Coronavirus lockdowns might be loosening in countries all over the world, heralding the restart of in-person events. But corporate event planners shouldn’t assume things will go back to normal. On the contrary, the future of events and conferences will be substantially different from what we’ve seen before. One aspect of the COVID-19 pandemic that won’t be going away any time soon is social distancing. Keeping six feet (or two metres) apart when out in public will still be the norm – including at live events. Here are three tips to help you deal with the repercussions of social distancing at your post-lockdown event.
Post Reminders and Coordinate Logistics
You’ll have to give attendees and staff many reminders to maintain social distance while at events. Several parts of your event logistics will be impacted as well.
- Travel and Transportation – If you’re using shuttle buses or taxis to move people around your event, or transporting them to their hotel, you’ll have to account for six feet of distance inside these vehicles.
- Signs and banners – Posting signs and banners around your event will be necessary to remind staff and delegates to maintain a proper distance. You can set up your room to encourage this distance and keep people from getting too close, but having reminders posted will help get the message across as well.
- Screen venues for safe conditions – As a conference organiser, you’ll have to work more closely than ever with venue owners. You’ll both have to ensure that the venue is equipped for social distancing, as well as sanitation and disinfection.
- Clear communication – The most important step you can take to promote social distancing at your event is implementing clear communication. Go over every detail with your staff and send guidelines out to your delegates ahead of time. Nobody will want to come across any unpleasant surprises at your event, so communicating effectively – and often – is a requirement.
Proper Room Layout
The set up of your conference rooms will also have to accommodate social distancing. Queues, seating, tables, and movement between booths should all be positioned so guests can respect the six-foot distance.
- Registration and queues – Organising registration is already a big undertaking, but adding social distancing measures makes it even more daunting. You could put outlines on the floor in tape, marking off where people should stand as they wait. Directing the flow of people in one direction will also be important.
- Seated dining – Self-service buffets or other self-dining options won’t be possible at events in the immediate post-corona future. Servers and staff wearing protective gear with available sanitation nearby will be best for food and beverage. This type of service might be more expensive, but this could be one area where event planners and venues collaborate to come up with cost-effective solutions that still respect proper health and safety measures.
- Layout – Conference room sets should be designed with social distancing in mind. That could mean keeping rows of chairs six feet apart to listen to a keynote speaker, making wider aisles in between booths as expos, or setting up multiple smaller areas for guests to relax rather than larger ones. Considerations for delegates both while they’re stationary and moving about the event should be taken as well.
Networking and Social Activities
The main draw of live events is the chance to network and participate in activities with others. While networking doesn’t have to cease at socially-distanced events, it does need to be carried out cautiously. There are some smart ways that corporate event organisers can plan social activities while keeping everyone safe.
- Fewer people – Overall, conferences will have to limit the number of attendees. Many event planning experts are predicting that small and medium-sized events will become more popular than ever in the months following the coronavirus lockdown. Not only will public health restrictions keep people from holding large gatherings, people might also avoid large events by choice.
- Multiple sessions or days – One way to make your event succeed without having to severely limit guests is holding it over multiple days or sessions. For social and networking activities, you’ll have to break people up into smaller groups to maintain the social distance.
- Go hybrid – If you don’t want to chop up your event into several days, you could make it hybrid. Hybrid events host a small number of delegates in person and live stream the event for everyone else who doesn’t attend. Virtual and hybrid events are poised to become the new norm in the events industry, at least for the several months following the coronavirus deconfinement.
Final Thoughts on Socially-Distanced Events
By giving proper consideration to your event logistics, room layout, and social activities, you can achieve a safe level of social distance. At Purple Patch Group, a London-based event management company, we predict that conference organisers will have to deal with social distance for the foreseeable future. It is, therefore, a wise move to implement these changes now.