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4 Scenarios for Conferences in 2021 Amid COVID-19 Uncertainty

15 January, 2021 | By Matthias Gutzmann

I’m an optimist by nature, but also a realist. Although I think that 2021 will be the “Year of the Vaccine”, in-person events in 2021, even in the second half of the year, are far from guaranteed.

Here are four scenarios which respond to different ways the COVID-19 pandemic could affect holding large events in 2021.

Which scenario do you think is most likely?

Scenario A: “Normal” conference

  • The conference will be held at the venue and will include the usual agenda packed with all attendees
  • There will be pre-event activities across the city including dinners and happy hours
  • Feasibility of this scenario largely depends on the roll-out of a possible vaccine for COVID-19 and the availability of reliable rapid onsite testing for those who can’t prove they are COVID-19 negative

Scenario B: Socially distant conference – at 1.5 meters

  • This version would involve the usual agenda and stages — but this time with social distancing. The audience would be required to stay 1.5 metres away from each other at all times
  • This option would require a new seating layout which would mean less available space and approx. 60% fewer attendees overall 
  • There will also be limits to the social pre-event activities (dinners, happy hours, etc.)

Scenario C: Conference with travel restrictions

  • This scenario is for a situation where some international attendees would be unable to travel
  • Like Scenario B, with social distancing, plus fewer international attendees
  • If they are unable to travel internationally, they would still be able to attend the virtual component of a hybrid event

Scenario D: Conference in lockdown

  • Worst-case scenario. If the country ends up in a strict lockdown situation again, there will still be a conference. However, this version will not involve a live audience nor activities around the city. Instead, it will be a virtual-only conference

Which scenario do you think is most likely?

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