Event planners are well versed in the steps required to plan, prepare for and host successful events. However, there is a good chance that COVID-19 may alter these steps, at least in the coming months.
While everyone is hopeful that life will be closer to normal when fall arrives, it may be wise to plan for additional precautions, so participants are comfortable and feel safe attending in person. Here are some tips for creating safe, successful events this fall.
Implement strict guidelines for participants
To ensure everyone’s safety, it may be a good idea to implement strict guidelines for participants and everyone involved in hosting to follow at your event. Make sure everyone understands and is willing to comply with the guidelines before the event. Consider sending everyone an agreement to sign that outlines expectations before registrations are accepted. Also, make sure participants know they must honor these guidelines during the event or they will be asked to leave. No exceptions.
Guidelines may include thermal scanning and brief health screenings before entry, washing hands before entering every meeting room, no handshaking, wearing a mask at all times, and keeping a social distance, staying six feet apart from other people at all times. Include in the guidelines the understanding that should a participant fall ill or exhibit symptoms including a cough, chills, body aches, headache or fever during the event, they must leave immediately.
As an incentive, you may offer a drawing for a gift card, discount or other enticement for everyone who submits their signed agreement before a certain date.
Maintain a clean and sanitary environment for eventgoers
In return for asking participants to honor guidelines, it is imperative that you, as the host, have steps in place to maintain a clean and sanitary environment for participants.
Additional steps to take include:
• Provide hand sanitizer and wipes at the registration table
• Offer complimentary masks to participants at check-in if they did not bring their own
• Provide a small bottle of hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and tissues.
• Ensure your venue has sanitation stations with hand sanitizer, tissues and trashcans placed in multiple locations around the event site.
• Make sure your event site supports social distancing by displaying six feet distancing markers.
• Have signs reminding everyone of the best hygiene practices outlined in the agreement they signed. Reminders via email, social media and push notifications on cellular phones during the event can also be helpful.
• Confirm the venue wipes down podiums and microphones between each speaker
Adjust meeting logistics
Set up meeting rooms so each participant can maintain a safe, social distance from other participants. Arrange chairs or tables in such a way that everyone will have adequate space to feel comfortable. If possible, have small, individual tables with chairs so everyone can have their own station. Place name cards at each station so the same participant sits there during each session.
Since spacing participants apart in meeting rooms may mean that you accommodate fewer attendees, you may decide to have a “repeat” conference the next day (or several days later if it is a multi-day program) for another group of participants. Also, consider having a staggered event day schedule, including varying arrival and departure times. This step may be implemented by registration number, last name or other method that easily groups participants. Be creative in staggering lunch, breaks and sessions to limit movement of large groups at a time.
Each state governance is different, but in NC, no more than ten in a room is allowed. If you event is larger, offer streaming into multiple rooms from one location.
If possible, schedule more small group sessions and try to minimize times when all participants gather in the same room.
Add welcomed elements
To lighten the mood, take the attention away from pandemic precautions and help create a pleasant, calm environment, consider adding a few unexpected, but welcomed elements to your event. Have calming music during breaks and lunch, either over a sound system or from a musician playing a portable keyboard or stringed instrument. Offer “laugh breaks” with a local comedian performing or YouTube videos for short periods during breaks and/or lunch. After all, laughter is great medicine! Blooming plants and flower arrangements can also have a positive effect on the environment. Think about other elements you would personally enjoy and consider bringing them into the mix. Be creative!
The global pandemic may change the way events are planned and hosted, but that does not mean they have to be any less informative, enjoyable and highly anticipated. Be open-minded and creative, and prepare to host a safe, successful event!