Last week, a major announcement was made in Alberta about an official re-opening plan for summer. Generally, people were excited about the plan, since it included complete disbandment of restrictions by the end of July. Event planners and industry professionals are overwhelmed with enthusiasm at hearing this news. When the roll out plan was first announced, we heard a round of praise from most people in our industry. The fall weddings and events planning started minutes after the government announcement was made, it seems.
This article explores the best ways to ensure guests are comfortable, feel welcome, and that identifiers and communications are clear as we start heading back into in-person events.
For us at Tycoon, we were and still are on the fence about it. We are happy that restrictions are being reduced very quickly – this is great news for our business – but we know that live events will have to be planned with extra caution, not side-stepping the fact that our attendees need to be top of mind.
We’re not the only ones who are a little hesitant about the news. Brent Oliver, a local arts director, was recently interviewed by CTV Edmonton and had this to say: “It seems like – to use a rodeo term – the cart has been put away before the horse, and the Stampede is dictating this more than public health measures.”
Live events take time to plan, and with audiences feeling less comfortable and international travel restrictions still in place, Brent says Albertans should prepare to be patient. “For example, I’m thinking indoor live music will come by the end of the year – October or November,” he said. “I think it really needs to come down to second shots of the vaccine.”
Brent is not the only person nervous about the abrupt change. We know many attendees will be cautious, likely not wanting to be the first people to attend a live event and ‘test the waters’, so to speak. With that in mind, safety at events will need to be top priority to cater to everyone’s needs and level of comfort. After all, the more people who feel comfortable at events and the more live events that happen without creating another pandemic breakout, the more people will want to and be able to socialize normally.
There are several ways that you can make attendees of every comfort level feel at ease:
The first one is the venue. Of course, you need to ensure attendees can always be 6’ apart for every portion of the event, but communication is the biggest thing to signify to guests.
- Cort Events provides a great example of using green or red indicator cards to let guests know if a seat or area has been cleaned between uses.
- We recommend always making sure there are 6’ spacing signs to remind guests to keep spaced out, and even floor decals for areas that might have lines, like bathrooms.
- However, communication isn’t just for your physical space, guests should know what to expect right at registration. People need to know what sanitization measures will be in place, how people will be managed in terms of spacing, and if there will be masks provided on site.
Here are some cool tech options we found to help with managing your in-person events:
- If you’re looking for sanitization there are some awesome touchless sanitization stations available that can even be branded – we love a dual function!
- If you have a few extra dollars available to spend on your attendees, you can purchase bracelets, which attendees can wear that will buzz if they get too close in proximity to another guest – so make sure your guests can easily move around each other, or their bracelet will be bugging them all day!
- We have also seen people wearing pins to list their comfort level, which identify if someone is fine with a closer proximity and elbow bumping, versus someone who prefers very little contact. This could potentially be done with masks as well: having comfort levels stitched right onto the fabric makes the mask a great take-away that could be reused day-to-day, or even a sponsorship opportunity.
- Lastly, you can hire COVID-19 specific staff that are trained in current protocols for making sure everyone is keeping distanced, understand the rules, and can assist if there are any issues.
Let’s not forget about our virtual audience! Including your digital people is a big deal, otherwise they may feel forgotten amid the live event excitement.
- Start your opening remarks by not only thanking your in-person audience, but also take the time to thank and reference your virtual learners.
- During the event include polls for them to answer during the talks.
- Lastly, make sure your program still works for those online, with lots of breaks, networking opportunities, and ways to be engaged.
The hybrid world is tough, but it is still doable, and we have learned that our event industry is incredibly creative and willing to face incredible challenges to be successful. Overall, we think the Special Event Blog puts it best: “To encourage attendance at in-person events, it’s crucial that planners consider the various comfort levels of all guests. While some attendees are eager to return to social events, others will naturally have concerns. Designing with safety top of mind allows planners to meet the needs of each attendee.”
– Your Tycoon, Steph XO