On Thursday 13th August, the Hire Space team arrived for their first away day in person since before lockdown, held at the stunning RSA House.
As RSA House is a Hire Space Accredited Safer Venue, there were a number of measures taken to ensure the event followed guidance laid out in the Safer Events - A Framework For Action White Paper. Here's how the day unfolded.
Table of Contents
To organise and attend a team away day which followed the strict guidelines laid out in the Hire Space Safer Events & Venue Accreditations. 16 people attended in person, and 10 attended virtually.
What we did
The team arrived in staggered groups from 10am, in order to avoid peak times on public transport. Attendees were encouraged to walk or cycle where possible, providing free cycle storage at the venue to incentivise this.
On arrival, all attendees were required to put on a mask before entering the venue, before having their temperature taken and using the hand sanitiser provided. If an attendee was recorded to have a temperature higher than 38 degrees, they were asked to return home or try again 15 minutes later if they had no other symptoms. Luckily, everyone was below 38 degrees, so the away day kicked off stress-free! Attendees were also given their own sterile brass key and branded sanitising wipes.
You can find all of these items at the Safer Events Shop.
As attendees entered the catering/breakout space, they were offered hot refreshments from a central catering area to reduce contact points and avoid self-service. There were also perspex barriers between the delegates and catering staff. Attendees were encouraged to bring their own reusable cups, but the venue had compostable disposable cups available.
Next, attendees picked up a pre-packed breakfast bag featuring fresh fruit pots, natural yogurt, granola and sweet muffins. Attendees removed their masks to eat and drink but were required to replace them afterwards.
The space consisted of 9 poseur tables situated 2m away from each other, with one poseur table per person.
The away day begins
Following breakfast, the attendees travelled upstairs to the stunning Great Room. Tables and chairs were socially distanced and a table plan was in place. The presentations for the away day took place in this room only, with a one way system in place for entering/exiting the room.
As some team members were attending virtually, RSA House's technology provider, Radiance Production, streamed the presentations. The large screen and seamless production ensured speakers were heard loud and clear by all, and all virtual attendees felt included. Pete Bradbury, Director of Radiance Production, said:
‘It was great to be working on a Hybrid Event at the RSA for a company as forward thinking as Hire Space. Hybrid events like this are key to reopening the meeting and events industry and giving our audiences confidence.’
As well as hearing from Hire Space team members, we also had two external speakers. First up was Charlotte Sumners, Head of Commercial Development at The RSA, who spoke to the team a little about the venue's background and fascinating history. Secondly, we welcomed Amanda Ursell, a Certified Nutritionist and CH&CO Nutritionist, to talk to us about how eating patterns can optimise your immune system. Amanda gave us a whirlwind tour, but you can watch the full version of her talk here.
We also had a photographer present to capture the day. All image credit goes to Antony Alexandrou, Owner of 3A Photography + Video.
Show round and lunch
In between sessions, the team at RSA House took small groups of 5 on a show round of the venue and its event spaces set up in accordance with social distancing. Attendees used brass keys to open any doors and hand sanitiser was always available in every room.
Following this, attendees returned to the catering space for lunch. CH&CO, RSA's catering supplier, have created some amazing new menus, taking the food and drink experience up a level while still remaining safe. Attendees were treated to Spanish Bento Boxes, featuring a charcuterie selection, olives, pan con tomate, and Manchego cheese. The Bento boxes were available from a central point for attendees to collect and take to their individual poseur table.
Overall feedback was great; attendees loved having such smart Bento boxes as they said they felt more professional and safe than a standard buffet.
As the first event that many of us had attended post-lockdown, it was difficult to remember to continually adhere to the measures. For example, remembering to replace their masks straight after eating and drinking, or for speakers once they'd finished speaking.
Regular reminders, well-placed signage and pre-event comms reminding delegates of the safety measures being implemented may be necessary to prevent them becoming complacent. Or, a sense of collective responsibility - this may be harder at client events, but perhaps there can be a system established at the outset for calling out delegate security breaches.
Make sure you have enough safety equipment/PPE, all screens/tablets etc are charged up, thermometers have batteries in etc. Using things we're not used to can mean we don't necessarily think about what we need to prepare for. Getting into a habit of checking everything multiple times will mean you're not cut short on the day. Make sure to stock up from the Safer Events Shop ahead of time.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
Take extra care to explain the safety measures. This may be well explained by the venue to the organisers, but the organiser needs to over-communicate the measures and processes to the delegates, as it can be easy for some people to miss instructions. For example, add extra signage or floor markings than you'll think you'll need - you can never help people out too much!
Overall, the hybrid element worked really well, however there could have been more communication at the start of the presentations. For example, the process of asking the speakers questions wasn't explained, which led to a little confusion. Once we knew the system, it was clear, but always remember to include some housekeeping at the start so everyone is on the same page.
Overall, the event was a huge success, with a score of 9.2/10 given by respondents to the post-event survey regarding how safe they felt during the event. Protocols and guidelines were overall strictly adhered to by the attendees, and after months of lockdown everyone left feeling excited for events to come!
Benjamin Edmonds, Head of Promotions at Hire Space and Safer Event Organiser in charge of the day, said:
"We had a wonderful time coming to RSA House to host our first Safer Event. Seeing all the measures from our white paper come into fruition and work so effectively was brilliant, and working with Laura and the team couldn’t have been easier. They’ve all worked so hard to put a full range of measures in place which has also seen them become accredited as a Safer Venue. Overall it was just amazing to see how events can be done at this time; it’s a little different, but we’re coming together again safely which is the most important thing!"
Whilst Laura Pearce, Head of Sales at RSA House, said:
“After weeks of thorough preparation to get the venue ready for re-opening with new and heightened safety procedures in place, it was a surreal but elating feeling to host our first Safer Event at RSA House with Hire Space. We’re very much looking forward to hosting more of the same in the coming weeks and months!” - Laura Pearce, Head of Sales, RSA House
Things to consider
- Choose a good venue partner! RSA House was excellent, as they went above and beyond on all measures, food safety and technology. Keep an eye out for our other accredited safer venues too.
- People in general did feel safe. However, overt gestures and communication, such as the screens and branding, are reassuring.
- Communication is absolutely key, before, during and after. There will always be people who don't hear instructions, or who forget them. Have a few people dedicated to repeating messages and explain everything, to everyone, at the start.
- The hybrid element is inclusive, and adds a lot to the overall event impact. Technology is a great thing for events!
- The drinks reception element wasn’t missed. The company felt connected over the course of the event, and those that wanted to socialise went to the pub afterwards.
- Overall, the event felt 10x more safe than going to the pub or a restaurant, and the impact was positive.