What does the future of events look like? When will we get back to normal, and what will that normal be? Which, if any, of the practices we adopted during COVID-19 will become standard? This uncertainty is the elephant in every room, and the truth is—no one really knows. All we can do is speculate.
Even so, perhaps you’re wondering what your colleagues in the faith-based events industry are predicting. “In the future, I don’t think there will ever be only one way to hold gatherings,” says Angie Carruthers, events director for Victory Church in Atlanta. “However, I believe that most events will return to face-to-face once the COVID-19 cases are at manageable levels.”
Ademah Muhammad, director of special projects for the Nation of Islam, agrees.
“Virtual and semivirtual events are here to stay, but nothing takes the place of in-person events,” he says. Muhammad also adds that he looks forward to resuming face-to-face events, however they may look.
If virtual events remain an option indefinitely for conferences, then hotel contracts will continue to be affected. Shirley Moore of Apostolic Assemblies of Christ Inc. is in the process of planning her organization’s 2022 conference. Before she selects hotels and signs a single contract, she plans to poll her constituents to gauge how many plan to travel to attend the event in person.
“I don’t want to end up paying for tons of extra rooms that won’t be used,” Moore says. Polling will also be important for Moore’s budgeting and planning for any other in-person expenses such as food and beverage, transportation and, of course, meeting space.
Though event planners may be able to reduce their budgets for in-person expenses, other line items will increase. More resources will be needed to support streaming and any expenses related to producing a seamless virtual experience. Investments to consider include reliable software, hardware and even an online host.
Plus, what about the expense of cleaning? Though it’s impossible to know what kind of thorough sanitizing will need to be done in the future, some event planners speculate that germs will continue to be a bigger concern than they were before the pandemic.
Moore is curious about personal contact and what the new normal will be for greeting one another.
“All my life, we shook hands and hugged. Now, how many hands will we shake?” she wonders. “I guess we’ll need hand sanitizer everywhere.”
Carruthers agrees and is thinking through the logistical changes she’ll need to make to the events she facilitates at her large church.
“I plan to make sanitizing stations more readily available, offer contactless credit card payments and digital sales, and disinfect surfaces more frequently—especially during flu season,” she says.
Though no one can see into the future, most event planners seem to agree that events will likely be hybrid moving forward. But for those with Zoom fatigue, hopefully attending in person will be a safe option in the near future.