Virtual or Face to Face? 3 Considerations for Event Planners in the Age of COVID

June 22, 2021


As COVID-19 continues to alter the way we meet together and do business, event planners are still asking the question: “Should we just host this thing online?”

American actor and cultural icon James Dean once said, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” And if that isn’t the perfect response to a global detour like COVID-19, I don’t know what is.

Many of us entered 2021 with big plans, eager to get back out there and host every event we had to postpone in 2020. But now, even as vaccination efforts succeed at reducing the spread of the virus and organizations re-approach “business as usual,” many questions still remain:

When there’s a choice to be made, how do you decide what’s safe? What factors need to be considered? Is “better safe than sorry” the right approach?

Considerations for Event Planners in the Age of COVID-19

1. Local Public Health Guidelines

While new COVID-19 cases may be steadily decreasing in the United States, every region is unique in how successful efforts have been to reduce the spread of the virus. Local vaccination rates, public policy, and public sentiments are all factors here, so check in with your municipality’s guidance on hosting in-person events and reflect on the following questions:

  • Will the benefits of convening people in person drastically outweigh the risk of doing so?
  • Does hosting this event fall in line with national and local public-health guidelines?

2. Event Goals and Objectives

Organizations hold events for all sorts of reasons — each with their own goals and objectives. But in general, those goals fall into three main buckets: human connection, education and alignment, and material gain.

Some events (say, an annual best-practices conference) pour into all three. Others (like a fun run or penny drive) lean more toward one or two. Regardless, it’s worth exploring why you need (or want) to host your event to determine if there’s another way you can meet your goals.

Human Connection
Bonding over shared experiences is one of the best parts of any event. Your national conference may be the only opportunity members of your organization have to meet face to face. We look forward to these gatherings, and it’s hard to let them go!

But the truth is, human beings are resilient — and we’ve already learned a lot about how to meaningfully connect online. At this point in the pandemic, we’re practically experts in virtual socializing, and there are always fun and creative ways to cultivate this kind of connection. Remember: there’s always another way.

Education & Alignment
Many of the events we host (like teaching conferences or other trainings) have one primary goal: educate and align. The goal is simple: get the information across as efficiently as possible, cultivate a common understanding — and make the process fun if you can!

Fortunately, online learning has been around for decades at this point — and people come up with new, creative ways to deliver informational content all the time. Webinars and online courses, for example, can be relatively easy to pull off. You’ll just need a little support and a willingness to try something new.

Material Gain
We’d be lying to ourselves if we didn’t admit that, often, we host events with the express intention of raising money or pursuing some other type of material gain. There’s a reason so many events are just fundraisers with a splash of fun!

Consider the concrete outcomes you’re hoping to achieve. Will your ability to meet them be severely hampered by moving the event to a virtual space? Or, on the reverse, might hosting your event online free you up to pursue a larger audience? Think about it.

3. Your Team’s Capacity

Event planning can quickly become one of the most time-consuming tasks on anyone’s to-do list, regardless of whether the event in question is virtual or in person. But while most of us have at least some experience scheduling speakers or booking a hotel ballroom, pulling off a virtual event is its own kind of beast.

So, before you decide whether to hold an online or in-person event, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I possess the resources, know-how, and support to pull off a virtual event?
  • If I don’t possess the resources, know-how, and support to pull off a virtual event, do I know where I could go to get assistance?

With COVID-19 still altering the way we meet together and do business, it’s entirely possible you’ll need to move your next big event online — and we’d commend you for it. But if that shift sounds difficult or intimidating, you’re not alone.

If you find you need support, set up a call with us! Since the beginning of the pandemic, Rethink Creative has helped numerous churches, nonprofits, and other mission-driven organizations pull off inspiring virtual events that exceeded expectations and help our clients meet their goals.

Better Safe Than Sorry

Virtual events are a great option if you don’t want to cancel, but still feel reticent about convening people in person. Honestly, we would be nervous too. Even as the spread of the virus slows and social distancing becomes less necessary, we feel strongly that erring on the side of caution is a good move. Just take it one step at a time! It’ll all come together.

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