Hand sanitizer, check! Wipes, check! Face masks, check! Seating arrangements according to provincial guidelines, check! Individual tracking data, check! Adhering to physical distancing guidelines may appear to be a bit overwhelming. When in-person meetings and events resume, the first events are likely to be quite small and will probably serve as a benchmark for larger gatherings.
Lessons learned from each event will be crucial to event planners who want to be successful in the future and generate positive feedback on events. Making participants feel comfortable and secure when attending events will be a major factor contributing to client satisfaction.
As event planners, we can now add social distancing and COVID-19 protective measures to our resumé. Our job has not gotten any easier with time! During the planning process, there are several key steps to reflect on. We like to start with our three “Ss” here at ECHO Events. Here is a quick overview:
Space: Can you plan the event in an outdoor space? Events don’t always have to be inside in the summer months. Think of the outdoor possibilities at various venues that now offer a different experience. If it needs to be inside, can a larger than normally required space be secured to ensure appropriate distancing? Can breakout rooms be used to divide larger groups when appropriate?
Service: We often think of the individual participants but may forget the interaction with organizing staff, food services, A/V staff, etc. Your guests may feel comfortable sharing space with their immediate family and friends for now but may not feel so comfortable interacting with people they don’t know.
Think of ways to put everyone at ease by reducing the number of interactions with various staff members. This may induce more properly sanitized self-service tables, boxed lunches, etc. Thinking outside of the box may end up reducing the cost of the event.
Seating: Keeping up with your local and provincial/territorial guidelines for the limitations on the number of guests inside versus outside is essential because these guidelines are inconsistent from region to region and are modified on a regular basis.
You may want to consider using a program that helps you manage seating and helps you visualize the entire event. By doing so, you can forecast distancing not only for the participant tables but also all the space and how it can be used in support of the event.
Don’t hesitate to get creative and push the envelope a bit. While staying within the COVID-19 safety guidelines but brainstorming with your vendors, you can set the stage for a successful event. It may not be easy, but it’s a fact, and for US planners, it’s the way to the future for our industry.
Sindy Souffront has over 20 years experience working in communications and event planning in the private and public sector. Her experience led her to launch her own event management company: ECHO Events. Over the years, she has worked with Google, RBC, the federal government, Canadian Association of Securities Lending (CASLA) and other associations and agencies.