When everything moved online in 2020, conferences followed suit. While a great many events featured stellar content and speakers and were well organized and executed without any technical glitches, others struggled to make the transition. Every conference organizer tried their best under the circumstances. 

For their part, executive speakers and thought leaders have also figured out how best to move forward in our virtual environment – some setting up mini-recording studios within their homes.

One thing that our clients and the conference managers we’ve spoken with agree upon is that they are thrilled to return to live events. They also agree that the next year will continue to bring a transition of sorts. Some conference attendees and speakers are eager to be back in a physical event hall or on a live stage. Others prefer the convenience and accessibility of virtual agenda programming, and conference producers have taken notice of this.

This means that the next 12 months will be somewhat unpredictable when it comes to conference planning. How do you work with your executives and event team to ensure you are taking advantage of the visibility opportunities available? How to do you remain strategic when long-term planning is unpredictable? Here are a few suggestions for navigating conference participation over the next 12 months when everything is up in the air:

Items may have shifted during flight:

Many conferences moved their dates to the second half of the year in hopes of hosting some live component. Events that typically begin planning their agenda in the winter may be holding off until spring. Conference organizers have learned that some session formats work better online than others. They may want to wait to program the agenda until they know which sessions will be on stage and which will be on screen. Be sure to double check the scheduled dates you have listed for your target events. Many of them may have already changed – and may continue to change throughout the year. When you suggest a speaker, if the pitch is tied to a timely announcement, also explain how the idea will continue to be relevant in the future.

Make sure your speaker is ready for takeoff:

Some executives are itching to get back in front of customers. Many thrive on speaking and want to be back on a live stage. Others are more reluctant to travel, or have found virtual speaking simpler to manage. Conference organizers are planning their events while trying to balance speaker and attendee comfort levels. When suggesting a speaker, be transparent about their willingness to travel. If the conference is only accepting in-person speakers, they will tell you that. Sometimes there is a compromise to be made when the speaker/topic is a great fit. 

Ensure a Smooth Landing:

Once you confirm a speaker for a live event, make sure they are aware of any COVID protocols: Is proof of vaccination required? Will testing be required onsite? Check in regularly as regulations are changing daily.

Remember to brief the exec on any onsite logistics, and be sure to ask all of the questions you needed to ask pre-pandemic: Where is their session located within the conference venue? What time should they arrive? Is there a speaker ready room? Should they bring slides with them or submit them in advance? What is the dress code?

Finally, be clear on the process for sharing the session online. If a conference is selling a virtual pass, they may restrict access to the video. Ask how it will be shared and whether the speaker will have the rights to use clips.