The third session at our virtual event was 'Planning Safer Meetings & Events After COVID-19'. This session explored what procedures and specific adjustments events organisers and venues may need to commit to as part of a post-pandemic events industry. This virtual event was the first in a three part series held in partnership with Swapcard and London Filmed.
The panel comprised of Christina Warren, Venue Sales & Operations Manager at 58VE, Natalie Shattock, Senior Events Manager EMEA at Morningstar, and Jake Bolton, Venue Community Associate at Hire Space moderating the session.
You can watch the video below, or read on for our key takeaways of the session.
Table of Contents
What does a safer event look like?
The million dollar question! Natalie points out that although events will involve less physical interaction, that's not to say it has to compromise being a fun and engaging environment for delegates. The situation is constantly evolving; there will be new technologies that come to the fore and new guidance that gets announced, so it's important to keep up to date with the whole raft of different measures that we will need to employ.
It's an all or nothing approach: measures you undertake that are visible to delegates, such as social distancing, will be undermined if you then don't deliver on those certain measures behind the scenes, so it needs to be a whole package. It's crucial to treat your venue as a partner and have honest, open conversations from the get-go to ensure you're working together towards a common goal.
You can find more information on measures you can take towards safer events in the Hire Space Safer Events Guidelines here.
Preparation is key
Natalie tells us that planners need to be more prepared going forward. In the unfortunate situation that there is an issue, such as someone being revealed to be infected for example, it will be useful to have a registry of attendees, so you have a means to support contact tracing.
It is also important to consider your sponsors. Restoring confidence in sponsoring and attending events will be crucial, and from a refund perspective, planners should prepare for different scenarios and be transparent about their T&Cs, so as to avoid a messy battle over payments.
Preparing ahead of the event in terms of communication is also really important. Planners will need to proactively communicate with their delegates in advance and be open and honest about what they're expecting their delegates to adhere to. Being clear about the measures put in place, and perhaps putting these in T&Cs, will ensure delegates are signing off on how you're expecting them to behave. This leaves you as the planner in better stead if delegates flout measures, and protects you if issues arise.
Natalie also advises providing delegates with tangible proof that the event is safe, such as the Hire Space Safer Events Accreditation.
Use this time wisely
Scenario planning is essential for venues right now. Christina recommends taking this time to assess capacities, look at floorplans and consider how hygiene can be increased. All teams in the venue must work together and plan best case and worst case scenarios during this downtime venues are experiencing. She recommends researching, keeping up to date and talking to your networks to help venues move forward and be prepared for the return of events.
It can be difficult to find a balance of safety and still making the event valuable for attendees. Both Christina and Natalie advise getting creative and trying to make the event as fun and engaging as possible. You could do something in the queueing system to make it a bit more fun and reassuring for delegates, introduce a social distance speed dating setup, or even introduce gamification. It's all about working out how you can make the events valuable and engaging despite all the new measures.
Are hybrid events something you're considering for your events, and how do you see this working?
Natalie informs us that for larger events, hybrid elements are certainly something that's being considered. There will be a large amount of people that her company now won't be able to get in front of, due to capacities and concerns over attending, so hybrid events could be useful to make the most of the content and make sure it's available to those who can't attend.
Christina notes that some venues such as 58VE, offer live streaming capabilities already, as part of their tech offerings, but it may be useful to offer a hybrid tech package to assist event managers. Natalie confirms that a hybrid tech add-on would be useful to event managers who may not be as confident using new technology.
What can you do in terms of safe event accessibility for when delegates are traveling to the venue?
There are many things to consider, but a few ways to help when considering event access could be staggering start times and considering the venue you choose. For example, planners should consider whether the venue has good transport links, or whether it's easy to drive to and park nearby.
Should there be joint risk assessments?
Natalie believes that as there is shared risk and shared liability, being able to come together and identify who's responsible for what and making sure that it's stuck to is important for your peace of mind as an organiser and also as a venue. Everyone is in this together and doing their bit to make sure the event is safe for all.
Christina agrees that events are a collaboration. Delegates don't see that there's two different sides (venue and organiser), so in this way it's important to come together as one unit. It's a case of pulling skills together and communicating with one another.
How do venues foresee catering around safe events?
Christina informs us that catering is currently a big challenge for a venue. Sustainability is so important and nobody wants to go backwards, however unfortunately, the nature of buffets being out of the question and the need to reduce touchpoints means that catering sustainably is made more difficult. She suggests venues need to get more creative and share knowledge so that they can overcome this hurdle.
Do you think it is viable to do events whilst social distancing is still in place?
Natalie notes that there’s always a risk, and at the end of the day if you or your business don’t feel comfortable then you shouldn’t take that risk. However, the measures that are being outlined by Hire Space are really very far-reaching and mitigate as much of the risks as possible. As we outlined on the panel, everything will come down to choosing the right partners, and putting your trust in them and your attendees to ‘hold up their end of the bargain’.
Christina adds that all of the steps taken in planning, a strong relationship between event organiser and venue, communication and managing expectations and behaviours of attendees are all ways to reduce this risk. Reputationally this is more difficult but in doing all of these things, if cases were to spread both benue and organiser would have a clear audit trail to show they've done the best they could to stop it happening.
What solutions are venues putting in place?
Christina informs that from a hygiene perspective, freestanding handwashing stations and/or hand gel dispensers set throughout the venue, especially on entrances and exits are ideal and readily available. The use of toilets during breaks is something that presents more of a challenge and needs to be thought through with event organisers when thinking about agendas, due to toilets often set in limited spaces. This poses a challenge to socially distanced queueing and the necessity of increased cleaning whilst also protecting cleaning staff.
Natalie Shattock, Senior Events Manager EMEA, Morningstar
Natalie is responsible for leading the planning and execution of Morningstar’s events programme across EMEA. This includes the flagship Morningstar Investment Conferences, regional forums, awards ceremonies, product launches and webinars, supporting the business’ lead-generation needs and enhancing Morningstar’s brand reach in key segments. Natalie is responsible for building scalable, high-quality and consistent delegate experiences, ensuring brand consistency through the organisation’s live and digital events, and reporting success metrics back to the executive leadership.
Christina Warren, Venue Sales & Operations Manager, 58VE
Jake Bolton, Venue Community Associate, Hire Space
Safer Events Resources
We know navigating this 'new normal' is unknown territory for all, so we've compiled some resources and guidance to help you organise safer events as we start to plan in-person events again.
We've released a whitepaper on Safer Events, our industry accreditation scheme for venues & events organisers. You can read about the measures to make an event safe, see the research behind it & find out how to certify your event or venue.
- Understand Delegate Confidence (Infographic)
As part of our new safer events programme, we conducted a survey of delegates to understand an individuals confidence in attending events that adhere to our safer events framework. Here are all the results.
Give your clients the confidence to hold events at your venue with our independent safety accreditation.
Give delegates the peace of mind to attend your in-person events through our independent safety accreditation.
Everything you need to run safer events from face masks to floor markings. Save £5 off your first order with this link.
That's a wrap! We've also written up the other sessions, which you can read here.
If you want to stay updated with the latest coronavirus news and industry responses, visit our coronavirus live updates platform.
If you're interested in holding a virtual event of your own, why not book a free consultation with our Virtual Event Experts below? We can help make your vision into a reality.