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Amid Live-Event Uncertainty, Some Guidance For Moving Forward

Amid Live-Event Uncertainty, Some Guidance For Moving Forward

The novel coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot about the way business is done. Arguably the largest change has a direct impact on the association world: the strict limitations, if not outright cancellations, of large-group gatherings. In the membership world, this means conferences and meetings.

Like it or not, associations are beholden to local regulations at their venues. If you’re headquartered in a state that is opening quickly, your event still may not happen as scheduled if it’s in a hotspot. Even if you happen to be ready to go, attendees may have other ideas. If there’s international travel involved for your attendees or your event site, you have even more hurdles.

Suffice it to say that the events world is not going to be the same for a while. ASAE conducted a snapshot poll in early June, asking several pertinent questions about planned events. Among the eye-opening results: 50% of association executives believe their next in-person conference will be in 2021 or later, or have no idea. Nearly 25% of them said their associations canceled at least four in-person event slated for 2020. The major takeaway: uncertainty reigns.
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But events will happen, and when they do, associations and event planners have to be prepared. The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) has taken the lead in developing a best-practices guide for safely reopening events to attendees and exhibitors. The guide is not prescriptive, because every event is different—from number of attendees to the venue layout. But the 35-page guide runs event planners through big-picture basics on how to assess risk, establish protocols for ensuring physical distancing is practiced, and—perhaps most importantly—how to communicate it all to audiences.

Much of the guidance relies on existing protocols, such as using event-specific apps to supplement communications efforts. But other things are completely new to the events world, such as health screening.

The 35-page guide is available at IAEE’s website at https://www.iaee.com/covid-19-resources/. The first version was released in early June. IAEE plans to keep updating the guide as protocols change, so bookmark that page.

5 Things the Right Event App Will Do for You

A well designed mobile app can be an invaluable tool for your annual meeting. It can simplify everything for attendees, get rid of the need for loads of paper, and  turns your 3-day event into a year-long conversation. Wow.

The key phrase there is “well designed”. A poor app (and there are too many of them) is a waste of money because it won’t be used. Here’s what the right app will give you:

  1. A personalized experience

You can use your app as a platform for attendees to tailor their own experience of your event, according to what is most interesting and relevant to them. They can create a personalized schedule with built-in reminders, register for sessions and make changes on-the-fly, network with like-minded attendees, and more. As organizer, it also gives you the ability to communicate with them throughout the event by text messages and push notifications. Have to change the venue for a breakout session? Let the people registered for it know instantly.

  1. Better networking

One of the great benefits of attending an event is to meet peers. In-app messaging allows individuals and small groups to chat before, during and after the event, and arrange meet-ups.

  1. Interactive sessions

It can be intimidating to raise your hand and ask a speaker a question, and, depending on the session format, it may not even be appropriate. But using the event app they can ask their questions at any time, and also participate with features like live polling and on-the-spot surveys.  These abilities alone have the potential to transform an impersonal event into an experience that your attendees will never forget.

  1. Invaluable promotion

The right app will integrate seamlessly with your attendees’ preferred social networks. This makes it simple and quick to post quotes, images and video (a lot of which you can provide for them), spreading your message to a much larger audience around the world.

  1. Fun

Apps don’t have to be just digital manuals of event information and session content. “Gamification” is a buzzword today, and we are learning that building some fun features into your app adds another level of excitement to your event experience. Attendees can compete against each other for prizes, discounts or even just the top spot on your leaderboard.

Your app developer can work with you on all of the above. Spend a little more money to get the right expertise, and when you sit down to brief them have a clear idea in mind of exactly what you want to achieve.