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Curating events for global audiences in a post COVID world

By Bridie Hook, Project Manager at SWM Partners

The healthcare industry quickly yet thoughtfully evolved its events in the face of the pandemic, and now that in-person experiences have made their return, rather than go back to doing things the way we’ve always done them, the sector is changing its approach up once more.

We’re finding this is due to a combination of factors, including the fact that peoples’ expectations have evolved, attendee health and safety is paramount, and many clients also see the value in virtual, for a number of reasons.

With international borders opening, our team has been delivering meetings in the US and Europe of late, and there are a number of trends we’re seeing emerge, and best practices we’ve implemented to find the ideal balance between the old and the new.

An increased focus on the comms

We’ve found feelings around attending a meeting physically or virtually remain mixed, so attendee surveys are incredibly valuable when it comes to determining the most relevant, effective and engaging format. Generally, based on the feedback we receive, most events now include at least some sort of virtual element.

Pre-event communications have a more important role to play than ever before too. They provide us with opportunities to detail an event’s health and safety policy with respect to COVID-19, putting attendees at ease. At the same time, if the event is hybrid, information about each experience allows people to make informed decisions about how they will join the meeting.

There is also a lot more involved when it comes to communications as the live event unfolds. We now plan for many more ‘what if’ scenarios, in those instances where an attendee comes down with COVID-19, attendee numbers change at the last minute, or an event space needs to be deep cleaned, for example.

New measures for working overseas

Entry and documentation requirements relating to COVID-19 continue to differ between countries, so having support on the ground in the local city is proving very valuable. These representatives are on hand to provide up to the minute travel and health and safety information, so that it can be communicated to attendees swiftly.

Similarly, if the meeting is for a global, in-person audience, building relationships with travel and tourism boards in each country enables us to keep delegates in the loop when it comes to what they need to do in order to exit and re-enter their home countries.
From both an organisational and individual level, comfort levels around COVID-19 health and safety are also varying by country. We would always recommend following the requirements of the host location, while also implementing greater safety measures if attendees are travelling from countries where rules and regulations may be more stringent, to ensure the comfort and confidence of all.

Managing COVID-19 health and safety: overarching trends

At the same time, while a COVID-19 health and safety plan will always vary by event, there are some key practices we’re seeing emerge as standard.

These include requiring all in-person delegates to provide proof of vaccination, and take a rapid test prior to the event, which they present on arrival. This information is included in all pre-event communications, and attendees must tick a box agreeing to fulfil their obligations to proceed with their registration, so there are no surprises on the day. Based on our first hand experiences with this, all in-person attendees have happily agreed to commit to taking these steps.

During the event, face masks are provided and many people still choose to bring their own, meanwhile hand sanitiser and wipes are made readily available. In some instances, especially for large-scale events, facial recognition technology is being used to reduce the need for more human contact than is necessary.

We’re also seeing a rise in the number of events which include larger event spaces so that people can maintain their distance, as well as outdoor areas in locations where the weather permits.

The growing importance of sustainable events

On both a macro and micro level, we’re all more conscious of the environment, and this is becoming increasingly evident across healthcare meetings and events. It’s one of the other key reasons why hybrid events are in high demand right now, as there’s less travel required, and it means those who want to reduce their carbon footprint have the option to do so.

Another practical way to reduce travel, is by identifying where the majority of attendees are based, and using this data to inform the primary host location. Platforms like Troop Travel can be beneficial here, as they provide location recommendations based on factors such as environmental impact and budget.

Sustainability is all about the supply chain too, so it’s important to select venues, caterers and other event partners with sustainability credentials that match those of the host company or organisation.

Delegate expectations are constantly changing, and as we continue to emerge from the pandemic, I have no doubt that the nature of healthcare meetings and events will similarly evolve ongoing, as will we as an agency.

To learn more about planning and delivering events in a post-COVID world, get in touch with our team: hello@swm-partners.com

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