I am one of the optimists; I believe that Canadians will see the safe return of association events in the fall of 2021. However, I realize that not everyone is in the same place. As associations consider when to bring members together, they must consider that members must be ready, willing, and able to do so.

Not Yet, but Soon…

When I look at pictures of colleagues gathering at association meetings in the United States – maskless –  I realize that I too will be able to do this (more restrictions not withstanding). I am also ready, but I am not willing to attend events without a mask just yet. I am an optimist, but I am going to need a gradual return to large group gatherings, and I don’t think I am alone.

The good news for associations is that for most, their events won’t be the first attended by their members. Community gatherings and kids sporting events will likely come first. Why is that good news? Think about swimming – many people need to test the water before they jump in with both feet. Family BBQs, a friend’s wedding, an in-person staff meetings will all come before we see association events. These will serve as “warm-ups” as we get ready for larger gatherings. If Australia’s example is any sign for us, the warm-up will not take long, but we also don’t want any false starts. This puts us on a path to being more comfortable – ready, willing, and able by the fall.

Starting Slow

After what for many will be 18-months in relative isolation, we must accept that each person will have their benchmarks for being ready, willing, and able, and we won’t all achieve them at the same time. This means we must temper our expectations and start small with association events. Consider starting with an outdoor cocktail hour or golf outing before moving indoors. It also means budgeting conservatively and accepting that the first association events are about building community first and everything else second.

After a tough financial stretch, associations will have to accept that the surpluses they were used to from in person events will be slow coming, but will return, nonetheless. We are already seeing strong travel demand in the United States and sold-out concerts in Australia. We will get their too, but it will take a little longer.

According to this Forbes article which discusses “Crowd Anxiety” and the return to in-person events, 66% of surveyed people would not attend an in-person event without the safety net that the Covid-19 vaccine provides. Crowd anxiety is the unease one feels when they find themselves among large groups of people. This very real issue presents a major challenge for the return of events. Therefore, the first few in-person conferences and events should be smaller, so as not to overwhelm potential guests. Follow all health regulations and take every measure to ensure the safety of event attendees. It is paramount that guests feel comfortable and safe when taking part in an event.

To learn about the types of events we might see in the coming months, read Hybrid Events Are on The Horizon.

Confidence in Safety

Beginning with local events, which reduces the amount of travel required, and are generally smaller in attendance, will be the warm-up that we all need. Our goals should be to beget attendees’ confidence that events will be safe to attend. We can achieve this by following regional safety measures and communicating those measures with the attendees. Variants may still mess with our plans, but we have made it this far, and I am confident we can safely execute events again soon.

Read In-Person Events in a Vaccinated World to learn more about what to expect for the return of events.

See you on the show floor!