Organizing a successful event is no easy feat, but with the right planning, resources, and policies in place, you can pull off an event that attendees will remember for years to come. Whether it's a company offsite, team-building retreat, or industry conference, there are a few key steps you can take to ensure that everything runs smoothly.
Even if this is your first time organizing an event, it's very likely that your organization has hosted some kind of offsite or retreat in the past. That means there may be some guidelines and best practices in place already. You should work to identify who the key decision-makers are in relation to your event and start building a repeatable process together.
Understanding specific policies related to travel, reimbursement, safety, and accessibility can help you avoid planning problems further down the line. It can also be helpful to seek out informal knowledge from other leaders or team members who've been involved in the event planning process at your organization before.
Collect Information from Your Attendees Before you book any rooms or make any reservations, it's best to collect information from attendees to help you plan more effectively. This can be done informally through team meetings and one-on-one conversations, but should ideally be collected into a formal survey.
The most critical information to prioritize is schedule/availability, dietary requirements, and willingness to attend if the event is not mandatory. Beginning this process will also encourage attendees to provide other information that may be relevant to the organizer.
Aside from those essential pieces of information, you can also begin to ask attendees questions about other preferences. This could include potential cities for an event to take place, ideas for activities, favorite cuisines, and any other topics that might help guide your planning.
When planning any group event in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially one that includes domestic and potentially international travel, it's crucial to know how you're going to keep attendees safe and healthy.
Identify and Follow Official Health Guidelines The most important part of your COVID-19 safety plan is to identify and adhere to the latest guidance from relevant health authorities in the area your event is taking place. That spans all the way from national authorities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention down to state, county, and city level guidelines.
While most parts of the U.S. have now lifted restrictions related to social distancing, masking, and gathering sizes, it's important to gather and share up-to-date information with your attendees and keep up with any potential changes. Many public health authorities offer text and email notification services that can help you keep up with any changes.
When it comes to COVID-19 safety, everyone has different levels of comfort and caution based on their unique circumstances. Those who are immunocompromised or live with someone whose health is vulnerable may have a different set of standards than the general population, so collecting and recognizing differences in sentiment around safety should be a key part of your planning process. Sharing a pre-event survey and discussing responses with attendees can be an excellent way to align on expectations and comfort levels.
Make your safety plans and expectations clear. Consider whether testing, masking, symptom check-ins, or other precautions are right for your event. Create a communication plan in the event someone tests positive. Have a care and support plan for attendees who may get sick. Prepare your team and organization for potential work disruptions.
By taking these steps, you'll be well on your way to planning an event that's both safe and successful.
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