December 8, 2021 | By Warwick Merry

Slowly but surely more face-to-face events are happening. For those of us in events there is a lot of smiles and celebration. But how do the delegates feel?

No doubt many of them are just as excited to step out from behind the screen and reconnect with their peers. But others are more hesitant for many different reasons.

Some of our delegates may need special consideration or some flexibility to get the most value from our events. We need to keep this in mind.

Too many people

After almost two years of rolling lockdowns, I have to be honest and say I am hesitant about going back to where the people are. The idea of going to the shopping centre or cinema has me a little concerned. Some of your delegates may also feel this way. So we need to make sure that as well as meeting density requirements, there are plenty of places and opportunities to just “get a little space”.

Harder to access

One of the things that online events has done for us is increase inclusiveness.

Got a hearing issue? No worries. Instant captions can address that.

Too hard to get around the venue due to your mobility issues? No worries – stay in the comfort of your own home where everything is set up to your liking.You are a primary carer for someone? Not a problem – just join us online when you can and we can send recordings of other sessions.

The language of the event is not one you are comfortable with? Easy, listen to a different audio track where we have translators in your language.

Event in a different country or time zone and your budget/lifestyle/workload means you can’t get there? We got you. Watch the recordings when you can or join us in the middle of the night in your pyjamas.

Even as face-to-face events return, organisers still need to think about how to cater to all of the above.

I don’t like going to events

Some of my introvert friends are not fans of conferences. They get exhausted because the expectation is that they will brainstorm, socialise and network as well as other activities that they despise. But they love the education and learning that events have.

So now that we are heading back to far more face-to-face events, how do we be sure to retain some of the benefits of the online experience?

Some simple things we can do is:

  • Consider broadcasting the event to include those happy to simply absorb the content from wherever they are. Broadcast is different to a full hybrid setup so it can be cost effective. This can also enable you to take advantage of subtitles/interpreters.
  • Understand the varying needs of your delegates and have different elements of the program that cater to them.
  • Ensure the conference app – or platform – has the capacity to include those on site and those remote.

Whatever you choose to do, it is important to understand that face-to-face events are not for everyone just yet. We need to take into consideration the needs of others to increase the traction of our event and continue to be inclusive in what we do.

Warwick Merry is a certified speaking professional, dual certified virtual presenter and past national president of Professional Speakers Australia. He hosts and produces online events globally.