Events, exhibitions and meetings have consistently put destinations on the map. From boosting the economy to raising the profile of the host city or town, the investment opportunities and knowledge-sharing value of business events is unbounded.
Bringing with it insurmountable losses across a variety of sectors, the events sector is yet another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the very nature of events defying the basics for mitigating the spread of the virus, eventing professionals have been challenged to rethink and re-imagine the entire landscape. To survive and adapt, planners find themselves asking many questions, amongst them, ‘How can I engage my audience to provide a meaningful experience in an interactive and safe manner?’
With countries around the globe slowly emerging from varying levels of lockdowns, now is the time to rethink the future of events. Today’s events are no longer about dates, rates, and space – they are about safety, efficiency, and transparency.
As we collectively re-imagine the sector, below are five key considerations for hosting a successful and safe event:
- Create a safe environment at your event
It is important to follow up-to-date South African National Department of Health and the World Health Organization guidelines, strictly adhering to the guidance for onsite events. The South African Events Council, consisting of 12 event and exhibition associations across South Africa, has published reopening guidelines in line with the national COVID-19 protocols and regulations. This document, which is available here, is an easy-to-reference resource to ensure your event observes all protocols.
Embracing the ‘touchless economy’ as far as possible for sign-in, for example ensuring that drinks and refreshments are packaged in a safe, sealed yet sustainable manner, goes a long way to prevent spread, and instilling a sense of safety in delegates.
- Create a plan and communicate it with all stakeholders
Deliver essential information in a quick, clear, and transparent manner to assure your stakeholders that the necessary precautions and guidelines will be followed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, accompanied by a succinct communication plan on how issues will be dealt with should they arise.
The best place to create and maintain this plan is on a webpage of your event website. The following steps should be included when creating your plan:
- Co-ordinate with local health officials in your area to determine steps for identifying and isolating attendees with elevated risk, should a delegate prove to by symptomatic.
- Create an organised project workflow and communication strategy that includes partners, vendors, and attendees to ensure everyone feels confident and comfortable with your event plan.
- As events co-ordinator, contact all meeting spaces, hotels, and venues to ensure an understanding of their health protocols.
- Publish your company policy on your website.
- Maintain prevention and control measures and proactively update your attendees, partners and venues
Venues and event organisers should have an event safety officer in place who can fulfil the roll of the COVID-19 compliance officer.
Maintaining an updated log of attendees (containing full name and contact details) is of utmost importance to easily manage contact tracing should the need arise for exposure notifications post event.
- Establish health and safety rules for your event
In addition to venue rules and regulations, and to add an additional layer of protection, creating clear health and safety rules specific to your event is advisable.
As people start to come together again in group environments, there are a wide range of comfort levels to accommodate, especially when it comes to physical proximity and contact. Many people, who will in a lot of cases be seeing colleagues and industry friends for the first time, also find it awkward to let others know their preference.
Global event strategist network PCMA is finding creative solutions to the aforementioned problem. Taking their cue from traffic lights, they’ve created colour-coded wristbands with red indicating ‘no contact’, yellow meaning ‘elbow bumping allowed’, and green meaning ‘high fives and handshakes welcome’. Thus, individual preferences are easily communicated without anyone having to say a word. With ‘touchless’ networking encouraged locally, the colours can be creatively rethought to accommodate your event.
- Create a hybrid event
While we are still in an unsure immediate future while vaccine roll-outs commence, virtual and hybrid events are here to stay for the interim.
The best thing about hybrid events is that they combine the best of virtual and in-person gatherings, providing a format that allows event organisers to safely bring back live experiences, while still realising the benefits of a digital event platform.
The South African events sector has consistently brought professionally organised, world-class sport, business, and entertainment events to a destination, with Cape Town and the Western Cape being home to many flagship events attended by visitors from across the globe.
Building on months of experience and some realistic expectations on global health trends, it’s not a matter of if, but how, the meetings and events industry will continue to experiment and change. Despite the shift to virtual spaces, the value and hunger for in-person knowledge sharing and connection have not disappeared. As we progress, it is about finding a new medium to marry innovation with in-person interaction, enabling the events landscape to metamorphose into a new state of being.
As we collectively craft what the new world of events looks like, we call on our local sector to experiment with new technologies and formats in a safe and responsible way. Cape Town and the Western Cape will always be a place where great minds meet!