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Take these steps now to prepare for the future of in-person experiences

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The pandemic will prompt permanent changes to our daily lives, both at work and at home—including in-person experiences. At Augeo, we’ve found long-running success in being proactive regardless of the circumstances. In this moment, that includes considering what changes might be ahead and how to plan for them now.

Allow us to pull back the curtain on what we predict will be the mega trends for in-person experiences. Good best practices are often created in reaction to times of challenge. Consider this a cheat sheet that you can use for your own planning as we collectively prepare to embrace our new normal when bringing people together.

1. Anticipate new or evolving attendee expectations

We’re each undergoing some degree of change as a result of the pandemic. Attendees will have questions, concerns and even obstacles that they may not have previously expressed.

One example that we foresee? Attendees wanting to know details about event cleanliness and sanitation, including cleaning procedures, readily available safeguards including gloves and masks, and, if applicable, an on-site medical professional that can provide voluntary temperature checks and other health-related assistance.

In response to these participant new norms, you’ll find vendors adapting, too, by offering more transparency regarding their own cleanliness procedures and adherence to relevant local, regional or national policies. Adding visible adaptations like frequent hand sanitizing stations, wiping down of all hard surfaces multiple times per day, providing more packaged meal options vs. open buffet lines, etc. If this information isn’t forthcoming from a prospective vendor partner, don’t hesitate to ask for it or, in the event of inadequate communication, find a replacement.

2. Enable opt-in decision-making

Your attendee population has had to make some difficult decisions in recent weeks. Taking an opt-in approach to near-future in-person experiences can offer significant relief to attendees who may not have the resources to attend, or are facing other immediate difficulties. Giving options to attend how they feel most comfortable is in our future.

One of the more effective ways to include both in-person and remote audiences is by introducing a hybrid experience. Not only will remote participants still benefit from the knowledge and insights shared during the event, but you’ll also help them feel included in a time when many people are battling isolation and its related physical and mental health effects.

To host a successful in-person and in-person broadcast experience, you’ll need planning and resources to deliver optimal value to both audiences. Many of the familiar experience design questions apply, including:

  • What goals do you have for your event attendees?
  • How can those goals be achieved both in person and virtually?
  • How can you minimize or circumvent some of the opportunity costs of virtual attendance vs. in-person attendance?

Virtual experiences will be meshed with in-person experiences or be used between in-person experiences in the future to continue momentum. The key is to accommodate as much of your audience as possible while also helping your business or organization stay on track with its own goals. Let’s say community building is a high-priority focus, as it is for many industries. Virtual or hybrid events give you the tools to sustain relationships and community. Yet it’s at in-person events where the relationships form amid efficient and effective work. Keep your own attendee population in mind, as well as your strategic business goals, when determining when and how to plan in-person events and make them as accessible as possible. Virtual events will never replace in-person convenings, but it can be a bridge during this time to provide access.

3. Understand your audience and how they will hear your content and message

This is the time to really dial into your audience and understand how the pandemic is affecting them in their role in or relationship to your brand / organization. That way, you can structure your event content and communications to meet people wherever they are on their post-pandemic journey. Affirmation and validation are more important than ever, especially as people continue to navigate daunting challenges like isolation, financial stress, uncertainty and fear of the unknown. This is a time to look at what you are saying and how you are saying it through the lens of your audience. You don’t have to have loads of content about COVID, or mentions of it throughout but neither should it be the same content that would have been presented pre-COVID.

It’s during this period when actions become just as, if not more important, than words. Sure, there’s comfort in reading phrases like “We’re in this together.” But going forward, it’s imperative that you show people how you’re unified and how you can support them. Content should be in-the-moment and be rooted in story sharing. That feeling of acknowledgment, of being seen and understood, will go a long way to comfort your audience in the near future, and also solidify their support for the long-term.

4. Prepare to embrace new behaviors

Think about how air travel changed before and after 9/11. That sort of sweeping behavioral change is just as likely in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic as people gladly sacrifice some degree of convenience to help protect the greater good.

Some of the behavioral changes we anticipate include:

  • Distancing facilitated by wider seating formats and personal space bubbles
  • Voluntary temperature checks for attendees
  • Mask-wearing, both inside and outside
  • Grab-and-go packaged food options, replacing buffets
  • On-site physicians
  • Sanitizing materials on hand for attendee use

Gatherings moving forward will joyfully embrace the new normal. These new best practices are not scary, or reminders of quarantine—they are signs of reassurance and care. Your colleagues and attendees will likely share suggestions for additional behavioral changes, so it’s important to be more receptive than ever to feedback, both in encouraging input and turning those thoughts into action.

5. Keep attendees informed and involved

One of the most effective ways to take a lead role in modeling the new normal is with transparency. Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to keep your attendees informed and in the loop. That doesn’t mean you need to send constant emails—especially with so many new virtual technologies at hand! What it does mean, however, is that you can begin to put community building in action, if you haven’t already. Give your attendees a chance to lead discussions about what changes they want to see, challenges they’re facing and how your business or organization can help. Have these discussions internally, too, to ensure that colleagues have ample opportunity to share their firsthand insight and experiences.

As you begin to identify what your upcoming in-person experiences will look like, communicate these changes—and, if appropriate, why you’re making them—to your attendees. Making them feel like an integral part of the planning process leaves the sort of lasting impression that’s at the core of community building. Again, what better to demonstrate the concept of “we’re in this together” than by giving your audience the power to guide change?

We consider you a valued part of our community, so we’re ready to walk the walk. What questions or concerns do you have about the future of in-person experiences? What’s keeping you up at night? What can we do to help you find more solid footing amid turbulent times? Reach out to us any time. We’re always here to listen—and to help. After all, we are all in this together.

Meetings & Events
Virtual Events
Experience Design
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