May 18, 2020

The New Normal of Post-COVID Event Planning

Experiential marketing events are designed to build meaningful relationships between people and brands. This will remain true in a post-COVID world, albeit with a new set of rules to play by.


Early studies show that meaning may be magnified as the public gains a new appreciation for connection and interactivity. This end-result will need to be earned, though, by hyper-mindful brands willing to accept society's new terms of engagement.

Communication is Key

Consumers now see the world, and brands within it, through a more literal filter, making marketing intent more visible than ever. For the foreseeable future, those responsible for experiential events should expect to answer inquiries related to their how and why more often than where and when.

Such a rapid shift in public consciousness requires event marketers to respond with measured clarity in both their outbound communications and their actions. Transparency and proactivity will be sought-after virtues for audiences, even after COVID-related restrictions are eased.

In fact, a vast majority of consumers prefer to see brands address the pandemic directly. For events, that means plain-stated communication regarding new operational standards before and during scheduled gatherings. All available channels should communicate in-step, from pre-promotion efforts to on-site execution.

There will always be more questions. Brand event messaging should strive to make answers as wide-reaching and accessible as possible to quell concerns of a shaken general public.


For the foreseeable future, those responsible for experiential events should expect to answer inquiries related to their how and why more often than where and when.

Design a Safer Space

More than talk-the-talk, modern brand events must also walk-the-walk to keep patrons and staff safe. From signage to sanitation, event design and execution will have undergone some serious changes once in-person gatherings are back on the table in full.

In the meantime, a few adjustments are obvious. Seating will be redesigned in most cases to allow for appropriate social distancing. Long queues for food and beverage, ticketing and restrooms will need to be addressed for the same. Hand-to-hand commerce can be safer conducted by enabling no-touch payment methods wherever possible.

Guests will be alert to these kinds of measures as they emerge from isolation. Taking them seriously, both before and during operations, will go a long way in re-establishing the public's ease and interaction at brand marketing events.

Other circumstantial changes largely depend on the style of event, expected attendance, etc. After addressing the basics, smart event planners will look to the latest local, state and federal guidelines—even competitors—for how to safely and successfully proceed in their niche. Other reputable organizations, such as the CDC and WHO, are also good sources for localized information.

Update Operations Training

In most cases, the responsibility to carry out these changes will fall on day-of event staff. On top of job-specific training, these individuals will be asked to serve as pseudo public health officers until a vaccine is identified and distributed. No, they won't need a degree in virology to work a ticketing booth, but they will be expected to visibly adhere to and enforce new safety guidelines where applicable.

A well-communicated event with thoughtful updates to its footprint and operational standards may still fall short in the eyes of its audience if attendees are met with a staff unwilling or unprepared to fulfill its new duties.


They'll come back. When they do, consumers will expect meaningful effort to be put forth to protect them. Successful event marketers will be up to the challenge.

Prioritize Protective Gear

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is another new top-line agenda item for event planning committees across the globe. First and foremost, all event staff should be outfitted as necessary. This layer of safety not only adds viable barriers for airborne pathogens, but serves as another visual cue to guests that an event or responsible brand is taking the appropriate measures to keep them safe, too.

Well-managed events will also establish and clearly communicate a point of view on attendee use of PPE whether it's required, supplied or simply encouraged.

Have a Digital Alternative

Protective gear or not, we should expect that a significant percentage of the public could choose to forgo event plans altogether until a final word is given on the virus. Let's not leave this portion of the population behind when designing brand experiences in the months to come.

Anyone with an internet connection can stream events for free on Facebook Live, Instagram Live and YouTube Live—platforms pre-loaded with hundreds of millions of active users ready to tune in. Twitch, Amazon's popular streaming service, is another user-friendly option for low-fidelity digital programming. Be sure to collaborate with a capable production partner for any online event too layered for a social media-hosted solution.

Parallel efforts either online or in-app give all interested parties a chance to participate, even if they're not quite ready to do so in person. Lean on creatives and digital teams to brainstorm ways to incorporate this virtual viewership and their interactions with what's happening live on site.

Done right, a brand's digital pivot could lay the groundwork for something newly beloved, like the NFL accomplished in holding its first ever online draft.

Audiences haven't deserted events forever. A recent study even tallied 46% of consumers saying they are most likely to value them more after the outbreak is over. They'll come back. When they do, consumers will expect meaningful effort to be put forth to protect them. Successful event marketers will be up to the challenge.


We Can Help.

Don't think you have to do it all alone. From planning to execution, we can help ensure your post-COVID event runs safely and smoothly.

Your submission has been received—we'll get back to you soon.
There was an error while submitting the form.