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Social Distancing at Conferences & Events – How, when and what!

26 May 20203m read

As lockdown measures start to ease up around the world, we wondered what might happen to conference and event venues here in the UK.

Consistent guidelines for venues

I have spoken to perhaps 30 venues this week, and tried more, (many are closed with all staff furloughed!) For the first time in my 25+ years of experience they are speaking with one voice, they want guidance. Should they be following the example of the airlines and be planning to open with very limited social distancing though a plethora of other measures to reduce transmission, enforced wearing of masks etc. Or should they be sticking rigidly to the 2m social distancing measures. In which case should this be measured at pinch points, corridors / cloakrooms etc, or should it be measured in the main rooms? Will the 2m rule change to say the WHO recommended guidance of 1m or the Continental Standard of 1.5m?

Many countries have issued clear guidance in the respect i.e. Singapore has introduced a 3-stage unlocking process with numbers in conference and meeting venues limited according to their net usable space! Australia has introduced a similar set of guidelines, as have the Baltic countries.

If not from government maybe its time for our industry associations to take the lead here, the MIA etc. To our knowledge the only people attempting to introduce something along these lines are Hire Space, the event management service, focused primarily on corporate event bookers in central London who are planning to introduce a set of guidelines!

Fewer attendees

One clear message is that there is going to be a reduction in the maximum numbers which can be placed in a room! Perhaps events will be redefined:

– Smaller events held over multiple days

– Format changes, creating more and hence smaller breakout sessions

– More touring events

– Staggered timings

– Greater use of smaller venues, perhaps those who can offer exclusive access to just one client.

A trusted guide (Agent?) more important than ever?

Certainly, the world has changed forever for the events industry. In a changing world the value of a skilled and experienced intermediary is more important than ever. Someone who is abreast of:

– Industry best practise in terms of Covid 19 preventative measures and which venues are implementing them!

– Which venues are offering the best and most practicable contract terms in the event of a second wave of the pandemic?

– Which venues are offering the best prices and terms and conditions in this very fast changing environment!

– Should you be taking out insurance against loss of deposits etc in the event of a second wave?

Hybrid and virtual conferences, who, how and how much?

Greater use of Technology, Hybrid Events etc!

We have all been getting used to hybrid events, sitting at home talking of Google Hang-ups / Microsoft teams etc etc. new technology providers like Bluejeans, Goto Meetings, Zoom Webinar and Zoom Meetings, Big Marker, Samba, Remo and Hopin have taken things far further, with options including the following:

– Interactivity between all involved

– Virtual hands up etc

– Online registration

– Social Media integration

– Live polling and Q & A

– Interactive networking with instant chat and Live Chat

– Close integration with Google, Zoom, Hangout, YouTube, Vimeo etc

– Virtual Reception

– Payment systems connected to the registration page (though be aware that platforms often levy very high charges for this service)

– Close interacting with exhibitor requirements

– Management of post event follow up and interaction

– Virtual booths

– Meeting tables

– Virtual Exhibition Hall

– Virtual Cocktail party

– Banner Advertising / Sponsorship

– On demand Content

– Customised branding

– Speed networking

– Unlimited breakout rooms

For the first time in my memory the House of Commons is leading the way when it comes to virtual conferences. Perhaps they will again, Jacob Rees Mogg is agitating for a return of the full parliament !! if its Ok for them presumably its Ok for the rest of us!!

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