How Organizations are Making a Sustainable Return to In-Person Events

How Organizations are Making a Sustainable Return to In-Person Events

With much of the world returning to (relative) normality after a strange two years, many organizations are turning their attention towards the return to in-person events. With a hard reset on how we run in-person events, with meetings, conferences, exhibitions, or training sessions, today’s host organizations have a unique opportunity to completely overhaul their event strategy to incorporate more sustainable, environmentally friendly options. With this in mind, what are the key considerations for organizations looking to make a more sustainable return to in-person events?

Sustainable Event Venues

Some venues are much more eco-friendly than others, using renewable energy and power-saving measures for more sustainable events. In your site selection process, you could prioritize venues with an enhanced commitment to sustainability, whether that means using solar power, locally sourced décor, great recycling initiatives, or low carbon emissions, which will ensure your return to in-person events is sustainable and socially responsible, checking the boxes for your eco-minded attendees.

Prioritize Public Transportation

One of the major benefits of virtual events has been the elimination of travel-related emissions. It is worth considering how participants will travel to your chosen venue with a return to in-person events. Opting for venues with excellent public transport links will help you minimize the carbon footprint of your event, or if it’s not possible to avoid flights or car journeys, you could consider offsetting your environmental impact with a carbon offset program.

Equipment and Resources

Now that we’re returning to in-person events, it’s time to consider if you need all those printed paper resources for your next event. Do your attendees need a paper agenda, or can it be displayed on screens around the venue? Do you need to provide plastic water bottles on the tables, or will a jug and glasses suffice? Does each individual need their own plastic model to study, or can small groups share resources? Reducing single-use resources will help ensure that your event is more sustainable and less wasteful.

Sustainable Event Catering

If your in-person event spans beyond a few hours, you will likely provide some catering for attendees. Considering the carbon footprint of your menu and refreshments can significantly impact the sustainability of your overall event. Choosing local produce means that you’re not transporting food halfway around the world for your attendees, and if people are traveling from afar, they would probably enjoy sampling some of the local fares.

Also, be sure to gather any dietary requirements ahead of time to reduce food waste, and be careful to order only what you need. If there is food leftover at the end of the day, you could encourage attendees to take some food home or donate it to local shelters or food banks.

Sustainable Event Swag

Firstly, consider if you even need swag for your next event. If you often find yourself shipping boxes and boxes of carefully chosen swag back to the office at the end of an event, it may mean that your audience doesn’t want it or need it. However, if you know your audience appreciates a small gift, make sure you choose sustainable event swag. This means selecting ethically sourced, sustainable products that your attendees will truly value.

Do your participants need another plastic stress ball, or would they prefer a reusable stainless steel water bottle, a chic bamboo coffee cup, or a handy umbrella (Pacific Northwest, anyone)? Opting for genuinely useful valuable swag means that attendees are more likely to hold onto it for years to come, making it a more sustainable option and maintaining brand exposure over time.

Hybrid Events

Of course, there is no rush to return to entirely in-person events. Some attendees won’t be ready, and in-person attendance isn’t always essential. Along with sustainability, some of the main benefits of hybrid events include extended global reach, improved ROI, and more flexibility for attendees, so this is an excellent option if your audience is a little hesitant about going straight back into in-person meetings.

In terms of sustainability, hybrid events allow you to cater to a smaller in-person audience, meaning you can choose a smaller venue and require less travel, catering, and materials for your event. There are plenty of powerful hybrid events tools available today to engage a hybrid audience, so your in-person and virtual attendees will get a lot out of the experience. At the same time, you are safe knowing that your event is more sustainable.

Are you looking to make a sustainable return to in-person events?

We can help! Contact American Meetings today to find out how your next event can be your most sustainable yet.

12 Tips For Returning to Live Meetings

12 Tips For Returning to Live Meetings

Hosting live corporate meetings and in-person events will require quite a few adjustments as the world is adapting to COVID-19’s impact. We’ve already seen how essential businesses have made changes, and those who are safely reopening are building best practices as this all continues to evolve.

Health and safety protocols including sanitation, distancing, foodservice, and contactless interactions seem to be the trend in welcoming patrons back into business. This trend is likely to be followed by corporate meeting planners when it comes to returning to live meetings as well.

Venues for Live Meetings

Venues will change in how they are doing room set up and managing attendance, including reduced room capacity requirements. Thermal scanners to take guest temperatures will be a norm, as well as health question requirements for guests to participate in live events.

Following sanitation guidelines set by the CDC will need to be more forefront. In the past, cleaning crews were behind-the-scenes in removing trash, wiping high-touch areas, and managing food and beverage areas. Now, certain areas may need to be closed for cleaning and sanitation more regularly and cleaning will be done more prominently to give guests the security they desire.

Key takeaways:

  • Venues must be ready to have configurations that allow for social distancing including traffic flow and seating.
  • Health scans and temperature scanners provide extra security in preventing symptomatic guests from exposing others to the disease.
  • Strict and thorough sanitation practices should be in place and communicated to staff and guests.
  • Managing room capacity will take a higher priority to support foot traffic flow that follows distancing guidelines.

Food and Beverage

Hospitality and catering will also change, following the trend of service over the buffet. Food and beverage stations will likely remain closed or modified to reduce high touch or crowding. Contactless interactions, and/or masked service as demonstrated by restaurants currently, is the expected norm.

Again, cleanliness and sanitation will be prioritized with single-serve condiments and individually wrapped utensils or food items. Priority should be given to cleaning high-touch areas and limiting contact with other guests not in their party. Personal protective supplies should be available to all guests to be able to meet their own safety needs.

Key takeaways:

  • Foodservice should follow trends set in place by the restaurant industry including contactless take-out options and individually wrapped condiments and plasticware.
  • Service over buffet-style will likely stay in effect until government agencies deem it safe to return to communal dining.
  • Masks (and possibly gloves) should be worn by all hospitality staff.
  • Priority needs to be placed on sanitizing eating areas and on hygiene.

Virtual Components

As virtual meeting attendance has boomed in the face of quarantine and lock-downs, more people have become accustomed to using technology in a variety of ways. Virtual components can support live events, allowing them to overcome space challenges, contact restrictions and even travel limitations.

Incorporating virtual components is a way to support the guest experience for the positive. For example, an app can be used allowing for quicker check-ins without the bottlenecks that can threaten social distancing guidelines. Streaming the live event can allow for participants to stay home or in multiple rooms within the venue to create more space between guests.

Technology can be used to create maps, communicate information, and even send alerts.

Key takeaways:

  • Virtual components should be leveraged to provide a high level of guest experience while reducing the risks of in-person meetings.
  • Technology can support contactless needs such as aiding in check-in, managing room capacity limits, and guest flow.
  • Virtual meetings can allow for greater participation in the live event, despite decreased venue space.
  • Use technology before, during, and after the event to keep guests engaged in new ways and limit exposure to risks.

As we all begin to adjust to new safety protocols, we are “building the airplane in flight” – discovering best practices and sharing it with others in the industry to create a safer, healthier, and more vibrant experience for participants in the live event space.

Three Meeting and Event Trends for 2021

Three Meeting and Event Trends for 2021

The landscape for the corporate meeting and event industry has been entirely disrupted by the pandemic of 2020. As we begin to unravel from it all, our hope is in what is to come.

The good news is that the demand for corporate meetings remains strong. We are social creatures, and business meetings must happen to help us align on goals and with each other. The shift organizations made to online meetings, and virtual events showed us that business, events, and meetings needed to continue to move forward, regardless of the global pandemic landscape. Networking, product research and development, collaboration, and team communication must, and will, continue.

The question isn’t whether or not group events will happen; it is how they will look and how to make them successful. As we all look forward, prepare for the future and glide into the new normal, here are three trends we expect to see strengthened.

Venues are Getting Ready for Hybrid Events

Virtual events have been the primary way organizations have held meetings of every type. As businesses that have been limited or sheltered are once again opening doors, we expect hybrid events to take over.

The boom in virtual meetings has created new best practices in the industry, improving production logistics and technology for the better. We expect hybrid events to dominate with user familiarity, and venues must get ready to meet their needs.

CVBs and DMCs are Expanding

Convention and Visitor Bureaus, along with Destination Management Companies, are expanding their partnerships and adjusting their income models. Going from a steady income of event hosting, then coming to a complete halt in some cases, due to the pandemic, CVBs and DMCs are looking at how they price and who they need to have in their portfolio of connections.

Broadening networks and outreach to be more diverse helps balance out income sources, and partnering with additional vendors will allow for more agility should something like a global disruption happen again.

Focus on Health and Safety

Hybrid events will continue to attract participants most comfortably – live or digital. Meeting technologies, along with health and safety will continue to be a focus and priority for attendees, venues, and event planners. Local government mandates will continue to shift, and those in the meetings industry will need to be flexible to meet those changes. Procedures to maintain safety will continue to be front and center with signage, technology, PPE, and more. Onsite testing is likely to be a live event standard. Find more resources here: Meeting Health & Safety

Five Innovative Gifting ideas for Attendees and Staff

Five Innovative Gifting ideas for Attendees and Staff

Swag bags and logoed promotional products have long been a staple of corporate events and gifting. This last year has undoubtedly changed the environment of corporate live meetings and altered the state of corporate gifting.

For one, it has made customized ordering (each person can order what they want) and direct shipping much more accessible and user-friendly than ever before. It has also placed a value on higher-end gifts. This type of gift is one way corporations reinvested conference expenses previously spent on live events back into the participants or staff. While name-brand goods cost 25% – 75% more than generic, it hits home when staff or clients receive a recognizable brand.

Participants at live events have grown accustomed to receiving their welcome packet, name badge, and swag bag. This last year of virtual meetings brought us creative unboxing parties, and this year, as hybrid meetings become the new normal, we expect to see the innovation grow.

“Use a professional to navigate quantity pricing. They also make sure your gift achieves the intended impact without being gaudy. Logo size, color, and positioning all need to be thought through and done well.”

– Michael Lumpkin, Thread Logo Co-Founder

As we move into this next stage, we wanted to inspire you with these five curated gifts by our American Meetings Network Prime Member, Thread Logo, with high quality, name-brand value, and without the bank-breaking price tag. The key to this is using a professional who can deliver value.

Charging Pads and Devices

We are all plugged in and needing power. These charging pads make it easy, allowing recipients to leave all the cords behind and charge phones, watches, earbuds, or anything electronic and rechargeable. Ideal for travel or home, these are helpful to both the tech-savvy and not.

Sherpa Blankets

Blankets and throws are a great unisex gift welcome year-round for indoor or outdoor cuddling. Neutral colors match home or office décor or can easily be thrown into the car for a road trip, camping, or picnic after the event.

Fine Leather Goods

High quality and hand-made in the USA, these luxury gifts will become a staple for the receiver. Padfolios for event notetaking, or totes and briefcases for conference materials or hauling paperwork from client meetings to networking groups, these are a perfect gift.

Ring Lights

Videos, Zoom meetings, and even profile pictures look better with good lighting. With a variety of warmth, brightness, sizes, and adjustability, ring lights make your participants look great. Whether live streaming content at the event, capturing an afterparty shout-out or uploading the next viral TikTok, you will be equipping your team towards screen confidence.

Bose

Bose is a household name when it comes to sound quality, which makes these highly valued gifts. Speakers, headphones, and earbuds with the Bose name ensure crisp sound anyway your recipient wants to experience it.

The goal of gifting has always been to help people be pulled into the fold of the sponsor – to help them feel like they are part of something bigger. Whether this is a company purchasing wearables to demonstrate unity at an event, or attendees receiving swag to welcome them and invite them into the experience, corporate gifting accomplishes this.

Your professional meeting planner can help source and distribute these items on your behalf. Just ask AMI!

5 Benefits and Challenges of Combining Live and Virtual Experiences for a Hybrid Meeting Model

5 Benefits and Challenges of Combining Live and Virtual Experiences for a Hybrid Meeting Model

If 2020 was the year of virtual meetings, it looks like 2021 might be the year of hybrid solutions as we begin to reconnect in person. With this shift comes some challenges as well as exciting benefits of the virtual combination of live and digital meeting experiences.

Hybrid Meeting Benefit: Smaller Crowds, Larger Attendance

Large-scale live meetings will likely be slow to return this year. With hybrid meetings and events, however, smaller clusters of groups can meet in a variety of locations to boost attendance without the risk of travel or large gatherings that many are still leery of in a post-pandemic world.

In the case of our client Stratus, they used a hybrid model of combining virtual and live meeting components to support the need for in-person training. A 100% virtual option was not sufficient for their national sales meeting, so technology was used to stream the general sessions to sales teams located in six U.S. locations where their sales team could safely travel the short distance. Small groups of a dozen team members each were able to safely get together for team building, training, and product launch information sharing while social distancing.

READ THE CASE STUDY HERE

Hybrid Meeting Challenge: IT & Security

A remote workforce interacting on virtual platforms can mean less control over client information, meeting access, and an increase in cyber threats. Creating processes for how information is accessed and shared across an organization is a priority in a hybrid meeting situation. Thankfully, the need has been presented and solutions created, often by the platform providers themselves.

Verifying users and participants can help control hacks and disruptions, and there must be a balance between attracting attendees and protecting data. With strong controls and systems in place, AMI has never had a data or security breach and neither should your organization.

Suggested reading: “How to Hack-Proof Your Virtual Event”

Hybrid Meeting Benefit: Built-in Technology

Because the demand for video conferencing and work-from-home platforms have dramatically increased in a short period of time, technology has been forced to improve. In the past, virtual meetings were often limited to corporate or business use, but now collaboration platforms like Zoom feature background noise reduction, appearance enhancement, low light adjustment, and high-fidelity music for almost any kind of meeting.

Large virtual events have also evolved to include more accessible technology that offers TV-quality production to increase engagement and interest. We’ve all learned in the last year how to use technology in new ways, and this comfort level is equipping us to take it to the next level in terms of registration, interactivity, production, and more.

Hybrid Meeting Challenge: Thinking Creatively

Tradeshows, demonstrations, swag… there are things we have come to expect from live events that will need to be managed more creatively. Again, services exist to support virtual and hybrid events, but it takes innovative solutions to garner attendee engagement.

Suggested reading: “7 Tips for Planning a Virtual or Live Tradeshow”

Pre-sending swag to meeting attendees helps build comradery even when distanced. Using break-out rooms and live streams can help facilitate demonstrations, networking, Q&A sessions, and more. Even delivering your attendees a delicious lunchtime meal enhances their virtual experience.  Best practices for bringing live and virtual components to hybrid events will continue to evolve through the next year and beyond.

Hybrid Meeting Benefit: Cost Effectiveness

Virtual events can help reduce the expense of large venues, travel, and staffing. Using budget spend on more powerful AV, production, and attendee swag is the way to successful hybrid meetings. Use less space, limit the need for on-site staff, and reach a broader audience by allowing guests to participate in-person or remotely.

Local events can now promote on a larger scale to attract attendees where travel may have prevented attendance in the past. For many organizations, a hybrid meeting model can allow for more cost-effective production, with just as much bang as a fully live event.

7 Tips for Planning a Successful Virtual or Live Tradeshow

7 Tips for Planning a Successful Virtual or Live Tradeshow

Tradeshows can be very beneficial – for event organizers to generate additional revenue and industry recognition; for vendors to receive more exposure, leads and sales; and for attendees to get inspired and make connections.

Our current climate has changed how tradeshows look and how they are conducted, but they are worth it, especially if set up and managed well.

Here are some tips to do exactly that:

Give It Time

Especially on a first-time tradeshow or expo, give your team plenty of time to brainstorm and plan. Consider the target audience, overall goals, and how to achieve the objectives. What needs and wants does the team have? Does it make the most sense to be virtual or live? What’s the overall budget? What traits will the ideal venue have (if live)? Who may sponsor? Who may want to have exhibits?

Don’t rush, instead, take the time to build a high-quality event that will build interest for years to come so you don’t have to reinvent year over year. Consider how the event may look now and how you’d like it to look in the future.

Plan a Theme

With a deep understanding of your objectives, target audience, and expected vendors, choose a theme that helps you clearly identify your message and reach out to prospects. The clearer you are, the easier it is to target the appropriate demographics and appeal to them. Do your research to create a tradeshow that meets the needs of both attendees and exhibitors.

In marketing and branding, use the theme – and have fun with it!

Get Sponsors

Whether exhibitors, product or service sponsors, get commitments on advertising. Advertisers can purchase recognition by sponsoring all print materials (if you use them), gifts/swag (whether shipped or in-person), catering (if applicable), awards, programs, entertainment, and more. Get creative and off-set costs with great sponsors.

Knowing your budget will help you determine how many and what types of sponsors you need. In the virtual meeting setting, you can still brand slides, gifts, awards, and more. Be creative with sponsorships and be sure to deliver value to both advertisers and attendees.

Book Your Venue or Determine Your Platform

Knowing your theme and expected attendance and exhibitors, choose a venue that can appropriately accommodate your expo. If you are doing a hybrid or virtual event, choose an online platform that can accommodate all your registration and tradeshow needs. Vendors may want to use online scheduling platforms to meet with participants in a one-to-one setting, virtually or in-person for demonstrations. Help to make this happen by determining needs and including them in your planning.

Breakout rooms – whether virtual or live, need to meet your goals and budget and be easy to navigate. Use clear communication to help participants know how to find what they need.

Book as early as possible to get the best location and rate and be sure to ask about cancellation policies in case of changes to local mandates. Use technology to increase engagement and safety wherever possible, such as creating digital maps and check-in.

Plan the Layout (If In-Person/Hybrid)

Once you have a venue chosen, plan a layout that includes premium booth spaces and standard spaces to offer to prospective vendors. Be sure to include information about outlets, drapes, booth set up/tear down, and more to communicate early and often.

Use signage to support safety measures and attendee flow. Manage occupancy guidelines with restricted and/or monitored entrances.

Understand the limitations and new protocols for safety including waiting areas, parking, registration, and amenities. The venue can offer suggestions for room set-up which you want to take into consideration for flow, especially if distancing rules are in place.

Plan the Flow (If Virtual)

Venue layout is exchanged for event flow in the digital space. Practice how participants will “travel” through the event, such as using waiting rooms and breakout rooms. Determine how attendees will participate and what needs to be in place to facilitate sessions and transitions.

Determine any backup plan in the case of technical issues.

Consider Entertainment

Relevant entertainment and fun can incise attendees into the show and keep them there longer. Determine what needs attendees may have and try to meet those needs (such as refreshments and beverages) to keep participants engaged and moving through the expo.

Whether virtual or live these components can be included and should be! Being distracted can happen more frequently when an attendee is virtual – so fight for their attention by inviting them to engage with gifts they open at specific intervals in the event or by using a fun MC and providing entertainment.

With live or hybrid events, entertainment should be booked early as well and used to help promote the fun of the event, and catering should be on par with the theme and overall flow.

Market, Market, Market

To make the event truly beneficial, attendance is critical. Encourage cross-promotion by having vendors invite attendees as well. Remember, you will be selling vendor spaces, advertising spots, and admission tickets almost simultaneously. Being clear about who will attend and who will exhibit will help you do this well.

To learn more about security in virtual meetings or other ways to make your next event the best it can be, contact AMI today.