Goodbye (almost all) pandemic mandates and hello event attendee apprehension! After many, many months of physical distancing, QR codes and other mandates, many provinces are finally lifting their mandatory COVID-19 restrictions. Many people are overjoyed with the change (as we move from pandemic to endemic) and the freedom that they will have once more, and so are we! Being event planners, we know that all event attendees will be comfortable with seeing the end of mandates so soon and what impact that might have on their experience.
With respect to in-person events, in the immediate future, we’ll need to ensure event professionals are putting the comfort of their event attendees at the forefront of their planning and overall event design. Attendees are going to range from either side of the COVID comfort spectrum: people will be less comfortable about attending an event and others may hold the opposite beliefs.
How can we merge these two opposing audiences in a safe space, while not taking away from their event experience or feeling segregated?
Let’s talk about the spectrum and the two main groups making up the opposing sides. When you create an event you design the physical space, but you also create a psychological environment. Over the past two years, we have learned that you need to meet people where they are at.
Respective to mandates, there are 3 types of people at your events:
- People who are skeptical about mandates and pandemic rules;
- Those who are neutral and will respect the rules in place; and
- Those who advocate for increased mandates and full compliance of the rules.
Understanding the mindset of these attendees is essential to understand how to plan your event.
The skeptics can often prefer social dissonance rather than going with the mainstream and push back on the rules in place. These guests typically won’t like statements that come across like, “because we said so” and any communication that comes across too authoritarian. Place importance on appealing to your commonalities with this group by acknowledging that you are not challenging their beliefs, however, their behavior must reflect the specific event environment they are in.
On the other end of the spectrum, your more concerned individuals will need their feelings and concerns acknowledged as well. You can make them feel safe by having clear emergency protocols in place, and let them know you have safety authorities on site to assist with encouraging rules and mandates in place at your event.
How do you bring these different mindsets together to create a safe event for everyone?
Communication is your greatest tool:
- Have clear and accessible instructions available to attendees before the event.
- Note that venues and businesses may have different mandatory rules and/or protocols.
- Let your attendees know what information you want them to provide at check in and what they can expect to see at the event.
- Make sure your tone is the same in all communications, be firm but not too domineering.
- Provide your guests with the why.
- “Why” are you asking attendees to sign in?
- “Why” do they need to provide their vaccination status? (if applicable)
- “Why” do they need to fill out a waiver? (if applicable)
- Include event mission statements about safety and expected conduct.
- Create a clause in your ticket registration about tolerance, respect, and consequences for not adhering to the event rules.
- This can even include other topics not specific to the pandemic, such as tolerance of different views, etc.
What should you do if a guest becomes confrontational at your event?
You’ve tried your best to prevent a guest from becoming agitated at your event, and you’ve listened to their concerns, but they’re still reactive. It may not happen, but it is important to be prepared for any situation that may arise. If you have a guest who is getting upset, make sure their concerns are being heard and managed by the correct person. Typically an event manager or event organizer would be better at dealing with this particular situation than a volunteer at the registration desk.
- When the guest is taken aside, make sure it is a semi-private place but not entirely private. This will ensure that you are safe, it keeps their outbursts from affecting the other guests, and if it were to escalate you can easily exit or get the attention of someone close by.
- Listen fully to their concern(s) and do not interrupt.
- Repeat their issue back to them so you are both on the same page and the person feels heard.
- Explain why measures and/or protocol(s) are in place, which may not be of mutual agreement.
- Give them space to cool off and consider their options. You can check in with them later at the event if they decide to stay.
- It can be difficult for some people to be engaged in confrontation, so try your very best to stay neutral, maintain eye contact with your guest, and resist the urge to place blame on them or other staff. Your goal is to find a solution.
Events are going to look a bit different for a while and that’s ok. Guests will eventually be fully comfortable at events but we don’t know exactly when that will happen. If event professionals do their best to help every attendee feel comfortable and adjust to ‘normal’ there should be minimal issues. Everyone wants to be able to celebrate and gather again and we can be a part of making those opportunities happen, so long as they are done in a safe and considerate approach!
– Your Tycoon, Steph XO