10 Tips for B2B Event Planning in the COVID-19 Era

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I was catching up with a colleague the other day, and we were discussing what we’d done over the summer. I mentioned a quick trip to Florida for my 40th birthday, and qualified it with, “You know, during those two weeks this summer when we thought things might be going back to normal ….”

You remember those two weeks. I know you do. 

By now, as a marketer or even just a person in the world, you know that events won’t be going back to the way they were pre-pandemic anytime soon, but who can take another field marketing plan that plays out solely in Zoom?

Some organizations have resumed in-person events, and we took a look at some of the tactics they’ve used to promote safety during the waning pandemic. 

10 Techniques for Safer Marketing Events

  1. Outdoor events. Not every event can be held outdoors, but many can, especially when you’re based in a temperate area. While the virus can still be transmitted outside, the risk of contracting the virus dramatically decreases in the open air. SaaS company Pendo recently set the bar by planning their 2021 Pendemonium outdoors, with live music, open-air keynotes, hands-on demos, and tented breakout sessions.
  2. Ventilation and cleaning. If you’re going to hold an indoor event, the CDC recommends upping your ventilation game. You can do this by cracking windows, using fans, adjusting your ventilation systems, and improving air filtration and exhaust. And of course, regular building cleaning is a must.
  3. Contract tracing. Keep a record of all attendees at your event, and make sure attendees check-in before breakouts and other smaller sessions so that you can conduct accurate contract tracing in the event of a COVID-positive attendee.
  4. Proof of vaccination. Perhaps the most controversial but the most effective method of ensuring safety requires all attendees to be vaccinated. Requiring a proof of vaccination, either during event registration or at the door, passes the legal sniff test. One recent adoptee of this requirement is RIMS, the Risk & Insurance Management Society. Before implementing this requirement, consider obtaining feedback from your ideal audience on its impact on their attendance.
  5. Negative COVID tests. Negative COVID tests can be paired with vaccine proof as an alternative requirement for entry. Some organizers are even bringing in contractors to do daily testing for event attendees. In addition, some vendors, such as the TSIA (Technology and Services Industry Association), use technology like CLEAR to help collect vaccine and testing proof.
  6. Touch-free tech, such as virtual attendee registration and electronic business cards, helps you enforce distancing guidelines and help attendees stay within their zone of comfort.
  7. Masks and distancing. Even with other precautions in place, mask-wearing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19. You can also adjust your layout to allow for more space between attendees.
  8. Contact bracelets or visual coding systems, such as badge stickers, allow attendees to indicate their comfort level with physical contact and distancing. For example, a red bracelet might mean please mask up and social distance while around me, while green might mean masks are unnecessary and handshakes are on the table.
  9. Offer a virtual component. Virtual events aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, and offering a virtual component means you can leverage the benefits of both face-to-face and online attendance. It also means your event isn’t exclusive to only folks who are comfortable attending in person.
  10. Smaller events. More intimate settings both reduce risk and make your potential buyers feel valued. Industry leader Jennifer Best indicates that sized-down events are here to stay—so consider the value to attendees when you choose to plan for in-person.

The Need to Connect in a Changing World

While vaccine passports might be making the news, most Americans support vaccination proof requirements for large events. That doesn’t mean they’re without controversy, however. Deciding whether to implement a vaccine requirement for your event will require careful study of local sentiment and risk factors, as well as a cost-benefit analysis. 

Passport or not, the last year has demonstrated that there are ways to host the event of the future without endangering your participants. While the event-planning process might look a bit different now, events are a fundamental component of B2B marketing that we don’t think will go away anytime soon. So mask up, and get out there!