. What It's Like to Attend an In-Person Event in 2020 | Northstar Meetings Group

What It's Like to Attend an In-Person Event in 2020

The River Valley Ranch in Manchester, Md., held an outdoor business leadership workshop in mid-September.

Reconvening for Recovery
This event, to be held Oct. 13-14, is designed to both show and tell how to host in-person business events that also contain a virtual component. Register here.

A few weeks ago, a friend forwarded me an invitation to a business event, and it wasn't a virtual event. It was in-person! The River Valley Ranch in Manchester, Md., was holding a business leadership workshop and corporate events showcase in mid-September. 

I was shocked and considered the enormity of the decision. Is it the right time to travel or too early? Will I be safe or would this be a high-risk activity? Would they have good food or stale muffins? All of these questions swirled around my head as I tried to grasp the consequences.

I do not want to minimize the serious nature of this pandemic. I know people who have been infected by Covid-19. Thankfully, they recovered. I know of people who did not recover, but I didn't know them personally. 

I don't see myself as a risk-taker or even courageous. The people with courage are our first responders, our neighbors in law enforcement, firefighters and EMTs. But I decided to attend to the event and want to share my experience, as I try to safely regain more control in my life and hopefully start speaking again at live events soon.

The event invitation stressed the importance of safety, which I observed first-hand from the moment I arrived. At the registration table, I was greeted by a team of mask-clad staff members, who took my temperature and thanked me for coming to the event. 

In total, I believe there were roughly 50 attendees. The half-day event was held outdoors with a heightened awareness regarding social distancing. Seats were appropriately spaced apart from each other during the presentations. Afterwards, we took a walking tour of the facilities and had the option of entering the buildings to see the meeting rooms up close, if we felt comfortable doing so. Most importantly, I was able to meet and speak with people in person. In the old days, I believe we called this "networking."

The event was an absolute success for me, and I walked away with a number of new connections. I hope River Valley Ranch is able to generate new business and host more events.

We've all read about and experienced the layoffs and closed businesses. We empathize with our colleagues and friends whose jobs are gone. 

I don't want to encourage you one way or another to travel or attend in-person events. We all need to make our own decisions — and respect the decisions made by others.

Personally, I'm excited by the thought of participating in additional in-person events, meeting more industry professionals and resuming my speaking career. The live-event industry, which has been stagnant for many months, is moving forward again. More events are slowly being held and more companies are planning in-person or hybrid meetings in 2021, which gives me hope.

Venues such as River Valley Ranch have chosen to invest in their future and find a way to host safe in-person meetings during this uncertain time. The pandemic hasn't extinguished their spirit and "we can't" is simply not in their vocabulary. They are adapting and showing a way forward for the industry. 

Mason Harris is a motivational speaker and consultant based in the Washington, D.C. area. As an entrepreneur, he is fortunate to have had both "successes" and "lesser successes" to learn from. He enjoys sharing these lessons and his rules of Chutzpah in presentations and workshops.