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In the past two years, we’ve covered nearly every aspect of planning virtual events and keeping virtual audiences entertained from the safety of their homes. Now that we’re making a return to in-person events, we can start talking about many event-planning topics we had no use for since March 2020. Let’s start this conversation with the basics: event layouts!  From the first impression your attendees get at your event’s grand entrance to the way they move through the venue, layouts dictate the energy and feel of your entire event.

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However, the recipe for the perfect event layout has a new ingredient: COVID-19 compliance. So, let’s talk about designing safe event layouts beyond fire exits and security protocols. If you focus solely on COVID-compliant measures without thinking of the design side of things, your event might come across as too clinical. And that’s the last thing you want your event to feel like, right?

safe event layoutsEvent Layouts Revisited

A general rule of thumb when it comes to creative design for events is this: the more effort you put in, the more your attendees will praise the event. With event layouts, it’s the other way around. Event layout is something that attendees don’t necessarily consciously notice – unless it’s designed really poorly.

Event layout is concerned with passenger traffic: ingress, egress, and regress. How will your attendees move through the venue? How to best make use of the available space? This sets the tone for the entire experience and consequently affects the mood of your attendees. A great event layout isn’t just concerned with efficiency, though; it’s also an opportunity to incorporate awesome special effects and event technology, making a lasting impression on your audiences and stakeholders. INBOUND 2019 serves as an amazing example of an event layout done right.

Safe Event Layouts In 2021

But in this new era of safe event layouts, old rules might not apply anymore. Our Chief Einstein, Will Curran, recently gave event planners some really sound advice at his talk at Untethered 2021. “You need to think about how the theory of your events has changed and acknowledge that your event planning playbook is dead. This last year, we learned so many lessons, but immediately upon returning, everyone wanted to go back to the way we did things in 2019. That won’t do. You need to do things differently.”

In regards to floorplans, seating charts, and other space considerations, event planners should:

  • design safe event layouts: minimize the risk of virus transmissions by following COVID compliance guidelines,
  • choose a hybrid event model that best fits their in-person audience characteristics.

safe event layouts

Safe Event Layouts & COVID-19

The CDC’s Considerations for Events and Gatherings give quite a few guidelines that are directly related to designing safe event layouts. Here’s the gist of it:

  • limit the number of in-person attendees by offering virtual attendance (yup, the CDC itself is on the hybrid event hype train!),
  • social distancing: design your event layout so attendees remain 6 feet apart,
  • establish one-way pedestrian traffic that prevents bottlenecks – that includes separate entries and exits,
  • have several entries and exits available,
  • encourage all of the above with appropriate signage and social distancing equipment, such as blue marking tape and dividers.

Additionally, several event technology solutions can be used for seamless registration, health screening, and contact tracing.

While safety and COVID-19 compliance should always come first, adhering to safety guidelines and those alone might turn events into a truly dystopian experience: attendees walking in single file, keeping their distance, and reading signage that reminds them of the tragedy of the ‘new normal’ on every step. On the other hand, keeping safety protocols to a minimum is something that might make the attendees feel uneasy. And it definitely won’t go unnoticed.

Here’s where event planners should do a little bit of design thinking. This is where creativity and responsibility collide! A great and safe event layout will put people at ease. Complying with COVID guidelines should be designed into the event layout itself as much as possible. Attendees should feel safe and taken care of – it will do wonders for audience engagement, too.

safe event layouts

Safe Event Layouts & Event Design

Luckily for event planning teams, they don’t have to do build their creative strategy all alone. To see how their event will turn out, event planners are encouraged to use computer-assisted design (CAD) and 3D event renderings. Such software solutions can create impeccable and accurate floor plans, which help event planners visualize their events. They can test out several safe event layout options and prepare backup solutions.  That way, they can be sure they’re making the most out of the available space and ensure their venue has enough capacity.

And then, there’s the little things, such as signage that directs attendees around the venue. Responsibility doesn’t have to look like printing out boring signage. Show off your brand as well as COVID guidelines by giving some extra thought to graphic design. This is your opportunity to get your attendees to truly fall in love with your event!

Let’s Get Creative!

Responsibility and creativity: make this dynamic duo your companion when designing safe event layouts. Just as no two events are the same, the solutions here are endless. We’ve merely scratched the surface in this blog post, but hopefully, it got you thinking about marrying COVID-19 compliance with audience engagement in some new and exciting ways.

And if you’re not sure how exactly to bring the vision of your event to life, that’s okay too. Many event planners lean on their creative consulting partners and COVID-19 compliance experts to create an unforgettable and safe experience. At Endless, we do both of these things – and much more. So if you ever find yourself in need of some help, reach out to us. We’re all about helping event planners make their dreams come true!


Anja Grcar

Author Anja Grcar

Anja, Senior Content Writer at Endless Events, aspires to educate and inspire event planners with the power of the written word.

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