are vital as we enter a post-COVID world. Little by little, we are coming back. Live events are just the beginning as we all transition back to a face-to-face world.