Events this Fall: What to Do?

While most of the country and many consumer-facing businesses are in various stages of re-opening, the event industry remains in limbo. In particular planning for the Fall has become most precarious, as organizations look to straddle the legal, safety and optical factors of in-person events. The most common question we’re getting these days from clients new and old: “Can I have an event later this year — and what does it look like!?”

Here are some options for how to consider moving forward when so much is still unclear:

Option 1: Go Virtual

  • Pros
    • The safest option in allowing your event plans to continue, with minimal risk of having to cancel or reschedule.
    • Typically more affordable than in-person (though not always cheap!), and still possible to produce high-level content and get creative.
  • Cons
    • There are certain elements of in-person events (i.e. good networking) that virtual can’t always solve for.
    • Assuming there are no further COVID-related setbacks, people may have more choices about how to spend their free time. Asking attendees to commit to sitting in front of their computer for hours — especially during non-business hours — will require a much higher value proposition.
  • How to Proceed
    • Understand that between regularly scheduled events and those rescheduled from this past Spring, the Fall events calendar is going to be incredibly busy.  Asking people to prioritize your event (and spend more time in front of a screen) requires a creative, engaging, and thoughtful approach.
    • The bar for a good virtual event experience is getting higher with time. What was deemed as passable in the midst of quarantine likely won’t be so in the Fall. So proper lead time to create a unique and well-produced experience is critical.

Option 2: In-Person Event (with caveats)

  • Pros
    • Obviously the benefits of gathering in-person are unique and unmatched. If sanctions and anxiety ease, you’d be well positioned and likely ahead of the curve.
  • Cons
    • The financial or legal exposure of signing contracts that need to be canceled if your event doesn’t turn out to be feasible. Also, the potentially negative optics of hosting an in-person event from key stakeholders, attendees, consumers, etc.
  • How to Proceed
    • Consider leaning into formats which allow for easy social distancing, especially outdoors. Golf tournaments, the drive-in approach, etc. 
    • Legal requirements aside, the smaller your audience is the better off you’ll be -- for logistics, outlay of costs and attendee peace of mind. 
    • Be proactive with attendee communications. Tell people what you are doing to honor forthcoming safety guidelines, and / or putting proactively into place so they have a comfort level before RSVPing and eventually attending.


Option 3: A Hybrid Event

  • Pros
    • Combines the best of Options 1 & 2! 
  • Cons
    • You’re concurrently planning two events, which likely means more work and can mean more expenses. You also need to make an extra effort to engage two distinct audiences to ensure both of their experiences are unique and meaningful.
  • How to Proceed
    • Consider if you have the time, budget and vision for planning two concurrent events.
    • Also, determine whether assembling a smaller group of attendees in-person can take place without alienating your larger group.


Option 4: Wait and See / Postpone until 2021

  • Pros
    • The route with the least exposure, and also gives you an opportunity to further assess the events landscape.
  • Cons
    • This simply may not be an option, especially if your event is responsible for fundraising or communicating time-sensitive info. 
    • Between morale, messaging and momentum, sometimes hosting a scaled back event is better than hosting nothing at all.
  • How to Proceed
    • Just wait and see...

In short, there are no right or wrong answers here. Some routes are more exposed to risk and some are less. Much depends on your organization’s individual circumstances, and of course, your unique event. 

Are you interested in discussing this topic live with a group of your event industry peers? If we see enough interest, we’ll put together a roundtable conversation for us all to hear what others are thinking and how they’re considering moving forward. Let us know, here.