We all want to get back to in-person events as soon as possible. The success of your association’s trade show or conference depends on how you market to potential delegates. Working in a primarily Canadian market, you need to keep in mind that, generally, Canadians are very safety orientated. They must be assured that protocols are in place. These safety protocols need to be clearly communicated throughout your marketing.

  • Assure the delegates that the venues were chosen with safety in mind.
  • Ensure the venue will increase its cleaning schedules of public spaces and washrooms.
  • Schedule attendees to attend in certain time slots on certain days.
  • Seating in the plenary halls and breakout rooms should be safely distanced.
  • Increase aisle space between seating.
  • In your exhibit hall increase the width of your aisles.
  • Include hand sanitizer stations throughout the venue.
  • Follow all public health guidelines.

Masks keep your attendees and members safe. Above all, they demonstrate the event’s commitment to a safe gathering and will likely be required for Canadian events for months to come.

Hot Tip: Consider handing out event branded masks as attendees enter or better yet send in advance as an event teaser.

For information regarding contact tracing, refer to Health Canada’s COVID-19 testing, screening and contact tracing resources.

Setting Up the Event

Set-up your exhibit hall with entry by appointment and limit the number of attendees allowed in each slot. Attendees can choose the top three timeslots that work best for them; you will have to assign them a timeslot, dividing them into smaller groups so that you don’t have too many people in the building at one time. Once the timeslot has begun, no one without an appointment should be allowed to enter. Designate one set of doors as entrance only and another door for exits. Station your event’s security or volunteers at the designated entrance to enforce this policy.

Hot Tip: Have video monitors in place outside of the venue for people who arrive early. Here you can highlight your sponsors!

To limit crowd sizes, why not schedule your keynote speakers multiple times throughout the day, speaking to smaller groups. Repeat the entire scheduled program at least once. Consider making your one-day event last two days instead. Offer the same program each day. This way, attendees and association members can be confident that they will be part of a smaller group.

Where to Hold Your Event?

Consider holding your association trade show or conference in multiple locations across the country! Smaller, more regional events will appeal to members as they readjust to in-person events. Be sure to choose a venue in an interesting location. Play up leisure activities available for all ages in case the business trip becomes a family trip. The more your location offers, the delegates you will attract. It can be useful to team up with local tourism boards. Share links on your event website to points of interest and schedule the conference to end before a weekend or begin after a weekend to allow attendees to take advantage of the locale.

Hot Tip: Offer special activities for children to keep them engaged while parents attend the event. Confirm that the hotel room block includes weekend availability.

Incorporating Virtual Aspects

For hybrid events, you must consider the best time to announce the streaming version of the conference. If it’s announced too early, it could impact in-person sales. Determine which delegates would be more interested in attending virtually. Are these delegates students? Are they unable to travel? Market to them specifically.

For more on Hybrid Events, read my previous article Hybrid Events Are On The Horizon.


Networking is always a large component of events. Most delegates cite making new contacts as one of the top reasons for attending. For now, the days of large cocktail receptions may be a thing of the past. One alternative is to utilize breakout rooms – smaller rooms with limited numbers of delegates in each one. After a predetermined time, the delegates move to their next room. For example, an event app could direct the delegates, shuffling them from room to room. You could also consider a “speed dating” style of networking events. Here, delegates would have five minutes with an assigned person before moving on to the next match-up. Your virtual attendees will also want in on the networking action.

Hot Tip: Using a virtual platform like Wonderme allows virtual attendees to move from room to room and have videos chats with other attendees. It simulates the feeling of being at an in-person cocktail event.

In person events will make a comeback.  Most people are looking forward to the chance to travel once again, and so, convincing them of a safe and interesting program will make your event a success.

Read more about when we will begin to see the return of in-person events in When Can We Hold Events in 2021?