Living during a global pandemic means learning to live with constant change. With so many unknowns on when we will go back to our old ways, industries have shifted their business strategies to a “new normal.”
The event industry, in particular, is adapting in order to stay afloat while business is all but stopped. Meanwhile, people with events planned for 2020 are faced with a difficult decision. Do they postpone, implement new safety precautions or cancel entirely?
With all this uncertainty, we want to offer some tips to help you plan an event during a pandemic. For couples that don’t want to wait to tie the knot, for recent 2020 grads, birthday celebrations, fundraisers, you name it, these tips are for you!
Tip # 1: Host a Micro Event
Micro weddings have become a recent trend in light of the pandemic. Rightfully so, engaged couples are anxiously awaiting the day they are able to say, “I do,” and the pandemic definitely threw a wrench into months upon months of wedding planning. But who’s to say that you have to cancel your wedding entirely? There are plenty of ways to safely celebrate with your close family and friends, while ensuring that your wedding day is one to remember.
A micro wedding typically allows for 30 guests or fewer, depending on your states guidelines. Luckily, with current technology, out-of-towners can still be included in the special day, thanks to live streaming.
Irene Tyndale, Chief Events Officer at Irene Tyndale Wedding & Events, explains, “Love is not cancelled because your wedding date was.” Irene Tyndale Events can have your micro wedding planned and executed in 1-2 months. For you future newlyweds, you don’t have to wait any longer to live happily ever after, even during a pandemic.
Tip #2: Hold Your Event Outdoors
Social distancing guidelines recommend larger gatherings take place in an open, spacious area. Hosts and event planners are opting to move their events to the great outdoors. With Georgia’s beautiful Summer and Fall weather, this is a great alternative and often preferred.
And, what better way to bring people together, when partying outside, than food (and maybe corn hole). Food Trucks are a fun addition to any event, according to Paige Nathan, Chief of Food Trucks at Food with Purpose. Not only are they trendy, but they also allow guests to keep their distance while ordering food.
In addition, another great thing about food trucks is that you can host the event practically anywhere. Park one in the cul-de-sac down the street, a neighborhoods communal parking lot or a huge open field, the options are pretty much endless.
So, if you postponed a graduation party, birthday celebration or fundraiser, book a food truck and reschedule!
Tip #3: Adapt, Adapt, Adapt!
As people start planning events in the near future, it is likely that every host will feel differently about the current situation. They will also have different comfort levels with how and if to implement recommended guidelines. It is important to be able to adapt to what each host wants.
As you begin to plan, recognize and accept that events are not what they were. Almost everything about the format and guest experience will be different from catering, to entertainment, to seating arrangements. This doesn’t mean it can’t still be a fun time!
Planners continue to work with clients to create unique guest experiences. For example, instead of a live band or DJ for dancing, have a jazz ensemble or dance troupe for an intimate performance to entertain guests while staying seated. Karen D’Souza, Owner and Principal Planner at Pop + Fizz, also, suggests forgoing a buffet and choosing creative staff-attended food stations with individually plated food selections.
As Katie Rosenberg, Sales Account Manager with Three Sisters Catering, reminds us, “Be flexible and don’t panic. When things are out of control like this, we need to be able to pivot quickly, adjust, and regroup knowing in the end it will all work out. It always does. It just might be a new normal.”
Above all, the most important thing is to make sure everyone is safe while events start to make their come back. Adaptation is truly the key in keeping the event industry alive during this pandemic.
Tip #4: Get Creative with Safety in Mind
Although this is a scary time and safety protocols should be taken seriously, that doesn’t mean creativity is out. Why not try to add your own style to our “new normal” and the guidelines put in place.
To grab attention, you have to think outside of the box. Hannah Baber, Senior Catering Manager at Zoo Atlanta and Proof of the Pudding describes it as, “softening the message.” There are ways to communicate a message clearly, while also being creative and lightening the scary situation at hand.
For example, Zoo Atlanta has placed paw prints on the floor six feet apart for guests waiting in lines. They also are implementing animal themed face masks to hand out to guests who would like them.
Jordan Flowers, Owner of Wedding Belles Atlanta, suggests creating custom face masks with your logo or monogram for guests to take home as favors to remember the day or placing custom mini hand sanitizer bottles on every seat. For those worried about space, create several smaller dance floor areas to spread people out while still enjoying the music.
By adding some personality, people can feel safe and comfortable at an event, while still having a good time.
Tip #5: The Show Can Go On with Virtual Events
With so many questions around the safety of gathering in large numbers, conferences, corporate events and fundraisers are turning to the power of the web to connect with people through virtual events. This format is not new, but has picked up momentum since a pandemic has put a damper on live events.
With virtual events comes a different level of detail and orchestration not found in live events. It is key to work with event planning professionals and production companies that know what they are doing. They can guide you through content creation and different platforms to use. Plus, there are many innovative ways to keep your audience engaged and provide true connections with sponsors and vendors.
Nonprofits are, also, not waiting for live events to come back to host their fundraisers. They are hosting virtual silent auctions and intimate house parties of ten guests with online cooking classes from acclaimed chefs. Similarly, local breweries are offering virtual beer tastings with their Brewmasters to raise money for charities.
Even social events are going virtual. For those who have missed out on bachelorette weekend, milestone birthday or baby shower, companies like Elizabeth’s Catering are creating specially curated packages just for these occasions. Beth Castro, Owner of Elizabeth’s Catering, hated seeing these parties get cancelled and felt compelled to do something. Castro said, “it is really difficult, and very emotional to miss your bridal shower, bachelorette party, baby shower, and children not able to have their birthday parties. It’s so hard…What could we do to make it better and feel special. We wanted to come up with something that brought everyone as together as possible, while still safe in their homes.”
Her team creates care packages that are delivered to each individual’s home. They then coordinate a professional level virtual experience with pastry chefs for baking parties, mixologoists for cocktail making parties and local celebrity chefs for home cooking experiences.
Live events will come back, but until then, the show must go on and virtual events can make that happen.
Written by Hayden Shelton
Hayden is a Senior at the University of Georgia studying Public Relations. She has a strong passion for marketing and promoting brands and is interested in a possible career in Digital Brand Marketing. She manages Spirited Event Groups social media and public relations strategy and content.