Dusting Off the Lanyards

Municipal clerks are returning to in-person events and conferences. Here’s why the conferences you once knew and took part in are reflecting a new reality created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

After more than a year of empty hotel meeting rooms and conference centers, in-person events are slowly making their way back onto our calendars. According to a survey by NASDAQ, 80 percent of businesses and organizations plan to hold in-person events in 2021.

The roughly $11 billion U.S. trade show and exhibition industry is not expected to recover for about two years, yet organizers and participants are cautiously optimistic that the success of COVID vaccinations and public safety protocols will once again make it possible to work and network with prospects and peers face to face.

Coffee, conversation – and caution

Municipal clerks and planners are also dusting off their lanyards in anticipation of the return to “Zoom-less” gatherings with customers and colleagues. Many are ready to hit the road, but some are still anxious and cautious as to what to expect when they enter the conference hall. And they are right to feel that way as the pandemic has changed a lot of the rules when it comes to interacting again in public.

Balancing health, safety and cost with a new reality

A recent Forbes article on the return to in-person conferences states that after months of working from home and social distancing, many people are hesitant to jump into crowds of any size. A survey cited in the article found that 66 percent of people won’t attend an in-person event without a COVID-19 vaccine. Companies and local governments that have been hit hard financially by the pandemic are also hesitant to spend money to attend full in-person events, especially when online events have proven to be effective and far less costly to produce.

Taking a phased approach

As a result of the pandemic, many organizers are opting to employ a phased approach to reentering the live conference arena that may include limiting the number of people in a room at once or moving certain parts of conferences outside. Others are experimenting with hybrid conference models that combine in-person elements with socially distant technology. All these creative solutions aim to improve safety while offering hesitant participants a way to come back slowly, safely – and with less anxiety.

Tips on making a safe return

Follow post-pandemic events etiquette: There will be new norms of interacting with other participants in a physical space. After a year apart, we all want to exchange handshakes and hugs. Be sure to follow the protocol for the event. If it’s not communicated or posted, be sure to ask.

Content over networking: In a return to in-person events, the urge to linger and speak with colleagues after a session will be strong. During the first few events you return to, be sure to limit post-presentation networking if the space is limited. Or move conversations outside or to a more open space.

Avoid in-person fatigue: With a Zoom meeting, you could easily mute yourself or sign off if you needed a break from the conversation. Returning to in-person events and trying to speak with as many people as possible to make up for lost time can be tiring. Pace yourself.

Consider going hybrid: If the event is over multiple days, consider attending the presentations you’d like to see most in person while taking in others remotely if the option is available.


Will We Have In-Person Events and Conferences in 2021? Forbes

Grab Your Lanyard. Tradeshows Are Plotting a Comeback. The Wall Street Journal

How to Calm Anxieties About Returning to In-Person Events, Successful Meetings

Three Ways In-Person Events Could Change in 2021, Forbes

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