After a year of disruption, in-person corporate events, trade shows, and conferences are beginning to make a comeback. Much like everything else disrupted by COVID-19, though, the journey back to business-as-usual hasn’t been a straight line. Still, despite the false starts, occasional confusion, and rapidly evolving circumstances driven by the threat of more aggressive disease variants, organizers are pushing on because they know these events are valuable -- provided, of course, that they’re conducted safely.
But what steps can event organizers take to ensure the safety of attendees and staff without sacrificing the benefits of in-person interaction? Today we’ll dive into a few considerations:
Focus on your core audience. While many events have traditionally cast wide nets in search of attendees, the pandemic makes large gatherings inherently risky. To defray these risks, consider ways to break your large event into a number of smaller, more targeted events with lower capacity. This could involve replacing a single event with a smaller event series, or it might involve running those smaller events in parallel. This should come naturally to veteran conference organizers used to providing different attendee “tracks.” You’ll not only keep people safer by limiting their contact with others, but also create opportunities to offer truly tailored, audience-specific event content that will deliver more value to your attendees.
Choose the right venue. Warm-weather destinations have always been popular for major events, and the pandemic only serves to make them more appealing. Wherever possible, choose venues that allow you to move your event out of crowded conference rooms and into the fresh air. Even when indoor activities are required, it’s still a good idea to pick a location that will allow for outdoor dining and social events in order to reduce risk. Additionally, pay attention to local COVID-19 case numbers, and try to avoid gathering in areas where the disease is spreading rapidly. If you must, however, work closely with venue staff to ensure that you’re compliant with all local pandemic-related regulations.
Don’t neglect the tech. Nothing can replace the benefits of real face-to-face engagement, but we can still learn a great deal from this last year of fully virtual events. Specifically, organizers should look for creative ways to incorporate technology into the event experience to enhance safety and value at the same time. Instead of cramming everyone into an auditorium for a keynote, stream major sessions to a number of smaller, lower-capacity rooms. Allow for full or partial virtual participation from attendees around the globe. Use apps to communicate with attendees effectively (and to contact trace in the event it’s necessary). The possibilities are almost limitless.
Test, as always. The reality is that COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, and the delta variant creates additional risk and uncertainty even when large numbers of your attendees are vaccinated. All event organizers need a comprehensive, low-impact testing strategy in order to prevent or contain potential outbreaks, period.
Integrated testing, when combined with proper planning and creative problem solving, is the best defense event organizers have against outcomes that are at best embarrassing and at worst tragic. As the leader in COVID-19 testing and pandemic recovery solutions, Wellstand is proud to partner with major events to keep people safe. If you’re planning your return to the world of conferences, contact us to learn how we can help you.