We’re currently facing the most challenging and difficult time to host physical events in a responsible and sensitive manner, balancing concerns for public health, supporting business growth and ever changing government restrictions. However, physical events are still possible when the appropriate guidance is followed; our COO Emi Perez-Fragero shares her six rules for event design in the current Covid-era.
The six rules for Covid compliant event design
In the debrief from the recent HenkelX Ventures Xchange roundtable event Silvija- Marble’s Account Director in Thought leadership, conferencing and arts reflected that, although it seems obvious a really spacious venue helped people to feel safe “there was lots of space to move around, indoors & outdoors, having catering outside, with safe distance whilst queueing, eating, networking” so when looking for your venue think bright, airy and potentially one with an outside area. It’s an easy win for putting the attendee and team members’ minds at ease.
A consideration of course is having a smaller crowd in a large space could be more expensive for the organiser, making it harder to be economically viable but it’s also possible that with the use of technology and confidence in live streaming revenues can be created with the hybrid approach.
Communication is always key but now more than ever. Ensure thorough, clear and consistent communication between moderators, event organisers, and guests. You have to acknowledge the new rules, be 100% aware of the potential risks and communicate these with each other. Communication pre-event is key to guests. We would always advise sending our disclaimers and safety measures you intend to put in place, this all helps put people at ease that you are aware and acting.
Maximise on high attention levels
Many of us have heard of, or experienced, Zoom fatigue. Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat.
“While live events are “all-five senses,” with digital, “you get two senses, at best.” And the lack of immersion can lead to boredom.” Brad Fishman, chief executive of Fishman PR, which organises conferences for its franchise clients, says, “People don’t have the attention span to sit there for six hours.” (Good.is)
We know physical attendees have come to an event to network and learn something new. Their attention levels remain high throughout the event and they are alert to the people around them – give them what they are after – lots of dynamic content to feast on, options to move from one space to another and a programme that maximises their time there.
Remind guests what they have been missing out on
The organic nature of a physical environment is hard to replicate. Coffee breaks enable guests to spontaneously grab a speaker to gather their views on specific business experiences, and/or specific industry questions. In the virtual world of course you can chat to each other but here it’s the moment of being present in the right space and time, you are literally face to face with VIP people. Ensure there are breakout rooms, and plentiful spaces where guests are able to have interactive and fluid discussions in a group.
Host sessions within the programme which really encourage interaction. One of Marble’s Event Producers, Kotryna, gives the example of Q&As where you are just able to turn around and ask someone a question. Really focus on the organic nature of this setup. Talking of organic nature nothing beats external meetings where conversations happen on morning walking meetings, or lunch time strolls – there is no price you can put on fresh air, no screens and networking. A natural benefit.
A result of the new restrictions and the guidelines is that you might need to structure your event differently to before, mainly to maintain hygiene standards. This isn’t necessarily a negative. As Mia Mason puts it in her blog talking around hybrid events. “You could divide your content into different days, meaning fewer, targeted attendees per day… and higher chances of accurate networking”.
It’s predicted that people and companies are going to be a lot more selective about the events they travel to, especially if it’s a long-distance trip.
Anything where people travelled out of obligation rather than an express need, especially for meetings of just a few hours, now has a good excuse for taking the whole thing online.
Over the course of a year, a company could send more people to more conferences virtually than they could in-person. (good.is)
So think regional where smaller events at various locations are organised, where attendees can come together and watch the stream of the live event. Breakout sessions could be targeted for specific regions. Another alternative is hosting several smaller events on the same day lowering the risk and cost for attendees, however, many of the meetings are synced up to hear the same speakers.
If your attendees are still uncomfortable about attending then this is where the hybrid conference becomes so impactful.
So there is our rule of six. Just remember we can, and should, host physical events following the correct guidance. In the words of one guest in his interview at the end of a recent event said:
“I think one REAL highlight was to be able to just meet people again, that’s what I think we have all been longing for”