What will events look like in a COVID normal world?
The effects of COVID-19 have been felt across the globe and as the shock of this pandemic slowly subsides, we now find ourselves looking to the future. The events industry remains one of the hardest hit sectors and undoubtedly will be one of the last industries to return to action. So, what will a business event look like in the future and what will be our “new normal”?
Whilst we don’t know the exact date that business events will recommence, when they do they will look different. Venues, hotels, event managers and other industry stakeholders can expect strict guidelines set out by the Australian Government and Health Department to ensure a COVID safe event.
Whilst I wish I had a crystal ball to accurately predict how widely affected our industry will be, unfortunately no one truly knows. As many of us attempt to navigate our way through the fog and out the other side, I think it would be safe to predict some of the short term effects below will be largely at play in the planning process for many business events in the future.
Increased health and safety measures
Yes, hand sanitizer will join the list of staple necessities. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers help to deter the spread of germs, particularly in busy environments like venues and hotels. We could likely see hand sanitation stations a prerequisite for venues with these set up in easily accessible and high volume areas such as entry and exit points, registration desks and near food and service areas. Venues can expect to have to initiate deep-cleans pre and post event with enhanced regular cleaning before, during and after an event.
As we begin to understand more about COVID-19 and how the virus acts, it can be expected all company personnel working, coordinating or managing business events undergo mandatory COVID training. It’s likely too early to determine exactly what this training would cover but I suspect hygiene practice, infection prevention, the use of PPE, contract tracing and process management in the case of an outbreak would all be viable avenues staff would need to be equipped on to ensure a safe return to business events in the future.
To platter or not to platter?
Anyone who has ever attended an event will know at the heart of any great event is the food and beverage offering! The hospitality industry will be another sector that will have to vastly pivot their business model to adjust to the “new normal”. Buffets, food stations, roaming platters and those glorious antipasto sharing stations won’t be an option for quite some time. Instead we’re likely to see venues and catering businesses turn their attention to single serving options such as individual pre-packaged catering packs or individually plated meals.
Social Distancing at Events
We’ve all heard the term social distancing, and if you haven’t then where you’ve been hiding for the last couple of months? Keeping a physical distance of 1.5m has been one of the most effective strategies against the spread of Covid-19 and the practice will continue for quite some time. For event professionals, physical distancing is going to be one of the most challenging measures to introduce and monitor as it can also affect venue capacity, floor plan and therefore your overall registration numbers.
Event professionals will also need to implement best practice processes to manage crowd flow particularly during registration collection and meal breaks. It may be worth implementing a schedule for delegates to collect registration packs, adding an addition 30 minutes for meal breaks or introducing queue ropes to ease congestion.
The management of attendee numbers, whilst easy to control will be a delicate financial operation for event professionals. With social distancing measures predicted to be enforced within venues, event professionals will be tasked to come up with innovative ways in which to expand their audience outreach and engagement.
With attendee numbers constrained by social distancing, many within the industry are frolicking in the shallow waters of hybrid events. A hybrid event is an event that takes place at a venue with an audience, whilst also being attended by an online audience. Hybrid events will be a key component and consideration in the planning of business events in the future. A hybrid event poses many benefits including, increased revenue, greater attendee outreach and event scope. Importantly, it provides greater opportunity for people to attend your event and through the use of technology the online audience can actively participate in the overall ‘live’ event experience.
There are many unknowns we all still face as we grapple with the effects of this pandemic but one thing is for certain, this will not be forever and the changes we make collectively now will underpin the success we have in the future. As an industry we will be back, safer, more connected and more resilient than ever.