As in-person conferences announce their dates this fall, it’s essential to understand the right questions to ask before attending any event. Event organizers are hard at work to make their event a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are the top 10 questions all attendees should have answered before going to a conference this fall.
1. What is your refund policy?
As an attendee, you should avoid events that do not have a clear, attendee-friendly refund policy. Outside of it being tone-deaf, it’s wrong. Hosting an event in 2021 and not offering refund options is detrimental to those with limited capital, which often have the most to gain from attending a financial services event, including young financial professionals and underserved populations.
From here on out, it has become table stakes to offer a flexible refund policy. For Summit, all registrations are eligible for a 100% refund up to 90 days out and even past that date, we are offering a complimentary registration transfer to 2022. When we polled our previous event attendees on what they are looking for in future events, having a clear refund policy came first, and it wasn't close. It beat out attendees wearing masks, providing socially distanced seating, and hosting the event within driving distance. In years past, it has been challenging to determine what circumstances afforded a penalty-free registration cancellation. Moving forward, we won’t sponsor an event that doesn’t offer an attendee refund option. You’re telling me an attendee that can no longer attend due to caring for an ill family member has to eat that ticket price? Get out of here.
2. Will the event be sharing the venue and facilities with other groups?
You’ve chosen a fantastic event, and you’re confident in the outlined health and hygiene standards. You arrive at the venue only to find one, two, or even three other events running during the same time, and you quickly realize their commitments to hygiene are much lower than the event you are currently attending. This is the problematic situation attendees find themselves in when attending events at large venues or convention centers that have to share facilities with other outside organizations.
It used to be an inconvenience for event planners to share facilities, but now it is being included in hotel contracts that no other outside organizations will be onsite during the event. Even if you’ve done everything right to keep things safe and clean, it defeats the purpose when another group at the same property doesn’t follow the rules.
3. Could you provide a list of safety measures your event will be taking?
In addition to your personal preferences, here are a few critical items all events should provide:
- Providing all attendees with hygiene supplies like hand sanitizer, face masks, and wipes.
- Rigorous cleaning routine and multi-shift sanitization of high traffic areas.
- Open coordination with the local health department on best practices and up-to-date health regulations.
These are a few of the priority safety measures. Depending on where and when your event is will determine the best course of action for additional options.
4. Is there a full-time employee dedicated to the health and safety of employees?
Most luxury hotels will have a dedicated full-time employee for attendee health and safety, and depending on the size of the property, many will have a team. These staff members are dedicated to large events and are responsible for working with the conference organizer on sanitization schedules, overseeing food and beverage service measures, and ensuring hotel staff maintains hygiene standards at all times.
5. Are hotel or airline discounts available?
When you’re planning your trip, it’s important to check-in with your event staff to see what discounts are available for attending. Most large-scale events will have pre-negotiated deals with the major airline carriers and a discounted room rate at the venue. One thing to note is there usually is a cutoff date for these promotions and won’t be available when booking something last minute.
6. Are people registering for the in-person event, or are the attendee numbers inflated with virtual attendees?
One of the most valuable aspects of attending an in-person event is networking. Understanding the who and the where for attendees can give visibility into your chances of interacting with like-minded professionals. Conference organizers won’t share personal information, but most can easily share the job titles of those currently registered and the in-person registration count. Some follow up questions to ask yourself:
- If you’re looking to network and find colleagues that live nearby, it’s good to understand where attendees are from. Are they coming from around the country? The world? Or is it a local or regional event?
- Are the attendees mostly sponsors? What’s the ratio of sponsors to attendees?
- Is the event geared towards new advisors or those already established?
7. Is parking available on-site?
If you would prefer to drive, it’s essential to understand the venue’s parking options. For resort-style properties, this usually isn’t an issue as one of the selling points is ample space. The difficulty comes with events hosted in a city’s downtown area. Some additional questions to ask on parking availability:
- Is there a dedicated parking garage or are you limited to street parking?
- Is self-parking available, or is it valet parking only?
- Is there security?
- What is the price per night?
Most events pre-negotiate parking rates for their attendees. If you’re unsure about what options are available, contact the event organizer and they will be able to assist you.
8. Do you offer a limited pass?
Whether it’s over three days or an entire week, maybe you’re not comfortable with attending for more than a day or two and would prefer a limited option. One thing to ask is if they offer day passes and what rates are available. Many events are offering a day pass for those attendees looking to visit for one day and not stay the night.
9. What virtual options will be available?
Whether it’s due to health concerns or your company hasn’t resumed travel, you don’t have to be left out when an event offers a virtual option.
The only firm recommendation I have is you should never pay the same price for a virtual event as an in-person event. The cost to produce a virtual event versus an in-person event is wildly different. We’ll avoid getting into the weeds too much but just to start, virtual events require zero catering, travel, hotel contracts, or any big A/V production. I’d like to give some of these events the benefit of the doubt, but it feels lazy not to differentiate ticket prices that reflect the actual hosting cost.
10. What is the plan in case things have to change?
While we’re hopeful 2021 will kick off this decade’s roaring twenties, it’s worth asking about the event’s plan should things not improve as quickly as desired. This goes back to the first question and making sure you have and know your refund options. If the refund deadline has passed, don’t register for an event that won’t let you at least roll over your registration to the next year.
Remember, the event is hosting you. You’re taking time out of your schedule to attend and have every right to ask as many questions as needed. As you’re navigating the improving news, don’t hesitate to contact your friendly neighborhood event planner. We love hearing ideas on how to make events more successful for you.
For more information on how the Fearless Investing Summit answers each of these questions, visit www.riskalyze.com/fearless/faq