👩⚕️ Safety First - 3 Steps to Healthy Meetings
The events world was rocked by COVID-19 with 99% of all events cancelled or moved online, from tech giant Apple and their Worldwide Developers Conference to real estate’s European conference MIPIM, held annually in Cannes. Only now are we beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel, with lockdown rules starting to be loosened and small gatherings of people beginning to be made possible again through varying countries' phased plans to return to the "new normal".
But what exactly will this new normal look like when it comes to corporate events? And what steps can you take for your next corporate event to make it safe for your attendees and your business?
🌎📌 Safe Meeting Protocol 1 - Location, Location, Location.
Your venue will be a crucial building block when it comes to hosting a safe & successful corporate event. The introduction of combative measures including social distancing practices, anti-bacterial hand wash points, as well as, what it is now being seen as an expected addition to larger venues, thermal scanning.
Thermal Scanning will operate at the entrance of the venue and take a reading of each individual that walks into the building. With this, you will be able to get real-time data of anyone whose temperature is read over 37.5C ( 99.5F). This person will then be notified and asked to self-isolate and not enter the venue. Whilst it is true there are large numbers of people without any symptoms, this step will be able to find those that do and ultimately reduce the risk. One venue to introduce this future technology is the IFEMA in Madrid along with other tech plans for managing limited capacities and safe distancing. If your desired venue does not offer thermal technology, you can always bring your own supplier and consider finding sponsorship for this.
Space within a venue is also going to place a key role in your decision making. Ideally, you need to plan on allowing safe distancing between your attendees at all times. That will include breakout spaces, lunch & dinner set up, as well as entry and exit points, and general flow around the rooms. This will ultimately come down to more focus on floor plans and design.
Another prediction, like we have seen in Barcelona, will be that the use of outdoor venues will be a key trend moving forward with the open-air being a much safer environment for attendees as well as allowing them not to feel confined and offering a more relaxed feel to the event as a whole. This will, of course, depend on your chosen cities and time of the year you are planning on hosting your event
🥃🍽 Safe Meeting Protocol 2 - Food and Beverage Done Correctly
Although the common choice for a meeting or conference lunch break is a self-service buffet, this, unfortunately, won't be an option for the foreseeable future. Instead, you will have to get creative. This could be as simple as introducing a - bring your own lunch - option which in turn would also save costs for you as the event planner.
Another option would be to set up a staggered, seated, lunch break for different groups at different times. This would primarily be to prevent overcrowding but could also be used to mix different groups of attendees and offer an alternative networking opportunity. Seated dining would mean more F&B staff who would have to be adequately trained in food-handling and sanitation, which would also come at an additional cost.
Finally, you could look into pre-packed lunch box style meals for each delegate which would be accessible for pick up from pre-selected areas or placed on chairs of seated meetings. This would also mean having space either indoor or preferably outdoor for the attendees to go and enjoy their food.
😷 Safe Meeting Protocol 3 - Social Distancing and Sanitation
For anyone reading this, I am sure you are well aware of the power of social distancing and how, when used effectively, can reduce the spread of the infection by a considerable rate. This is another example of preparing for the “new normal” with social distancing being a part of our everyday lives for the near future.
Integrating this into the next corporate event you organise will be a challenge, but a crucially important element to hosting a safe event. Organising a room, for example, using a theatre set up, you will now require a much larger space than before, with a 1.5-metre radius around each seat. This would mean that to host 250 people in a theatre setup you would require at least 1750sqm, excluding any additional space for a stage, AV, stands etc.
Registration areas and controlling entrance gates at large scale events will also need attention with the first idea being to emulate what is being done globally at supermarkets, using taped lines on the floor to mark out safe distance waiting points. Also, try to use multiple entrance points within a venue to create less of a bottleneck scenario, however, this would require cloud software to manage real-time registrations in multiple locations.
Sanitation has been regarded highly as a preventative measure against COVID-19 too, so adding anti-bacterial gels at entrances and points throughout the venue with event staff stationed to remind delegates to use them would be a great start. Also, depending on the event's destination city, some laws are requiring masks and although they are highly debated in regards to their usefulness, this may be something you will have to mandate your participants to wear when attending your next event.
Whether or not you like the idea of the “new normal” it is certainly worth thinking about how you will create your next event in these unprecedented times. This is a process we are all in together within the MICE industry and through collaborations and sharing forward-thinking ideas, we are confident that events will come back stronger than ever.