How to host a memorable conference post pandemic

Inspiration

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By Natacha Allen - Royal College of Physicians

In-person conferences were a major business casualty of the COVID pandemic, yet as millions across the world were cancelled or postponed, technology helped us all to continue meeting, albeit in a very different way to what we are used to. Now the world is opening up, post pandemic, businesses are keen to meet in person with colleagues after such a long time and conferences are starting to happen once again. The changing face of events during the pandemic, however, has meant that businesses are looking at doing things differently this time around. For conference organisers that means looking at things with a fresh eye, taking into account new considerations. 

A study by video conference provider Zoom of 7,689 businesses in 10 countries including the UK, US, Germany, France, Brazil, Japan, India, Singapore, Australia and Mexico found that a majority of businesses in all countries perceived conducting business in a hybrid fashion post COVID. 

From new catering expectations to virtual and hybrid, here’s how to host a memorable conference post pandemic.

Sustainability 

Sustainability is high on the agenda for most businesses post pandemic, with many embarking on a route to net zero and committing to an emissions reduction target. Looking at major aspects of your event such as travel, food and beverage, venue and accommodation and their impact on the environment is going to be a key driver for event organisers post pandemic. Consider asking venues for their green credentials, such as ISO20121 and looking at your own plastic usage, minimising paper and how your delegates will be travelling to the event to minimise the event’s carbon footprint.

Catering

Health is still very much in people’s minds, post pandemic. This is being reflected in event catering trends. Food that fuels delegates and keeps them invigorated and engaged throughout the day is something to keep in mind for upcoming conferences. Delegates who have breakfast, lunch and sugary snacks often feel sluggish and tired as the day goes on which results in a drop in concentration levels and focus. Post pandemic catering trends include healthy smoothies at snacktime, lighter lunches or bento boxes and the use of fresh local ingredients. The best foods and ingredients to boost your brain and improve your memory include fatty fish, blueberries, turmeric, blueberries, pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate and nuts.

Virtual and hybrid 

Travel was affected by the pandemic in a colossal way and people’s desire to travel has also changed. With many countries still operating green and red list travel restrictions, creating a hybrid or virtual element to your post pandemic conference could mean more people are able to attend. While many people are keen to get back to life as it was pre pandemic and start meeting face-to-face again, there are still those who would prefer to attend a virtual event in place of a physical one. Hybrid events are a great opportunity to give delegates the best of both worlds and the choice to do what makes them feel most comfortable. On-demand content hosting is another popular cost-effective choice allowing delegates to view post event content in their own time.  

Outdoor events 

Meeting outdoors became the norm during the pandemic and the demand for outdoor meetings is still prevalent. With the cooler weather upon us, venues that can offer heated outdoor spaces are ideal choices for events in the fresh air post pandemic. There are a myriad of benefits of spending time outdoors, such as lowering your blood pressure and reducing stress. For those really cold days, consider hosting an indoor/outdoor hybrid event. Perhaps facilitate the outdoors for quick-time brainstorming sessions, walking networking or snack breaks throughout the day.

COVID-compliance

In line with the most recent government guidance event venues are able to fully reopen for meetings and events. But despite the full re-opening, most venues will have a raft of operational standards for reopening in place to ensure the safety of those hosting and attending events at their venue. Look out for venues that are AIM COVID secure accredited. These venues have been recognised as ones that can open safely and are following current government guidelines. 

Some of the COVID measures to look out for when choosing the venue for your post pandemic conference include: hygiene stations located throughout the building, thermal scanners to check temperatures, ventilation in meeting rooms and that staff that will be servicing your event are undertaking regular lateral flow testing.

There is no doubt that one of the things people missed most throughout the pandemic was meeting with people face-to-face. That human interaction was replicated somewhat with virtual events, yet for many, virtual events were not a perfect replacement. For those organising conferences post pandemic, there’s likely to be a number of new considerations and there is no one-size-fits-all anymore. Those that can adapt, be flexible and offer something to suit all scenarios will likely be the most successful.