Young business woman moderates a panel discussion at a live event
In-person events might look a little different than they did pre-pandemic. Consider combining the best of virtual and in-person events as you plan your next event. — Getty Images/SDI Productions

Businesses and customers alike are looking forward to the return of in-person, live events. A Global Recovery Insights survey found that 62% of trade show exhibitors plan to contribute to shows this year, with attendees expressing interest at even higher rates.

As trade shows, business conferences, and store opening events return, they might look a little different. Some business owners may wish to keep health safety protocols in place, while others will want to continue benefitting from online streaming. Here’s what to consider when planning your next live event.

Use virtual best practices at live events

Livestreaming allowed many business owners to reach a wider audience by adding video and digital assets to their events. You can still capitalize on the opportunity to reach people who can’t be there in person by using livestreams and video replays to engage your audience virtually. Live events of today and in the future will be more hybrid than in the past.

[Read more: How to Livestream an Event]

Organize your purpose and audience

Great events have a specific business purpose: to launch a new product, to network with vendors, or to generate sales, for example. As you plan your event, make sure you and your team clearly identify the event’s purpose and goal.

The purpose of your event will also help you decide who should attend. “The biggest factor determining your event’s success is whether you have a clear understanding of your target audience: their behaviors, needs, expectations from your event, and especially how to convince them to attend your event,” wrote Eventtia, an event technology company.

Some businesses use their customer personas to help define an event’s audience. This method can help identify pain points, job roles, technology uses, and accessibility needs — all of which contribute to the logistics of your event.

While attendance rates soared early on in the pandemic, most corporate virtual events lacked when it came to providing value to sponsors and exhibitors.

Event technology company Aventri

Design your event’s content

Once you identify the purpose and goal of your event, it’s critical to figure out how you can add a unique value to the event that attendees couldn’t get anywhere else.

Whether someone is attending in-person or virtually, the attendee will expect to have a unique and valuable experience. This experience is largely dependent on the content you provide.

“While attendance rates soared early on in the pandemic, most corporate virtual events lacked when it came to providing value to sponsors and exhibitors,” wrote event technology company Aventri. “Event organizers quickly realized that content was the key to connecting sponsors with attendees and keeping those attendees engaged throughout each event.”

Planning your event’s content is a more time-consuming feat than in previous years; largely because content now must be both physical and virtual. You may need to design both in-person signage, decorations, and booths — plus virtual social media posts, digital show guides, and even an event landing page on your website. Start early to make sure you’re offering a cohesive, consistent experience between the online and in-person portions of your hybrid event.

Plan ways to keep attendees safe

Many people feel confident returning to in-person meetings and gatherings, but others — including your employees — may not feel secure just yet. Make sure you plan plenty of safety procedures to put everyone at ease. This includes setting up hand sanitizer stations, using QR codes instead of paper brochures, and clarifying your mask policy, if applicable.

Use the right equipment

Identify the technology you’ll need to bring this event to life. This may include a registration/ticketing platform that allows you to sell and manage online registrations easily. You might also consider using or creating a mobile app for your event so that everyone shares the same schedule right on their smartphone. At a minimum, make sure you have the right AV equipment to stream your event and capture video for later promotions and recaps.

Taking these first steps will help you determine your budget and make better decisions as you select a venue, choose your marketing collateral, and invite attendees. And, by building a hybrid event that caters to both in-person and virtual attendees,, your business will remain flexible in case things change in the future.

[Read more: Business Conferences Return IRL with New Learnings From Virtual Events]

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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