Ask the Experts: Has Omicron Affected Your 2022 Event Planning?

The year 2022 was supposed to be a new start, a move back to in-person events, and a return to some semblance of normality. Whilst the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t gone away, there was light at the end of the tunnel and many event planners are now talking about how quickly the shift back to face-to-face could occur.

The emergence of the Omicron variant has put plans on hold, or at least reignited that sense of uncertainty. Or has it?

We spoke to four tech-savvy event planners asking them:

  • How, or if, their event planning has been impacted
  • What effect this has had on their event production
  • How they feel Omicron will impact the events industry this year.

Here are their thoughts, and it’s not all bad news!

 

Graham Blair, Associate Director of Education and Events, Royal College of Anaesthetists

“Continuing to run events and courses for Anaesthetists and Intensive care doctors has been a challenge throughout the pandemic, however, the emergence of the Omicron variant threw up some new considerations for the Royal College of Anaesthetists programme.

With delegates fully aware of the implications of catching the new variant, the college was already taking a cautious approach to our programme with a two-thirds/one-third split between online and face-to-face events and courses. For face-to-face events, we were implementing social distancing, COVID-19 passes, as well as proof of negative lateral flow tests. However, when Omicron emerged and a new spike in hospitalisations was predicted, our worry was if our audience was going to be able to get away from their posts to attend; were we going to be able to field speakers or an educational faculty for them to address? Overnight we were faced with once again losing our audience and speakers to tackling the pandemic on the front line in intensive care units up and down the country.

However, the resilience of our Anaesthetic workforce meant with some pre-recording of new content, inventive use of existing content, and pivoting the majority of our face-to-face events up to the end of February to online, we have managed to continue to support our members and run our full programme of educational events and courses.”

 

Nicola Hardaker, Managing DirectorHg3 Conferences Ltd

“Omicron has started to affect the first quarter of the business for 2022. Some of the larger organisations have put a blanket ban on running face-to-face conferences in this quarter so we are having to look at moving these to fully online conferences.

We are having to be flexible with our offerings to ensure that we have options for in-person registrations as well as virtual registrations, which makes budgeting very difficult for the societies we are managing conferences for.

From the midterm onwards this year, everyone is currently planning full face-to-face meetings and do not yet seem to be affected by the virus.

I think the key as an Event Management Company is trying to be as flexible as possible with each and every client and keeping a close eye on the current situation.”

 

Rachel Almeida, Head of Events, Training and Sponsorship, Association of Colleges

The past two years has dramatically changed how we design and deliver events. Trial and error has seen us use different platforms and software to find out what works best for us. As we now look to plan the next 12 months of events, we’re asking our members and stakeholders how they want to access their events. There has been a noticeable shift in how people want to use their time, once travelling to events without consideration but now work/life balance and commitments changing our perceptions of travel and time for events. There is strong support for both continuing the more accessible, online content and wanting to get back to meeting and networking ‘in real life’. The next year feels like we will be back to trial and error – more new ways of working and delivering events, no less challenging but also an exciting opportunity to reimagine what we do.

 

Shelley Fitzgerald, Event Operations Specialist, Simpleview

“In 2022, we’re seeing conferences and tradeshows change their programs or even moving to fully virtual, often with very little notice, so we aren’t booking things such as travel, keynote speakers, entertainment etc. as far in advance as we normally would. Alongside this, we are scrutinizing contracts and agreements a lot more than we used to for cancellation, re-booking, and deposit policies.

We are also having to decide how to offer our event portfolio throughout the year —fully in-person, hybrid, or fully virtual — knowing that we may end up excluding a portion of our audience based on our decision. And then there is the question of how we reach that audience in a different way that doesn’t disrupt the integrity of our event. For example, we decided not to offer a virtual option for one of our events, knowing that this would eliminate several potential attendees. We have discussed recording our sessions for future use, but then how do we utilize that content, possibly offering it for free when we had an audience that paid for it?

Safety protocols for our in-person event are another important consideration, again knowing that some of our choices will exclude certain attendees based on their own feelings or beliefs. We also face the possibility of having to decline attendance at events based on vaccination and testing situations.

All in all, things have been challenging with Omicron, much more so than Delta, however with the knowledge we have, and implementing certain procedures, I think we can get past this and continue with in-person meetings for the rest of 2022.”

 


Want to know how Eventsforce can help you with your 2022 event planning?

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