The words on everyone’s lips……. So, let’s be honest, there won’t be a 100% “safe” event until there is a vaccine available. It seems likely that technology will soon be in our lives to test and track COVID- 19, as a reduced lockdown could be in touching distance and apps are being trialled. In the meantime, the industry is looking at ways to make events safer and working towards a “new normal” to host business events.
Covid-19 has shown us how quickly things can change and the need to adapt. The pace of having to do things differently shows no signs of slowing down. We need to continue to adapt and keep planning and collaborating to make live events what we do – again.
Agreed, digital events are a great short-term solution, but what makes us human are those social cues and reactions we get from looking someone in the eye and listening to what they have to say. It’s impossible to deliver this virtually, no matter how much we try to stimulate interactions and engagement. Combine this with reports that video chat fatigue is already a thing, tells us we need to be thinking more about how we can physically bring people together safely to share key messages with customers and teams again – getting their thoughts and feedback in a live environment.
So, as the next scene in what feels like a Hollywood script is being drafted, what are Event Planners starting to think about?
Where and when
Getting delegates to a venue safely is the first hurdle to overcome. Choosing a more local venue will reduce a number of potential risks and introducing later start times could avoid peaks in public transport. Non city centre venues offer some advantages as well, lowering the potential touch points for the delegates attending in person. Staggering arrival times and going all digital with registration will allow guests to arrive comfortably and securely, with the inclusion of “tracking and testing” also being a potential consideration for some.
Thinking about the duration of an event with less physical touch points is next. Reducing business critical overnight stays and including alternative catering options will give a safer perception and encourage delegate attendance. Creating an environment that incorporates social distancing but keeping the human touch means thinking more about the delegate flow and using space differently.
Accommodating what the government guidelines will be in terms of attendee numbers for business events is going to bring live and digital events together for sure. Creating the energy from smaller numbers of people being together physically, and then linking them up with colleagues around the country and the globe will surely be the best of both worlds in the immediate future.
What about backstage? How are venue partners planning to open safely and anticipating what an ease in lockdown might mean for live events?
Hygiene and cleaning regimes
International hotel groups such as Hilton and IHG are publicising enhanced cleaning protocols in partnership with household brands such as Dettol to provide some peace of mind around safety to travellers and delegates. In the meantime, independent venues are replacing pick n’ mix stops with sanitisation stations in the delegate journey to protect against the risk of infection from colleagues and team members. We’re gathering this documentation and tracking who’s doing what, so that we can best advise customers.
Supply chains and catering design
Venues are preparing catering options that will likely be dictated not only with safety in mind but also by the choice of produce available due to the disruption in supply chains. On a positive this will continue to contribute to improving net zero outputs as locally sourced ingredients will feature in new recipes and menu design. Gone for now are the days of a 2-course hot/cold buffet, replaced instead with individually wrapped snacks and grab and go style lunches.
Another immediate change venue partners are implementing is social distancing. Venues are busy setting up meeting rooms to calculate what revised meeting room capacities might be, before updating virtual tours to share the “new normal” set up of an event. Groups such as the Studio are introducing one-way systems for delegates to navigate around the venue and incorporating social distancing markers to keep safe distances between everyone. Expect the last-minute nature of events to evolve as well, which is no doubt music to most event planners’ ears! Where in the past it was a badge of honour to accommodate dietary requests or late running morning refreshments this might just not be possible in a world of locally supplied food and social distancing.
As an agency we’re a touch point for all these areas, our operational understanding of venues and detailed knowledge of events pre COVID-19, is bringing everyone’s thoughts, questions and concerns together to find new solutions. Working openly to find out what might be possible to create the live event buzz we all crave but in smaller numbers, whilst keeping everyone safe and without significantly impacting costs. Within the last couple of weeks, our discussions with customers have started to move away from postponement and cancellations to thinking about future events differently: –
- What is the impact of reduced room capacities?
- Do we have a contingency plan if the space no longer fits the event?
- Which venues might be at risk in the short term?
- How will the logistics of the event look once our “coronacation” is over?
As we fast forward to 2021 and a live event stage set, I am pretty sure we know that a relatable topic for a wee while at least will be all about RESILIENCE and the HUMAN SPIRIT.
Please feel free to contact me to talk over how any of these points might impact your events in the future.
Paulineb@conferencecare.com / 07760 174442