With Alberta greenlighting indoor trade shows and exhibiting events, and other provinces likely to soon follow-suit, you may be eager (and have the opportunity) to squeeze an event in before the year is out. And rightfully so! Since March, the events industry has made do with virtual options, which, although effective, do not compare to the magic of a live event.
But much has changed since pre-COVID-19. Where do you start?
Here’s what you should consider as you embark on the planning process.
Conduct a Risk Assessment
Think about any risks to safety that might be present at your event and rate their risk level. This assessment should take into consideration existing provincial and municipal public health guidelines, the likelihood of transmission occurring at the event, and your ability to apply prevention and control measures. Activities associated with infection spread may need to be adjusted to minimize risk at your event.
Decipher the Demographic
COVID-19 has been shown to disproportionately affect people 65 and older, as well as those with pre-existing health conditions. If your target audience falls within these groups, it would be prudent to postpone hosting an event for the time being.
Even if your target audience is young and overall healthy, you must determine whether it’s worth proceeding. Some people may not feel comfortable attending in-person events during the pandemic.
In order to accommodate those who are unable to attend due to health concerns or simply unwilling, consider a hybrid event. This will allow people to still participate through a live stream or video conference.
Stay Home if Sick
While we have been hearing this for months, it still applies: Stay home if sick. These four simple words need to be communicated with attendees. Provide virtual options in conjunction with your live event, as well as flexible refund policies, to help enforce this idea and allay worry that people will miss out if sick.
Include Medical Staff On-site
Hire health professionals to assist in screening attendees for COVID-19 symptoms, perhaps through temperature checks or general crowd surveillance at entry points. Medical staff can also assess people who are experiencing an onset of symptoms in an isolation room reserved for such purpose.
Implement Crowd Control
Even if you find a venue that’s large enough to allow for attendees to maintain their physical distance, other measures should be put in place to further minimize contact between patrons. Consider separate entry and exit points and staggering arrival times to prevent crowding at the start of your event.
Listen to Local Authorities
As each region loosens lockdown restrictions, governments at both the provincial and municipal level will release guidelines to support organizers in reducing the spread of COVID-19 among workers, patrons and the general public. While guidance may differ between regions (and be subject to change as new information is received), certain public health and infection prevention and control measures will likely be the same. This may include maintaining physical distance between attendees and staff; encouraging the use of non-medical masks; providing adequate hand sanitizer stations for hand hygiene; refraining from buffet, potluck or family-style food service; taking extra precautions to clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces; and keeping a list of attendees for two weeks to enable contact tracing, if required.
Taylor Rojo is an event coordinator at Timewise Event Management Inc., a pioneer in the meetings and events industry in Western Canada. Together with sister company Event Technology Solutions, Timewise works with corporate clients and associations to plan and execute experiential events. Taylor is a passionate professional with a keen interest in sustainable events. She recently completed her term with the education committee for the International Live Events Association Canada, Edmonton chapter. Taylor can be reached at 780-444-3773.