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Knowledge & Insights

Planning an Event in 2021

Posted by
Catherine Poulton Accounts Director

As we approach the anniversary of Covid-19 being declared a Global Pandemic by WHO and the world of events being thrown upside down, I have taken the time to consider: what does planning an event in 2021 look like?

One thing that has been a constant is the appetite for live events remains as strong as it was pre-Covid. Judging from conversations with clients, suppliers, and colleagues alike, we are all keen and committed to returning to in person events as soon as it is safely possible. So, how do you go about planning an event in 2021, and what considerations should you be taking note of?


Hotels and venues alike have in my experience been extremely flexible and understanding during the pandemic, offering generous concessions and extending rebooking periods. However, it remains important to always review your contracts carefully before committing! Ensure your minimum numbers consider social distancing regulations and realistic numbers of people who will be able to travel to your event.

Review cancellation clauses and ensure you are covered with a Covid-specific clause should you need to significantly reduce numbers, postpone, or cancel your event due to restrictions in place at the time. Work with your venues and suppliers of choice to ensure you have mutually agreed terms that protect both parties – we want to work with our suppliers to survive this difficult time, so they are still there when we are ready for them!

Contingency Plans

As event planners we are used to having a Plan B, C … even a Plan F in place at times, and now this is more key than ever. During the event planning process keep in mind that situations can rapidly change (just last week at the Australian Open a short, sharp, circuit-breaker lockdown in Victoria meant the pre-agreed reduced crowd numbers were suddenly scrapped). Have an option up your sleeve if you need to turn the event virtual or reduce delegate numbers (hybrid elements to the event are a great solution to this).

It is crucial to discuss with your vendors to make sure they have their own contingency plans in place – what happens if your AV build team are suddenly quarantined, or your event merchandise doesn’t make it through customs due to Brexit? Work with suppliers who have robust plans in place to mitigate these risks. An exhibition stand company I work closely with has Teams ‘A’ and ‘B’ on board for an upcoming tradeshow, including a local crew should the worst happen. Can you source merchandise and giveaways locally to ensure these arrive safely, on time and without unexpected tariffs?

Hybrid Events

Virtual events have allowed clients to reach larger audiences in 2020 than they may otherwise have done. Our clients have seen a 50–100% increase in attendee numbers (dependant on the style of event) due to ease of access and lack of travel afforded by virtual options. Now is a great time to build and capitalise on this success: according to a recent survey, around 95% of respondents expect to hold a hybrid event in 2021. Tradeshows organisers I am working with are all increasing the digital options of the show to increase reach and allow participants who are unable to be part of the event in person, whether because of travel bans, cost or time implications, to attend learn and participate.

Keep in mind factors around security, technology (the last thing you want is the Wi-Fi to fall over during your stream), and professionally displaying your brand in the same way you do in person. Again, work with vendors who are well experienced and have robustly tested their offerings.

Health and Safety

While we wait for an updated timeline of the ease of restrictions from the Prime Minister, one thing we can be sure of is that social distancing and guidelines will be eased cautiously and gradually. Ensure you have safety measures in place for the wellbeing of your attendees and teams alike. Consider temperature checks on arrival and sanitising stations at registration, catering points, around the exhibition hall, on exhibitor stands, and before entering conference rooms. Think about ways you can minimise crowds at registration - our Print on Demand solution allows an attendee to be registered in around 30 seconds and is a great way to get people through this process quickly and with minimal contact.

As always, make sure you keep an attendee list on file with contact details should a positive Covid test be confirmed post-event.

For the time being buffets are out, so work with your catering vendors to look at whether plated options are a suitable alternative or if pre-packed items and lunch bags are the best solution for your event. Bear in mind time, seniority of delegates, and budget constraints when making decisions. Researchers say that the chances of infection outside are much lower as the fresh air disperses and dilutes the virus so weather permitting, is there an option for delegates to eat outside?

Local Restrictions

Keep a close eye on local regulations and guidelines. Communicate with your venue, local tourist boards and review the government websites to keep abreast of guidance and restrictions. Take guidance from your corporate travel policy where you can.

Be aware that your regular venue will have reduced capacity compared to normal years, so work with the venue and AV teams to create detailed floorplans that suit your requirements and adhere to regulations. This will ensure there are no surprises on the day!

Looking to the Future

The UK vaccination programme has just reached the significant milestone of 15 million people in the UK having had their first dose of the vaccine. With the correct measures and safety precautions taken, live events will be able to return in a safe manner. Based on what the team at Outsourced Events are seeing, Autumn 2021 is a reasonable predication for us to start meeting in person again. We are ready and armed with information to help guide and assist you through the event planning process.

If you would like to discuss anything mentioned in the article or need assistance with an event, please do not hesitate to get in contact with a member of our team today on +44 (0)330 460 6007 or email us.


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