What the Omicron Variant Means for the Events Industry
Event organizers were largely expecting for Q1 of 2022 to be the time when the event industry would finally go back to normal. However, the Omicron variant may be throwing a wrench in that plan.
Before you finalize your 2022 event strategy, take a look at what we know about the Omicron variant and how you can adjust your event plans to stop the spread.
What We Know About Omicron
According to Dr. Fauci, the Omicron variant appears to be less severe – though he cautioned that more research still needs to be done on the variant. The omicron variant potentially causing milder symptoms than prior variants of the coronavirus is great news for hospitals that faced capacity issues throughout the pandemic.
However, the omicron is presenting a big issue for the events industry. While preliminary and anecdotal evidence suggests that the symptoms of the omicron variant are less severe, the variant is believed to be highly transmissible compared to previous variants. The first laboratory study conducted on the Omicron variant found that this variant has a stronger ability to evade antibodies from prior COVID-19 infection and the current available vaccines.
This is cause for concern for event owners that had planned to expand in-person event capacities. With the omicron variant now present in 25 states, a large in-person event could become a super-spreader event, even if you take precautions such as requiring proof of covid-19 vaccination for all attendees.
How to Adjust Your Event Strategy in the Face of Omicron
Early research on the omicron variant is still underway, but many cities, states, and countries are preparing for a COVID surge this winter. Here’s what you can do right now to prepare your event strategy to meet the challenges brought on by this new COVID variant.
Choose Hybrid Rather Than In-Person
Hybrid events are one of the best event hosting options for 2022. There is still uncertainty around what type of gatherings will be safe in 2022 and what attendees will feel comfortable with.
Right now, attendees are split on their event preferences. In a recent poll conducted on our LinkedIn, 41% of attendees indicated that they only feel comfortable attending events virtually in light of the recent spread of the Omicron variant. On the other hand, another 41% indicated that they planned to keep their existing travel plans and head to in-person events. The remaining respondents planned to keep an eye on the news or limit themselves to smaller local events. Hybrid events allow you to accommodate this wide range of preferences and comfort levels.
Hybrid events have a lot of benefits overall, but they also give you a flexible option for events in 2022 while allowing your attendees the ability to choose how they wish to participate.
Attendees that do not feel comfortable traveling or attending in person gatherings can attend from home virtually. Attendees that dearly miss the in-person excitement can come together in-person while still reaping the benefits of virtual pre-event content and networking.
Host Smaller Satellite Events with a Hybrid Model
One model of hybrid events that would work very well in the current event landscape is to host a large virtual event with small in-person satellite or regional events. Traveling and large gatherings simply may not be safe or responsible in Q1 of 2022 if omicron continues to spread and we need to wait for a new booster specifically designed to address the variant.
Small local satellite events allow people to network in person with their local community without adding the risk of infection during air travel. Event organizers can adjust each satellite event to meet local guidelines and cancel specific ones if the local area is experiencing a particularly bad surge.
This allows you to prioritize safety and still give everyone a great event experience. The virtual event should be the main component of the event and include plenty of virtual networking activities and interactive sessions so that those that can’t attend a satellite event still get to make connections and have a full event experience.
Be Prepared to Make Changes
Event planning in 2022 will require flexibility. The good news is that event organizers are better prepared now than they were in 2020.
Should the omicron variant cause a surge in COVID infections, in-person events may need to be canceled. However, you can prepare now by building up a virtual component for your event to ensure that the event can go on even if gathering in-person is not possible.
Examine your contracts closely and determine what your window is for making changes or canceling the in-person component of your event. Set a deadline for your team to examine the current COVID situation in your area and determine whether you want to move forward with a hybrid event model, or whether it’s best to convert to fully virtual. If you have a well-rounded virtual component already built in to your event on a great virtual event platform, the transition to a fully virtual event will be relatively seamless.
Take COVID Precautions
If you are able to move forward with an in-person component, take steps to keep everyone safe. Always check the local guidelines to see what is permitted or required of event organizers. There may be mask mandates, capacity limits, vaccine requirements, social distancing guidelines, or other relevant regulations to take into consideration.
While the Omicron variant is more skilled at evading antibodies, preliminary research does show that current vaccines do afford vaccinated individuals some protection. Pfizer has also stated that they could have a booster designed to fight omicron by March 2022 if needed. It has also been discovered that significantly better protection against Omicron can be achieved by getting three doses of the Pfizer vaccine as opposed to only the initial two. Thus, adjusting the definition of what is considered fully vaccinated for event attendance is also something to consider.
Should Events Ever Really Go Back to “Normal”?
A lot of event organizers are ready to go back to “normal”. However, it’s largely time to create a new normal.
The pandemic has changed a lot from how companies do business to how people prefer to connect. Companies that try to return to the pre-pandemic definition of normal will find that their strategies now feel outdated.
With many companies choosing not to return to the office at all or make it optional, employees are spreading out across the nation rather than congregating in central hubs like Silicon Valley. This can make getting everyone together for in-person events, even internal ones, a bit more difficult than it was pre-pandemic.
2020 and 2021 were also years marked by social change in addition to the coronavirus pandemic. Corporate responsibility in the areas of diversity and inclusion and sustainability have been hot topics. Many companies are looking to reduce business travel to meet new sustainability objectives.
There are also greater calls on event organizers and companies to make activities inclusive and accessible for everyone. Maintaining a virtual component to your events long-term can help companies meet these objectives and create more socially conscious events.
Add a Virtual Component with Social27 Virtual Event Platform
Looking for a way to add a virtual component to your next event? Social27 Virtual Event Platform has all the features event owners need to build a distinctive and memorable virtual event to achieve their strategy objectives.
Set up a demo today to learn more about what Social27 has to offer and prepare yourself for the new age of events.