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How do I hold my event during Covid?

January, 2022

Erica Jones, Account Director at Kent PR and marketing agency Maxim, considers the options for planning awards, conferences, dinners, exhibitions, and more in the face of Covid-19 uncertainty.

If the last almost two years has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot with any certainty say that on any given date in 2022 everything will be back to normal, whatever normal is. Another thing the pandemic has proved is that pretty much everyone has their own opinion of what is the right thing to do – and very few of those opinions match up from person to person.

So where does that leave businesses planning for awards, conferences, dinners, exhibitions, etc?

To help answer that question, I’m going to turn to one of my out of work experiences: parkrun.

I recently became a Run Director at my local parkrun, which means every now and then it’s my job to literally run the event. Anyone who’s taken part in a parkrun will know that doesn’t mean organising the whole activity, it’s more of a figurehead role, taking on the overall responsibility and ensuring all the volunteers are where they need to be, carrying out the necessary tasks to make the event a success. It’s also the Run Director’s job to decide if that morning’s event goes ahead.

Reasons to cancel could be that there’s another event in the park (we’d know days or weeks in advance); or perhaps there are dangerous conditions (ice or bad weather on the morning). This last instance is very much a judgement call. Strong winds could prompt the decision to close one parkrun, whereas the event down the road feels it’s fine to go ahead.

Whatever decision is made will be the right one because it’s the decision of the Run Director and volunteers responsible for the event. The participants respect that.

The same is true for work activities. Organisers need to make their hosting decisions based on the individual conditions of their particular activity and audience, rather than looking over their shoulder to see what other people are doing.

Whichever option you go for, your guests will understand so long as you are clear in the messaging about your decision. Your attendees don’t want dithering and three different possibilities, they want a simple explanation of what the chosen format is and why it works for this instance.

For example, in September 2021 the Maxim-organised Kent Press & Broadcast Awards were held virtually for the second year running. The budget had to be confirmed in the spring, before it was possible to even begin to guess what the pandemic’s second autumn would be like, and so when we launched the awards we made it clear from the start that the event would be virtual. This allowed our sponsors to understand their financial commitment and return from the start, and ensured our entrants knew what to expect as finalists.

It may not have been the decision any of us wanted to make – we all wanted to celebrate in person – but once we knew it was the appropriate decision we stuck with it and maintained a clear and consistent message.

Which is actually important advice for any marketing strategy. As we’ve seen a lot during the pandemic, audiences (whether active or passive) react well to clear and concise messaging. It’s when the message loses clarity that the campaign begins to falter.

This article originally appeared in Kent Director in January 2022.

Erica Jones - Account Director

Erica Jones

Maxim / Account Director

posted in: advice, marketing, public relations,

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