The delegate journey in 2021 will be different from that of previous years. The events sector has changed significantly due to the impact of COVID-19. Some delegate journeys will be too scary for some.
However, delegate journeys are a priority for event planners and venue operators. Get them right and events will do well. Get them wrong and attendance will suffer.
Let’s get started on discovering more about the delegate journey.
The Start of Our Journey
I was delighted to be asked to moderate a discussion on the Future of Venues for IBTM TV on 10 December 2020. I was lucky enough to work with a powerhouse panel and a lively virtual audience. As part of our discussion, we looked at the issue of the ‘delegate journey’ and in particular how much it has and is changing. The delegate journey is a big subject and this post takes a high-level look at some key considerations.
On my panel I was joined by senior industry leaders who included:
Mike Lee, Vice President of Sales for Marina Bay Sands in Singapore
James Rees, Executive Director Conferences and Events at Excel, London
Kaaren Hamilton, Vice President Global Sales RLH Corporation in the USA.
What quickly became clear from our discussion was that all delegates have a different start point for their journeys. But, the most important observation was that every part of the delegate journey has to be reviewed, analysed and improved.
Planes, Trains and Fast Cars
Delegates travel to venues to enjoy an in-person event. But travel choices are largely outside the control of event planners and venue operators. And that is still the case, but delegates are not going to travel if they do not feel safe. This impacts on event attendance so when it comes to choosing destinations and venues you need to be clear on how safe travel can be made and if there is anything you can do to improve it.
If delegates travel in their own cars rather than using public transport what does that mean for your event?
Travel is a key component of the delegate journey. Examine the options and work as closely as you can with transport providers to take away any anxiety that delegates may have.
Choosing accommodation is another key issue. Where delegates choose to stay is never totally under the control of the planner. The independent delegate will decide whether to stay in preferred hotels or make their own choice.
But, invariably planners will want to make the most of booking a group of delegates into the same hotel or a set of hotels close to the event venue. They are going to need to be super confident that the hotels are Covid-19 secure in both sentiment and action. If the hotels cannot give this assurance, delegates will be put off from booking and, by implication, from attending your event.
On-Site at the Event
On-site at the event and the delegate journey is much more under the control of the planner. This is not ‘control’ with an authoritarian voice but ‘control’ with a consensus one. All planners want to keep their delegates safe from harm and the event venue is their next focus. The panel agreed that venues and planners create extremely safe conditions for events to take place and this has been the case for some years.
It now needs to be taken to the next level. Every stage of interaction with delegates has to be reviewed. Simple things, such as the passing of a handheld mic, need to be under scrutiny. The mic has to be sanitised after every use; COVID-19 safety stewards that help direct attendees will soon be commonplace at events. The mantra of ‘contactless’ will be further developed. After all, the less that delegates need to touch, the better. There is a lot to consider but it has to be done if you want delegates to come to your event.
How safe are you making their on-site delegate journey whilst still providing a great experience?
Even More Creative Co-Creation
Co-creation is a term that is often used by planners when working with clients to create event content. At it’s most basic, it means working together.
As we approach 2021, let’s take co-creation a step further and involve the venue, hotels and transportation companies. A number of planners and venues already work well together. But it can go further and it needs to. Venue staff intimately understand their property and can help planners. Together they can examine issues such as the flow of people, one way systems and extra measures to reduce the risk of delegates getting sick.
As James Rees pointed out, everyone is in the business of risk management now and that, to my mind, means all parties working together closer than ever and seeing what can be done to enhance the entire delegate journey.
The Virtual Journey
If we turn from the in-person delegate journey to the virtual one the same principles apply. Clearly, at a virtual event, the delegates are looking after themselves with safety and sanitation measures. But, the delegate journey can still be a scary one and people may not turn up unless you have managed their expectations throughout.
What’s scary for some people when it comes to virtual is that there are a lot of little things that can stop them from attending. For example, not being able to access the programme, getting lost in break-out groups, not being clear on how to participate in the right way are all reasons why delegates may find the journey too scary.
The virtual journey needs to be free of friction, free of unnecessary steps and free from confusion.
Put all Delegate Journeys under the Microscope
In speaking at the IBTM TV panel debate, I travelled to the studio space to deliver live in front of the cameras and crew. Had I not been happy with the safety and hygiene measures in place I would have been reluctant to have gone. I would have asked to have moderated the panel from my home office. However, the protocols in place and their attention to detail was brilliant.
It is important that the journeys of the other stakeholders are also put under the spotlight. As speakers, sponsors and exhibitors need to have confidence as well. Otherwise, they could easily decide not to join you. They could be scared to take part and that would be no good at all.
Make sure that everyone comes with you on your journey. It’s safe but exciting as well. How do I know? Because time and again I see the brilliant creativity and business wisdom that abounds in the events and hospitality sectors.
Happy 2021 – Opportunity awaits.