How to Create Engaging Socially Distanced Events as the Pandemic Subsides

June 1, 2021

With things looking more optimistic for a return to in-person interactions in 2021, it’s natural to wonder what will happen with large gatherings and events. Companies were forced to move online in 2020, which disrupted their existing in-person event marketing strategies. It might be difficult to imagine “returning to normal” at this time, but plenty of people are ready to get out of their houses and do something different.

This summer, you should think outside of the box when it comes to experiential marketing. Brands are already designing live experiences that preserve contactless engagement, such as 7-Eleven’s overnight gaming stay. Whether you organize a drive-in experience or some other socially distanced event, you have the chance to shake things up and shift away from digital in 2021.

Safe Event Possibilities in the COVID-19 Era

Although 72% of Americans don’t feel comfortable attending sporting events or other crowded gatherings without the COVID-19 vaccine, this year’s Super Bowl demonstrates that live events can come back safely. As more people receive the vaccine, you’ll likely see organizations plan more in-person events for the coming year — albeit on a smaller scale than before the pandemic.

Micro-events are safe alternatives to large gatherings. They have fewer attendees, but they’re unique and meaningful for each participant. Additionally, they capitalize on the fact that people are more comfortable gathering with their “pods” or “bubbles.” You’ll likely see companies working with influencers to amplify micro-events locally and make them appear exclusive and desirable.

Drive-in events will also return to the forefront. Dunkin’ already did precisely that with its Valentine’s Day contest campaign. Couples could submit a photo on Instagram with the #DunkinIDo hashtag for a chance to renew their vows in one of the chain’s drive-thru lanes. Your target audiences are craving connections, and hosting an event of this nature can help you meet that need.

Making Events Memorable With Technology

Socially distanced experiences are unique by nature, but you can still use technology to elevate your in-person events this summer. Tech enhancements are easily integrated and scalable based on your budget, which is perfect for events with limited or fluctuating attendee numbers.

So, use technology to make your event trendy. The key to getting the most out of micro-events and drive-in experiences is creating fully integrated campaigns with social amplification, PR opportunities, influencer marketing, and digital ads. The more integrated your campaign and marketing strategy is, the more memorable — and successful — your campaign will be. Just remember to focus on people. The whole point of experiential marketing is to help audiences connect with your brand and each other.

Creating Successful Socially Distanced Events

Socially distanced events can go a long way if you develop and execute them well. Here are a few best practices to follow when planning in 2021:

1. Define your marketing strategy.

Take a hard look at your most successful past events to evaluate what made them work so well. Can you create something similar? Even if you have to modify a tried-and-true blueprint, keep an open mind. You might find a formula that produces even better results. You have to experiment to identify new opportunities for your brand — just remember to evaluate success using KPIs that are relevant in the pandemic era.

2. Prioritize people’s safety.

If you’re hosting an in-person event, it’s your responsibility to help people feel comfortable and safe. Consider offering a hybrid experience that gives people the option to attend in person or remotely. For in-person attendees, keep meeting areas sanitized and make sure masks are worn at all times. People will notice if social distancing protocols are not in place, which is why you need to communicate your safety measures ahead of time. Find ways to convey warmth and enthusiasm while keeping safety top-of-mind throughout the event.

3. Reach audiences outside of the event.

Explore how your activation can come to life digitally. Connect with target audiences through relevant social media platforms, using these channels to involve remote participants and authentically create content. You might host a smaller event this summer, but you can extend the reach of your experiential marketing campaign by using the right digital tools and tech. By targeting people beyond the event and showing them that you care, you can increase brand interaction in a crowded marketplace.

There are countless ways to create meaningful, socially distanced events. This summer, find ways to safely experiment with experiential marketing ideas that empower your customers and supercharge brand awareness. Who knows? You might bring people closer together than you realize.

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Partner Voices

As event professionals and destinations adjust, adapt and evolve in these uncharted waters, it is imperative that substantial resources be put in place for all of the people responsible for planning and executing trade shows, expositions and conventions. An example is Mohegan Sun, which built an industry-leading, COVID-19 Resource Center with a combination of pictures from recently held successful events (the property reopened on May 1, 2020) along with several widely available and informative documents, such as an evolving operational framework: