The events industry is waking up the reality that the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has become a catalyst for major, long-term change.
Social distancing measures and an ingrained concern for personal safety in public spaces will remain long after the worst of the coronavirus is behind us.
But this isn’t a harbinger of doom. Far from it. COVID-19 limitations have fuelled innovation in the events sector.
Let’s explore some of the ways in which physical events will evolve in the near future, and how you can adapt your plan:
Broadly, the key concerns facing events organisers in the COVID-19 age are:
Capacity - Going forward, deciding on the capacity of your venue will be more crucial than ever, and the size of the audience able to be safely housed in that space under social distancing restrictions.
Space management – Physical events are tactile. They’re social. That’s their USP. How can a socially distanced event still achieve this feeling of connection while keeping its delegates safe?
Hygiene – A physical event is a melting pot for social interaction, but while the pandemic continues, delegates could leave with more than a business card. Hygiene measures will be top-of-mind for event attendees, and event organisers should ensure the infrastructure is in place to assuage any fears.
Organisers can approach the issue of capacity for their event from several angles, depending on the timeframe and budget available.
To obey social distancing rules while maintaining pre-pandemic audience numbers, consider running your event over a longer period across multiple sessions, spreading delegate attendance.
Alternatively, parse your audience out across rooms and spaces, with a portion of your delegates attending sessions in the main event area, while breakout groups receive the broadcast in their parts of the venue.
Precautions such as socially distanced seating will help to keep your attendees safe, and clear and consistent signage is also a powerful tool. Decals on the floor throughout the space will help delegates to maintain the correct distance from one another.
We believe an event in its optimal form requires the synthesis of physical and virtual elements. Social distancing might hit your venue attendance, but a hybrid approach can be deployed to mitigate this effect, inviting a new remote audience.
This physical and virtual hybrid allows the delegates who wish to use your event as an opportunity to network, or just feel they thrive in a physical environment, to do so, while a majority participate from the safety of a remote location.
Beyond influencing the behaviour of delegates, event organisers should seek to deploy new technologies to improve the safety of their physical element. Hygiene will be under scrutiny at future events, with tech solutions stepping up in the fields of both prevention and identification of COVID-19 risks.
When putting together your next physical event budget, consider the benefit of including the tech below in your plan:
Contactless hand sanitising dispensers – Contactless hand sanitisers will help to put your attendees at ease and will become a familiar presence at conferences and events.
Temperature screening thermographic cameras – A swathe of thermal technology is heading towards the events industry. These thermal camera set-ups will be used to measure body heat on entry and observe crowds for delegates exhibiting a high temperature.
COVID-19 has changed events forever. But reading the above, we think that’s OK. Let’s welcome ‘the new normal’.
With the right planning, precautions and technical implementation we see the events industry confidently stepping into a new era of socially responsible physical and hybrid events.