Go-to-guide to organising live conferences post-pandemic

Posted by Katy Kattou

The UK government has announced that business events and conferences will be permitted to resume from 1st October provided rates of COVID-19 infection remain at current levels. So how can businesses prepare to host an event once again? Here’s our go-to-guide to getting ready to host your next conference.

The UK government has approved an All Secure Standard for the events industry, set by the Association of Event Organisers (AEO), the Association Event Venues (AEV) and the Event Supplier and Services Association (ESSA).

The standard has also been accompanied by risk assessment guidelines and business best practice, all created to ensure the safe return to live events.

For us, this is such welcomed news. We’ve missed the buzz of being able to create live events, so we’re hugely excited to get back to planning and implementing customer events. We’re going to experience a series of adjustments, in order to host meetings and events safely in a post-pandemic world. But with a combined effort from planners and venues, the industry is set to restart and begin hosting in-person functions again.

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Where to begin?

Face-to-face interactions has sorely been missed throughout the COVID pandemic, which has been detrimental to business trading, training, education and building relationships. We have embraced a virtual world, but many believe it is no replacement for physical contact. Live events have the power to bring a community together, build loyalty and celebrate success.

Many will crave the interactions once again, whilst others will be anxious and nervous to rush back into public gatherings. This will ease over time and confidence grow, as we settle into finding our place within the ever changing “new normal.”

Communicating with your audience initially is a good starting place when looking to introduce live events again. Investigating what format, they would be happy to participate in will help you to plan the location, size and type of venue needed for the event. You may find that a tentative audience would prefer smaller, regular events. Whereas others will be happy to attend a larger venue, with the appropriate social distancing guidelines in place.

The PCMA conducted a COVID recovery report and asked organisers “When the pandemic crisis passes, what scenario do you think best describes the recovery of face-to-face meetings for the business events industry in your geographic region?

  • 15% said there will be pent-up demand for all groups to meet face-to-face
  • 28% said they will be hesitant to travel to meet face-to-face
  • 51% said that smaller local and regional events will thrive before national and international groups gather
  • 6% Other

But this is just the results of one study. For an accurate assessment for what is right for your business, simple speak with your audience.

Planning and preparation for post-pandemic events

The All Secure Standards document provides a framework for the industry to follow and to base organisation and planning of events, which is a great starting point. As an events business, we are carefully planning what recommendations we would give to clients looking to host a future event, which are outlined and explained here:

Venues

All venues, ranging from conference centres to exhibition halls, restaurants to arts theatres, will all be changing their environment to adhere to the new guidelines.

There will be standard regulations the venue will be responsible for, but depending on the type of event, organisers may wish to enhance elements within the venue to match supplemented risk assessments or expectations.

We expect there will be a higher demand for larger venues to be able to host a fewer number of people, whilst enabling social distancing practices and for attendees to feel much safer attending live events.

Social / Physical Distancing

Even though social distancing has been reduced to 1 metre+, we need to bear in mind the human aspect to the rules. Some people may still not be comfortable to get any closer than 2 meters so it is important to consider this when planning. These key points are ideas on how to apply social distancing to an event:

  • Crown Density Standards (CDS) – We can allow for the Crowd Density Standard in accordance with government guidance. It will illustrate our commitment to prioritising health and safety first while enabling successful interactions among our audiences.
  • Registration – Through increased use of technology we can limit the amount of contact required at registration. We can also ensure that pre-event registration is compulsory to provide valid data to any test and trace initiative.
  • Staggered Admission – Some event formats may be via entry time slots to evenly spread the attendance to allow adherence to social distancing guidelines and minimise contacts.
  • Floor planning -We can look at one-way traffic and wider aisles in expo halls
  • Conference Rooms– There will be recommended seating density and use of hands-free technology
  • Food and beverage – Buffets and self-serve will be thing of the past as “Grab and Go Lunches” will need to replace some elements of catering. This will allow for quick service and reduce risk of transmission.

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Cleaning & Hygiene

As with everything in our lives now, sanitisation is key. Along with venue cleaning, we as Event Managers are considering a lot more to keep everyone safe. Including:

  • Increased cleaning regimes – As they may be venue reliant, the areas the event staff are responsible for will be disinfected regularly as well
  • Sanitisation stations – These can be placed outside each hall, meeting rooms, upon entry etc.
  • Protection screens – Simple protection screens at registration is a given and helps to add to the face-to-face aspect people are so desperate for, yet buffers and protects the staff member and the registrant. More screens can be added in key areas like training booths, demo stations or even the bar.
  • Waste Management – The collection and removal of waste receptacles can be increased during events to minimise risk. Specific waste bins for mask disposal can also be provided and clearly identified.
  • Venue Ambient Controls – This is key to ensure good ventilations indoors.

Protect and Detect

  • Contact Tracing – The use of registration data will assist the government’s Test & Trace initiative. Organisers will be able to hold data for 21 days subject to compliance with data privacy agreements.
  • Face Coverings – Not obligatory in the guidelines at the moment, but organisers can ask visitors to wear face coverings for the duration of events. This again may increase the level of safety visitors feel to attend.

Enhanced first aid and medical support, separation screens, PPE and emergency response plans are all further actions we would need to consider.

Communication

To instil confidence to your audience that your event is safe and adhering to government guidelines, communication is key. Utilise all channels available to you, to educate, encourage and inform all aspects of the event and the policies and actions taken to make the conference socially acceptable.

  • Websites, apps, emails
  • Exhibitor manuals
  • Event signage
  • Public address during the open event period
  • Pre-show messaging

Organising a company conference can be daunting, let alone when there’s new guidelines and regulations to adhere too. That’s when working with a professional event management business can ease the pressure and guide you through the process. Let us work with you as part of your team, to create a desirable yet safe, customer-friendly conference in a post-pandemic world.

For ideas on how your conference, meeting or partner summit could work, please contact us for a complimentary consultation. Contact us today.