Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend the LMA New York: Planning In-Person Events Post-Pandemic webinar hosted by Legal Marketing Association. Presented by Lane Burgess from Goodwin, Kelly Reidy of Akin Gump, and Melissa Allen from Covington & Burling, the interactive session saw attendees from legal firms across the US tuning in to share their thoughts on the future of events. On reflection, the return to physical events as we start to get back to real-life interaction won't be quite a straightforward as you may think...
The conversation began with everyone sharing ideas of the recent events they have hosted. Lane Burgess shared her insight into a recent wine tasting event she organised for a small group of clients. A relatively simple concept, but it allowed guests to really relax and enjoy themselves, without any expectations. Other suggestions for events ranged from chocolate making, cooking classes, fish charters, and even Broadway performances.
However, whilst in-person events can now take place in the US, they are not without restrictions and it's important to bear in mind that these can vary from State to State, and even from venue to venue.
The advice I got was to begin by communicating your needs and expectations to your chosen venue and make sure to consider what’s now no longer allowed. For example, waiters can no longer walk around a room of people with a tray of drinks or appetizers, so you may want to consider this and perhaps plan to provide a self-service food and drink station for your guests instead.
Similarly, as staff levels are not yet back to what they once were, longer wait times for service are likely. It would be a good idea to manage these expectations amongst your guests early, in order to avoid disappointment on the day.
Kelly Reidy made the very valid point that demand for venues - particularly in New York - is extremely high right now. Remember this if you are planning an in-person event in the near future, as you will be better off snapping up a venue sooner rather than later.
Also consider that a lot of people may have moved out of the city now, and will need guaranteed value if they are traveling to attend.
If you think it will give your guests peace of mind, it could be worth double-checking that the venue staff will be vaccinated. Likewise, are you going to ask clients to disclose whether they themselves are vaccinated? It could work either way and some venues will only allow vaccinated guests, so be conscious of this early on in your planning to avoid issues further down the line.
The session concluded with a general consensus across board is that people are opting to continue with virtual events until in-person events are able to go ahead with no restrictions, with a majority agreement that hybrid events are not favourable. Do one or the other but not a mix.