On March 11th, 2020, the events industry changed forever. Yes, you read that right: the industry didn’t just change during the last year, and it won’t bounce back after we let some time pass. The impact is forever. We’re not just talking about the virtual revolution here – the COVID-19 epidemic re-defined what it means to plan a safe event. Planners were inundated with information about masks, sanitizers, and social distancing. This caused the term ‘event safety‘ to become nearly synonymous with COVID compliance.
While it’s important to emphasize that no event is risk-free, event planners can implement many safety processes that ensure the safety of their attendees, exhibitors, and staff. As long as we follow the local, state, and federal guidelines, we can still produce safe events.
Our 2021 Endless Event Trends guide predicted that one of the two realities would come true: either the COVID-19 vaccine would become widely available or the virus would remain a part of our everyday lives. More than halfway through the year, we find ourselves living somewhere in between. While the vaccine rollout has been spectacular in the United States, there’s a new dominant strain in town: Delta. According to Yale epidemiologist F. Perry Wilson, the now-dominant Delta spreads 50% faster than Alpha.
And so, once again, the average number of COVID-19 cases is increasing. The CDC recently updated its indoor mask policy, stating that fully vaccinated people are encouraged to wear masks indoors. At the same time, vaccine mandates are increasing by local enterprises and venues all around the world. Some major events, such as Lollapalooza, required proof of vaccination or a negative test within 72 hours of the event.
Navigating the jungle of COVID-19 compliance rules might seem daunting. The CDC outlined a number of risk factors to consider when planning events, including the length of the event, exposure during travel, the number and behavior of the attendees, and the setting of the event. The recommendations have already changed several times over the past few months. New York City, for example, now mandates proof of vaccination for indoor dining and entertainment.
But all uncertainty and day-to-day changes aside, producing safe, COVID-compliant events is still possible. After all, we’ve seen a return to in-person events this summer and ushered in the glorious age of hybrid events. It’s all very much manageable, as long as we develop a comprehensive COVID-19 compliance strategy.
COVID-19 Compliance Strategy
Depending on many factors, such as the size of the event, the number of attendees, the event budget, and the location, each COVID-compliant event might have different protocols in place. COVID compliance doesn’t start and end with your event. It’s important for the attendees to follow the guidelines outside the venue as well – be it in airplanes or hotels. If the fact that COVID compliance isn’t one size fits all starts to make your head spin, let us outline the factors that planners should consider one by one.
Contactless registration & payment. COVID-compliant event registration includes screening procedures, such as screening surveys, temperature reading, and on-site PCR testing for those who are neither vaccinated nor have a negative test. Event organizers can use software solutions, such as CrowdPass, to make the registration process as seamless as possible. Keep in mind that when events take place for longer than 72 hours, attendees need to be re-tested.
Take it outdoors. According to the EPA, outdoor venues significantly decrease the risk of infection. Since we all know that’s not always possible (especially with the summer creeping to its end), the second-best thing to do is to ensure that the event has adequate ventilation.
Food & beverage. Food brings people together, which, unfortunately, increases the risk of COVID-19 infections. To stay on the safe and sound side of things, attendees can be offered boxed meals, while staff can work behind sneeze guards. Event staff can take their meal breaks to a dining tent in rotation.
Session & networking design. When determining the capacity of the event, the CDC recommends considering that there should be at least a 6-feet distance between the attendees. Aside from furniture, there’s now also social distancing equipment to consider when ensuring attendees feel extra safe and comfortable. With the help of contact tracing tags, attendees can display how comfortable they are with hugs and handshakes, while event organizers can inform those who might have been in contact with an infected individual.
We’ve got the strategy. Now, on to the COVID-19 staff who will make the vision all come true. At the very top of the COVID-19 team are COVID-19 compliance officers (CCO). They’re responsible for establishing and enforcing COVID-19 safety protocols, training staff, and monitoring COVID compliance at the event. CDC recommends having one CCO per 50 attendees on-site.
CCOs oversee the screening team that works at the registration and the cleaning and disinfecting team that is responsible for sanitizing the venue pre-, during, and post-event with EPA-certified solutions.
Additionally, depending on the event capacity, COVID-compliant events can have guest relations teams that have masks on-site and answer questions related to the event and COVID-compliance. At big gatherings, the medical staff is responsible for taking care of guests who experience COVID-19 symptoms at the event itself.
Safe & Sound With The Einsteins Of Events
So, whether you’re planning a virtual, hybrid, or in-person extravaganza, the event has to first and foremost be COVID-compliant. All of a sudden, event planners have extra tasks on their plates: finding suppliers, developing a COVID-19 compliance strategy, hiring CCOs, and so on. But here’s the good news: you don’t have to do it all alone. Having an experienced and reliable event production partner by your side can make the entire event-planning process easy-breezy.
As Einsteins of events, we’ve got a plan for everything. Our unique hybrid event solutions can limit your overall risk of COVID-19, but if having an in-person audience is absolutely out of the question, we can always adapt your events to a virtual model. The industry pivoted before; we can certainly do it again.
Our COVID-19 compliance strategy, Safe & Sound, covers all the bases we just explored and beyond. Feel free to talk to us if you have any questions regarding your upcoming projects. We will bring you the sound, and it’s going to be safer with each decibel.