On Thursday 6th May 2021, the Hire Space Virtual Team kicked off Part 1 of Adapt with Arena, a discovery event series for event professionals, brought to you by our brand new virtual and hybrid platform; Arena.
The morning involved a panel discussion on the topic of Covid-19 status certification; what it means and why it could be essential for the events industry going forward. The session was followed up with a Q&A session for the audience to ask the speakers any burning questions and exclusive access and demos of the Arena platform.
Our esteemed panel was made up of Simon Hughes, Chair of the Business Visits and Event Partnership (BVEP), Max Bull, Executive Director of Venue Sales at Business Design Centre, Rhiannon Kirk, Head of Sales at Delaware North and Martin Fullard, Editorial Director of Conference News.
You can watch the full video and read the key takeaways below.
Table of Contents
Watch the Panel Discussion
What is the Covid Status Certification?
The purpose of the Covid Status Certification is to ensure the safety of people attending events, as well as other visitors, guests, venue staff and crew. People attending an event must show they're either vaccinated, have natural immunity or have had a negative Covid test within a set period of time prior to arrival.
A non-discriminatory solution
The intention of the Certification is to implement a non-discriminatory solution that allows everyone to demonstrate they have some form of protection against Covid for themselves and others attending that event, allowing them entry despite not yet having a vaccine due to age or other health issues.
For example, many people working in the hospitality and events industry are in their twenties and thirties and therefore have not yet been offered the vaccination. Some workers or attendees may have medical reasons which mean they cannot receive the vaccination, which may be due to specific health conditions or being pregnant for example.
The certification allows attendees multiple methods to prove they're protected and won't be putting others at risk by entering the event. Subsequently, awkward or uncomfortable conversations that would force attendees to divulge personal information to a complete stranger, can be avoided.
Trust is a huge factor
Lateral flow kits are easy to get hold of now at no cost, making it easy for people to test themselves at home prior to arriving at the venue. At venue testing may cause logistical challenges for large scale events and should be avoided where possible. However, this does mean that the onus is put on each individual to take a test and provide accurate proof of a negative result.
It requires each of us to assess the risk and do the right thing as we come out of lockdown and start attending events. Risk mitigation factors such as social distancing, travel restrictions and self-isolation requirements also need to be factored in, much of which comes down to trust.
"Covid Status Certification is a definite weapon in the arsenal we need to put forward, in order to help the events industry get back to business."
Simon Hughes, Chairman, BVEP
You can't please everyone
Organisers will have to accept that they can't please everyone 100% of the time. As is the case with most events in Covid times, there are bound to be people who are unhappy with whatever regulations organisers put into place, so it's important to focus on doing the right thing for the greater good.
For example, it's not new for people in certain professions to have mandated medical vaccinations, so the appropriate entry requirement may depend on the type of event and the audience who will be attending. For example, an NHS conference with high-level medical professionals may benefit from mandated vaccinations, but this may not be necessary for other events and a negative Covid test may suffice.
By implementing the Covid Status Certification, the individual organiser (who will know what's appropriate for their specific event better than anyone) has the flexibility to tailor their attendees' entry experience relative to the type of event they're holding. This means they avoid forcing anyone into getting a vaccine should they not want or be able to, ultimately helping to make the event more inclusive.
It's also important to have a collaborative approach between venue and organiser to ensure that all parties are in agreement and know exactly what the protocols and processes are.
Calling for a consensus
As an industry, we are willing to support an approach that ensures the safety of everybody attending events in the UK. The issue we have had, thus far, is finding one blanket solution that works and is supported by everyone. There has been a lot of guidance driven by the industry, as well as regulations and legislation from the government, so we need to develop one clear approach that achieves the right balance. We must work alongside the government so that they can be confident that, as an industry, we are doing everything required for safe events to take place.
Will the Covid Status Certification work?
There are doubts as to whether the Covid Status Certification will work or not, especially when it comes to getting the vaccine. For the main part, people will be sensible and pragmatic in their approach to getting the vaccine, but if we start treating the vaccination programme as a 'must-have otherwise you'll be denied entry to events', we could start to see a push-back from the public and this could inadvertently slow down the vaccination programme and therefore the events industry bouncing back in the way we want.
There is also the issue of the Certification lulling attendees into a false sense of security. Excitement over returning to events, plus a negative test result, may result in attendees breaking social distancing and gaining a false perception that a negative test result means there is no risk of transmission. It's not as cut and dry as that, so organisers and venues will need to be careful to maintain the urgency of safety measures.
How important is it to fall in line with other sectors?
Simon: Extremely important. The thing we need to avoid is the events sector having to do something that other sectors are not being asked to do. If the events industry has to apply more tests, protocols or barriers than other sectors, that's going to be a disaster for us. We need to be as aligned as possible with all other sectors out there.
Rhiannon: We need a sense of cohesion, but we also need to be pragmatic about the uniqueness and the diversity of the events industry. There are things that apply in retail that aren't relevant in larger-scale events. We need to keep things as simple as possible - the more convenient we make it for people to follow guidelines, the more they will follow them.
Max: It's absolutely essential, equivalence is key.
Do you think putting the onus on attendees to get a negative test could hinder attendance, especially for smaller business events?
Simon: It will be down to individual choice. People will start to question how critical it is to attend in-person, and assess how confident they feel attending to and from an event. So elements that could hinder attendance are things like content, what the event is about, what people will get out of it and whether they feel the experience will enrich them.
Rhiannon: Tests are so accessible and easy to do, and the vast majority of people are hungry to get back to events, whether that's business or social events, that it won't be enough to put people off.
Max: There is a huge pent-up demand to attend events and doing a quick lateral flow test isn't a huge ask, so I also don't think it will hugely affect attendance. If the desire for attending is strong enough, I think people will do a lateral flow test happily. It will become muscle-memory and we will once again attend events and forge a new normal.
What role can the events media play in helping build consensus?
Martin: Events media have an obligation to give everyone all the information in the clearest, most simple terms. It's all about maintaining open communication and always convey differing opinions. The event media has to work collaboratively with the events associations, but help act as a middle man for organisers too.
Should we be expecting clearer guidance for events and hospitality from government when we reopen?
Simon: We've been clobbered by a huge amount of guidance, often with some disparities. However groups of associations have been leading this guidance, so the hope is that any guidance that comes out is done from and with the industry rather than done to the industry.
Who should bear the cost of international attendee Covid Status Certification, and in the case of the attendee contracting Covid, who should be liable to pay the healthcare surcharge or hospitalisation cost?
Rhiannon: We want to welcome people back and be as open and accommodating as possible. If it came to that, I think it would fall under travel insurance. Whoever normally pays for the travel insurance, whether that's the individual or company, this party would likely be liable for this cost. That said, getting travel insurance at the moment is difficult. This will likely not be the summer for international travel to events.
Max: Business insurance will be the liable party for this.
About The Speakers
Simon Hughes, Chairman, BVEP
Since 2012, Simon has run a business consultancy specialising in providing strategic services to the events sector. Previously he spent 10 years as Director of Live Events at COI, where he worked on a number of high profile events for a diverse range of government departments and agencies. He has worked in creative industry management and production roles for over 30 years. He is passionate about getting the end-to-end production process right for live events. He believes that bringing people together to share ideas, learning and experience remains one of the most powerful communication tools available today. Widely recognised by the industry over the years for his varied contribution, he serves on the board of Evcom and is chair of the Business Visits and Events Partnership (BVEP).
Max Bull, Executive Director of Venue Sales, Business Design Centre
Max’s career at the Business Design Centre began in 1998 as catering supervisor for Sodexho. The BDC soon became aware of Max’s ability and he was asked to join to support the launch of the new Gallery Hall conference space in 2000. Max is recognised as playing a pivotal role in the development of the BDC’s fastest growing area within the business and was inducted to the Board in 2012. Now celebrating his 21st year at the BDC, he is responsible for all venue sales throughout the venue. Max has a prominent presence in the events industry and is the current Chairman of the Association of Event Venues (AEV).
Rhiannon Kirk, Head of Sales, Delaware North
Rhiannon is Head of Sales currently working across London Stadium and Wembley Stadium. With over eight years’ experience in the events industry, she has worked across a range of unique venues including the National Theatre and Barbican. After several months on furlough she is both grateful and excited to be back to business and is eager for the return to events where no one struggles to find the unmute button.
Martin Fullard, Editorial Director, Conference News
Martin Fullard is Editorial Director of Conference News magazine. An experienced, award-winning journalist covering a variety of fields, Fullard has been covering the conference and meetings sector since August 2016, appearing on many panels and leading discussions relevant to the events industry. He campaigns alongside the trade associations to government to achieve greater recognition for the events industry.
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