Social distancing has prompted a rethink of events, a sector hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis
Around the world, the first glimmers of hope can be seen for the events business that was curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Large gatherings were cancelled or postponed, or shifted online. But now the lockdown is being loosened — and it’s not just schools that are reopening.
In the UK, at least some of the hospitality industry could restart in July, albeit with social-distancing measures still in place. Many hotels in pockets of Europe, such as Spain and Greece, as well as in China have reopened. While in Australian and New Zealand both countries have largely dropped maximum capacity restrictions.
But the social distancing has prompted a rethink of events. The organisers are keen to resume in-person meet-ups and some venues are working hard to open safely. How or when events restart remains an open question, but when they do, attendance will be limited and there will be strict PPE and sanitation measures put in place.
These are just some of the measures event-organisers can consider, so as to ensure a safe and successful resumption of business that could not come quickly enough.
Social distance guidelines vary around the world, but most governments have settled on between one and up to four meters spacing between people in public spaces to reduce the chance of transmission of COVID-19 (handshakes are strictly forbidden). This will significantly limit capacity at events, meaning that organisers will have to get creative to ensure maximum capacity and minimum disruption.
Seats should be dispersed accordingly and numbered, to avoid attendees coming into unnecessary contact while searching for a chair. Separate entrances to avoid crowding around doors is also a good idea, as is spreading out parking spots if possible. Given space is at a premium, organisers should be strict on RSVPs and may consider asking for a deposit to reserve a spot. It makes sense to extend the event’s length and stagger delegates to maximise attendance.
Choosing the right venue will be crucial to holding a successful socially-distanced event. The place will need adequate space, but it also makes sense to choose one that has its own strict internal policies around COVID-19.
Hotels, including the Four Seasons and Marriott chains, are insisting on temperature checks on arrival for guests, and mandatory mask wearing to reduce the chance of transmission. At any venue, you could consider asking your delegates to wear face coverings and gloves, or provide them with such items on entry, along with hand sanitiser. Pre-made individual meals (no buffets), virtual check-ins and spaced out lifts and corridors are also common measures. In many venues, there are friendly wardens to direct people about.
Meanwhile, venues need a good sanitation service. Many are having to regularly clean tables and chairs to reduce the risk of infection. It makes sense to clarify a cleaning commitment when choosing a venue.
Technology may also be part of the solution, with hotel or conference services being made available digitally to lesson physical touchpoints. Conferences were already moving in this direction, with attendees posing questions to speakers and leaving feedback via smartphones. Brochures and timetables could also be put online, virtual check-ins enabled, and instant audience polling can be done digitally. So this not only makes events safer but potentially improves engagement too.
The reopening of events will be a positive development for schools and especially development offices looking to engage with their alumni. Organisers will need to be creative and adapt to a new normal. The lockdown measures present many challenges, but they have also highlighted the innate human need for connection. That may only be a good thing for the events business.ABOUT TOUCANTECH: ToucanTech
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