What to bring to in-person events in 2022
What to bring to in-person events in 2022

By on in Advertising, Design & Experience

What to bring to in-person events in 2022

After many months of COVID spikes and related uncertainty, folks are now consistently moving ahead with in-person events.

But the world is a different place today than it was in 2019. COVID has changed how we approach most aspects of life, and events are no exception. The question we’ve heard a lot recently from clients is, “What do we need for in-person events?”

Things that used to be standard have gone away. New tools and innovations that make it easier to connect with virtual and in-person attendees are taking their place.

Whether you’re hosting an event, sponsoring one, or attending as an exhibitor, here are the things you should consider bringing along.

 

Digital business cards

Were business cards useful before the pandemic? Questionable.

So why are we going through the trouble to design, print, and cart around something people don’t want to keep? In the new events world, digital business cards are the way to go.

Novel solutions make it incredibly easy to share your contact information with fellow event-goers. With tools like Blinq, you can design a digital card and share it with anyone–there’s no need for both parties to be Blinq users to pass along your information.

Digital business cards eliminate the need for the receiver to copy information from paper to digital address book. Plus, they’re an environmentally-friendly alternative to those stacks of little cardstock.

 

QR codes

We wrote about the renaissance of QR codes early in the pandemic, but it looks like they may be here to stay.

Just like virtual business cards, QR codes are great for in-person events. Instead of printing out collateral that can quickly become outdated, QR codes allow you to share the latest version of your eBook or virtual brochure.

For event hosts, QR codes are a frictionless way to disseminate agendas and other important attendee information. You can even create a QR code that allows folks to get your event app. No more directing people to search for it in the app store–it’s a simple point-and-click to find and download.

As with digital business cards, QR codes are more sustainable than printing out a bunch of physical collateral. Plus, they’re a great way to increase accessibility. Have a multinational crowd attending your event? Create content in various languages so users can access the materials in the language of their choice.

And one final benefit in our more germ-conscious world: QR codes are a touchless solution.

 

Reimagined swag

Event swag is another one of those things that was already of questionable value pre-COVID. How many branded pens have you accumulated over the years? And have any of them ever inspired you to reconnect with the business that gave you said pen?

It’s time to rethink how hosts, sponsors, and exhibitors handle event freebies.

First, resist the urge to create another branded tote or water bottle. There are too many of them already–they’ve lost all meaning.

If you want to hand out a physical branded item, focus on things people will find useful and a little unique. A branded portable charger or power bank, for example, is something an attendee will likely appreciate and regularly use.

Face masks are something we never needed before 2022, but they probably won’t be going away anytime soon. Create some branded cloth masks to give away at your booth or the conference check-in table. These are useful for your event and can be washed and re-worn after the fact.

Another possibility? Digital swag bags. Not only are these customizable and trackable, but they also allow you to provide in-person and virtual attendees with access to the same experience. Many of today’s events are going hybrid; digital giveaways are a great way to make everyone feel included.

 

Tactile experiences

So many people are feeling lonely and isolated these days. Many folks are now permanently WFH, and in-person conferences might be the most face-to-face time they’ve had in a while.

Why not make it memorable? Some folks advocate for AR and VR at in-person events; I think now’s the time to go the other way entirely. Talk face-to-face with your attendees. Give them tactile experiences they couldn’t have over the phone or Zoom. Let them try your product or see your prototype in action.

I attended an event once where an exhibitor brought a machine that printed images on cookies. You could take your photo at their booth and then have it printed onto an iced sugar cookie. People went crazy for this thing–there was a line down the hall. Everyone wanted a group picture with their colleagues on a cookie.

That experience was so clever because it created connections around this exhibitor’s booth. People chuckled as they bit their friends’ heads off the printed cookies. Everyone walked around the hall comparing photos. That printer strengthened bonds between those who knew each other and sparked conversations among strangers. That’s what live events are for!

The caveat is to be aware that attendees will have different levels of comfort with close contact nowadays. Bring masks to wear around those who are wearing them. Pack branded hand sanitizer for your booth. When it comes to COVID caution level, do your best to read the room and meet each person where they are.

 

A follow-up plan

Once you’ve created community at your in-person event, keep the ball rolling. Make it easy for attendees to stay in touch with you and each other.

Hosts can use their event apps to share post-conference information like replays of speaker presentations and contact information for attendees and exhibitors. The app can even become a place where you host AMAs or other virtual mini-events on an ongoing basis to keep your brand top-of-mind with attendees.

Exhibitors can make the most of apps post-event, too. If you ask attendees to download your app, use the same tactics as event hosts to stay in touch after the conference.

We’ll likely continue to see trends and habits around in-person events shift as we learn to live with COVID permanently. It’s always a good idea to keep an eye out when you attend events to see what inspiration you can pick up from others.

In the meantime, if you need help getting your ducks in a row for an upcoming event, we’re here to help.