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5 More Ways to Prepare Your Events for the New Next

Beth Surmont

In the fall, after attending a few in-person events, we shared these tips of how the onsite experience was changing and how you can prepare.  

Now, with a few more events under our belt (11!) we have a few more ideas for how planners can make the in-person experience even better for returning attendees.

1) Really Big Name Badges with Photos

It’s hard to recognize people that you haven’t seen for two+ years, and it’s even harder when they are wearing a mask. Maximize your name badges with BIG font and a photo so you know what the person looks like without the mask on. Add an indicator of comfort level – a green dot for hugs, a red square for distance; and a space to write an “Ask me about” conversation starter. This is more than the standard name badge template might be able to handle, so consider printing the registration information on standard labels and setting up a badge customization area. Bonus: this creates a simple networking space instantly upon arrival!

2) Double Down on “Don’t Make Me Think”

We are all rusty at traveling, negotiating airports, and finding our way around convention centers. Don’t Make Me Think design has always been foundational to a good attendee experience, but now it’s even more important. By the time your audience arrives at the registration desk, they have navigated multiple barriers that they are no longer used to encountering. They are exhausted. Clear instructions, onsite signs, and “follow-me” footprints will go a long way to making your attendees leave the travel experience behind and get settled in for your event.

3) Diversify Your Networking

In addition to traveling, we’re all out-of-practice at interaction.  It’s hard to read body language in a sea of masks and remember what to talk about. Give your attendees a break and provide different ways to connect beyond the reception. Set up a board game station. Have a speed networking hour. Post a meal share board. PCMA Convening Leaders had a great setup at the opening party where attendees could collect light-up swag from a big station at the entrance, giving people a place and purpose to connect instantly with excitement, instead of awkwardness.

4) Put some Breathing Space in your Schedule

This has always been a recommended best practice, but it’s now more important than ever. Don’t feel the need to pack the schedule with content, especially lecture-style content that can be easily and comfortably consumed on demand. Instead, free up the afternoons to catch up on work, explore the city, consume digital content, or just chill and recharge before the evening activities. You can have some organized options (hello new sponsorship inventory!) but you can also just provide recommendations for how people can spend their time.

5) Safety Should Not Be a Barrier

Safety, and the perception of safety, is extremely important as people return to in-person. For this first year of reconvening, we will be dealing with several different comfort levels of attendees. Overdoing it on the safety messaging might end up making some nervous, and not having it front and center might make others confused. Safety information should be simple and clearly communicated, and easy to find on your website, your mobile app, and in your know-before-you-go. Keep the sentences short and skimmable and use bulleted lists and icons for easy reading. Think of it like providing the shuttle information: you are giving the details to find the buses, but you usually aren’t providing a lengthy background on the types of tires and insurance.

It’s going to be an interesting year as we welcome people back to our in-person events and we are staying curious about how to create amazing experiences in this new next.