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Great event professionals know that it’s vital to always have a plan B ready when planning events. For example, they know how to deal with bad weather at events and how to build a crisis communication plan. However, according to Event Brew, many are yet to master planning disruption-proof events amidst the pandemic – or at least master the way they communicate the unavoidable uncertainty.

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This Event Brew episode might be short, but it’s nonetheless a treat: after many weeks apart, we’re finally going to hear from all four members of the iconic Brew Crew! They give us concrete advice on building out backup plans and communicating with attendees, sponsors, and exhibitors. Let’s get brewing!

Where Are All The Disruption-Proof Events?

Nick explains what the Brew Crew wants to tackle today. “Event planners are considered to be good at having multiple plans for one event. For example, event planners have always been good at knowing what to do if the weather changes. Also, they learned how to space things six feet apart.”

However, Nick thinks that most events are not truly disruption-proof when it comes to impressions and lead generation opportunities. He tackled this topic in the last Event Brew episode about unhappy exhibitors at in-person events. “They don’t know how to make everybody in the event whole. When you have a virtual event and the internet crashes, how do you give your exhibitors value? How do you provide value when only 25% of registered attendees show up at your in-person event? The good news is that there are a lot more places to deliver on that than there used to be,” Nick says.

But that just seems to be the reality of event planning during COVID. Two years later, it’s still hard to plan disruption-proof events. “I was shocked to see how many people got rocked by Omicron,” says Will. “Didn’t we figure this out by now? We’re two years in and everyone’s canceling their events and postponing.”

disruption-proof eventsAnd Where’s The Transparency?

Another piece of the puzzle is a lack of transparency. “If you’re planning an event for Q3 in 2022, you should plan ahead and say that this event might not happen. That’s the world we live in,” says Nick. “Tell your attendees what your plan B is. Here’s what we are going to do. We will break this event up into smaller events or we’re going to postpone it to next spring.”

Dustin agrees. “It would be really helpful. You can tell them you will pivot to virtual or refund them.” However, he’s more compassionate towards event planners. “I can give everybody a break because we’re still in this space of unknown. But I’m feeling very optimistic that we are finally heading towards the end of this.”

Thuy is currently signing up for all the industry events for the year. A great example of a disruption-proof event is MPI. “They said that if you were to get COVID or you can’t make it, they’re going to credit you for the next event. And it’s reassuring because it shows that these are professionals who’re thinking ahead.”

Disruption-Proof Events For Sponsors & Exhibitors

“Right now, the trepidation around attendance in person is about risk aversion from the attendee side and from the exhibitor side. They see in-person events as too risky to invest time and money in. Their likelihood of disruption is still high. But being transparent corrects the risk aversion. You can invest in us and you’ll be taken care of because we care about you. The level of trust when you’re transparent is much broader than just your core base. The core people come no matter what.”

In his opinion, sponsors would more readily invest in disruption-proof events. “As a sponsor, I’ve never been told what is the plan in case things go south. They should explain how they’re proactively going to recover so that I can invest in them wisely.”

“As we continue to go into a more complex blended world of in-person and digital, we need to have more than just a backup brain plan, adds Dustin. “We need a technology plan. We need to be able to react so that we can give our clients the confidence that they need to put business back on the books with confidence and be able to start booking out more long lead business.”

disruption-proof eventsPublic Relations For Disruption-Proof Events

Will brings out yet another important challenge: the ever-changing public opinions. “You need a contingency plan for health: what if people get sick? But a lot of people haven’t thought about the fact that they need a contingency plan for a public opinion too. I’m sure so many events have been postponed or canceled because it’s the public perception that it’s going to be problematic. I’ve seen so many events canceled due to the pandemic that could have happened if they followed COVID-19 compliance guidelines for events.”

“The reality of the political weather is something that we need to focus on,” agrees Nick. “It’s more unpredictable than the actual weather. I would tell everybody that it takes an event planning team of diverse people with diverse backgrounds to be able to anticipate what might happen.”

“We’re all going to need a PR plan for every event we do that involves guest speakers,” says Dustin. “Look what’s happening with Joe Rogan and Spotify right now. Folks are demanding that he be de-platformed. Imagine you plan a major event and put a controversial speaker on the stage. And all of a sudden, that reflects very poorly on you.”

disruption-proof eventsStaying In Control With Content & Community

Before they sign off, the Brew Crew agrees that it’s much easier to curb disruption with content than it is with audience engagement. “Disruption-proof events are much easier to plan if the goal has to do with content. For example, you can have your presenters pre-record their presentation as a backup version in case their internet goes down,” says Nick.

But the ultimate disruption remedy is the community model. “The larger 2022 event trend that we’re seeing across the industry is the community model, says Will. “And if you need another reason to consider creating a community, it being disruption-proof is a great one. When you do one event,  it’s often the only interaction attendees will have. They gave you your money and they want it to go perfectly. If everything goes wrong, they’re going to hate you. But if you have a community model, you get their buy-in. You get people who love you. They have a little bit more skin in the game. They want to be a part of your success. When things do go wrong, you don’t have to feel as panicked.”

Hopefully, these tips and tricks will help you work on your transparency and emergency planning. Stay hopeful, event planners, some say that the pandemic is almost over. Stay tuned for more awesome content from the Event Brew podcas.

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Dustin Westling

Author Dustin Westling

Managing Partner at Calgary-based OneWest Event Design & Logistics. A self-described ‘Senior Millennial,’ Dustin brings his tongue-in-cheek humour and engaged energy to his role as commander-in-chief where he leads a team of talented and talked-about event profs.

More posts by Dustin Westling
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