May 12, 2021 | By Warwick Merry

The events community must be one of the most resilient on the planet. Yet 2020 tested us as we have never been tested before and now 2021 has our teeth on edge. One case of COVID and a state can lock down, bringing your event with it.

And yet the rally cry of Shakespeare’s Henry V rings in our ears:

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!”

Once more we go. Making plans, taking risks, putting money, reputations and entire events on the line – because, as Chris Hemsworth said, “That’s what heroes do!”

So how do we continue to lead with our chin but not lose our teeth? Usually we would say, “event insurance” but when it comes to COVID, it is either unavailable or unaffordable.

Here are a couple of other things you can do:

Build in a flip factor

We love our AV crews. They have had to pivot more than most during the pandemic. So be sure to put a little more pressure on them and set up a backup to a face-to-face event. While it may not be ideal, at the very least have them ready with an online presence good to go. Talk to your AV provider about what a Plan B “flip” to an online event might entail, if face to face is shut down at the last minute.

Yes, there will be concerns about speakers, panels, audience sizes, but if you go into the event with a flip factor in mind, you can smoothly flip if you need to.

Go hybrid

There has been a lot of talk about hybrid events and there have been many held over the last couple of years, particularly for Australian based international events. The joy of starting with a hybrid means that if your physical sites get shut down, it is relatively easy to shift to full online.

Let me add a caveat though. While they get the job done, they can end up like Frankenstein’s monster – combining the worst of online and face to face. To do them well takes a significant amount of expense and most speakers cannot (yet) present as well in this environment. Perhaps the takeaway here is to take the time – or source the expertise – to understand the nuances of the hybrid form, so you can develop strategies to make the format work for you.

Stay online

While this can be considered heresy when we have the opportunity to go face to face, for some events, it just makes sense right now. Focussing your efforts on a complete online event means your risks are mitigated and the event will happen regardless of any state border closures. Yes, our delegates may be tired of being online but with the right hosts and speakers, a fully engaging and value-laden event can be achieved.

What will you do?

This is all risk mitigation. What is going to give us the highest chance of success and still support us if we have to change along the way?

In a country that is starting to have face-to-face events again, our clients will often push for that modality. It MUST make business sense. We MUST protect our events and our clients, sometimes from themselves.

As we head back unto the breach, keep your chin up, your mouth guards on, follow the plan and keep on smiling. It has to get better soon, right?