Flexibility and Creativity: The Key to Event Planning

As we prepare to kick off the busy fall conference season, we are continuously reminded that despite the resurgence of in-person events, the way we plan and execute events continues to require more flexibility…with a side of creativity. I have seen this firsthand recently, and while this allows us to flex some of the event planning muscles we haven’t used in a while, it can be challenging. And as venues also face challenges with rescheduling cancelled events, juggling staffing shortages, and rising costs, it makes it even more difficult to conduct business-as-usual. We find ourselves struggling to predict attendance numbers, prepare for future COVID-19 outbreaks, and deliver the same top-notch events with smaller budgets amongst rising costs. But the good news is, attendees are ready to be back in person and as meeting planners, we are ready to flex those muscles! 

One of the challenges I recently encountered with a client was a misalignment of contracted function space with what was really needed. Here are some ideas to tackle similar space-related challenges:  

Work closely with the venue to express your needs and determine if there is any flexibility to secure additional space, or flip-flop rooms with better-suited space to meet your group’s needs. Don’t be afraid to escalate the issue beyond your convention services manager (CSM). In my case, there wasn’t much additional space the hotel could offer, but I was able to negotiate some changes to the contracted space and found a few extra rooms. 

Consider using outdoor space. One thing we’ve learned during COVID-19 is that outdoor space can be an excellent alternative to indoor events. Most venues have options for outdoor functions that include heating/air conditioning, adequate lighting, and sound packages. The bonus to outdoor space is that attendees who are still hesitant to be indoors with a large number of people, this may help them feel more comfortable about attending. 

Get creative. In my recent situation, the contracted registration space was located in a less-than-ideal location. Working with the venue, and the client, we made the decision to use that space during the low-volume days as more of an early “pop up” registration desk and then open a full registration area closer to the conference rooms, once that space was available – which happens to be in-line with the busier registration days. Using some additional signage to brand both areas.

Use an onsite event app versus a printed directory to direct attendees to function space so that you can make space changes closer to the event start date. This way, if space either becomes available, or if your numbers change and you find yourself able to relocate to a smaller/larger space in a more convenient location, it will be easier to direct attendees to where to go. 

Avoid space constraints altogether by being very particular when booking space. Now more than ever when we are negotiating space for upcoming events, we must be very specific about what negotiate to ensure we don’t run into these issues. When booking your space, remember to include space for storage, registration, “pop up meetings,” hospitality rooms, and staff office space (to name a few) in addition to your conference sessions, meal functions and sponsored activities. Hotels and other venues will look to maximize the use of their space and if you don’t have it contracted, they may sell it to someone else leaving you with few options if you did not account for everything. And don’t skip the site visit – this may help you avoid these space-related issues from the start! 

As we continue to return to in-person events, what other challenges are you facing as you plan events? Share your ideas with our readers! 

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