The pandemic changed how people interact with one another, but it could not squash the need for in-person connections that engage audiences. As vaccines roll out and restrictions ease, in-person events are slowly returning: A recent PULSE Survey notes that 81% of survey responders plan on holding in-person events in 2021. Post-pandemic, there is pent-up demand for in-person meetings, especially smaller-scale gatherings that use accessible technology tools that work for a startup budget. So, how can entrepreneurs and startup companies capitalize on this demand?
To plan for a return to in-person events, here are four strategies entrepreneurs should put in their toolbox:
Throughout 2021, smaller in-person event gatherings are likely to be the norm. This means we won’t yet see too many massive trade shows or conferences with thousands of attendees. Many companies will take a more regional approach to events to engage with clients without asking them to fly across the country and stay multiple nights in hotels.
Smaller gatherings present multiple benefits for small business owners:
- First, they provide more time for one-on-one interaction to enable deeper conversations with high-value clients. This relationship development is key and will help foster connections that could lead to sales.
- Second, fewer attendees also means social distancing is easier to achieve. Even though in-person events are returning, smaller meetings help maintain safety and present a comfortable low-stress environment for all attendees.
- Lastly, smaller events are easier to plan. Small startup teams are often strapped for both cash and resources, and dedicating slightly less time to coordinating your event leaves you more time to work on your business, rather than in it.
Cut your guest lists
Smaller gatherings mean smaller guest lists. For the remainder of the year, you may need to narrow the focus of your in-person events to safely host several small gatherings instead of one large one. Even if the event is smaller, if it’s aligned with the right audience, you’ll have the opportunity to get in front of potential clients and partners and present your company and its products or services. Use these events as a showcase to display your company’s strategic value and build your brand with the right audience, which could potentially lead to sales or, depending on your audience, possible investment.
Communicate health and safety protocols early and often
Creating a safe space for attendees is key, as invitees are more likely to participate if and when they feel safe. You must demonstrate that you have safety in mind from the beginning. Share your health and safety measures for events at the point of online registration, in your email marketing campaign reminders and across your social media promotions. Prior to the event, offer pre-registration and check-in online.
At the event, limit the size of any group networking or breakout sessions, and keep those hand sanitizer stations stocked. Manage traffic flows, and block off seats to encourage social distancing. And if you’re offering swag bags at your event, in addition to marketing materials, consider tossing in a few branded PPE freebies like hand sanitizer or face masks to leave a lasting impression on your guests.
Use digital tools to enhance irreplaceable in-person connections when necessary
Events in 2021 and beyond will reflect the broader trend of digital transformation and usage of video- and cloud-based tools. However, these tools should serve as complements to in-person events, which are needed to build personal connections and offer new experiences. We’ll see growth in the hybrid model, where in-person events will blend with virtual participation, which opens companies with limited budgets to unlimited audiences.
For example, entrepreneurs can stretch their budgets by hosting an in-person group networking event with a virtual keynote speaker. While we’re getting back to face-to-face business, the reality is that remote work tools are here to stay, and incorporating them will make your event hosting duties easier.
Key takeaways on in-person events
In-person events are returning, and companies need to prepare to capitalize on the coming economic resurgence. Throughout 2021, marketing managers, entrepreneurs and founders should develop focused attendees lists, add digital connectivity and improve their virtual communication skills to successfully reintroduce in-person events to the world.