Pandemic restrictions and social distancing requirements have made hosting physical events impossible. Understandably, these complications led most in the events industry to focus their efforts on the virtual event space instead of canceling their planned events outright. But as parts of the world slowly creep back to something that resembles ‘normal,’ it is beginning to look like small-scale events or hybrid events will be possible in the not too distant future. To be clear, mass gatherings are still not a good idea and there is no vaccine for the coronavirus, no cure for COVID-19, and no way to guarantee with 100 percent certainty that no one who attends your event in-person will contract the virus. There are, however, significant steps you can take to prevent the spread and reduce the risks to your attendees, vendors, and staff. An online event has its challenges, to be sure, but keeping event attendees safe from a deadly virus is not one of them. But there are lots of things you can do to create a safer event and offer a space where event attendees can feel comfortable gathering together. In fact, some of these safety elements can be worked into the venue decor to become a seamless part of your event planning and safety precautions. [embed]https://youtu.be/74jOd6M2HrA[/embed]But first things first...
The first thing you should do as an event planner when organizing a hybrid or live event is to find a venue with the GBAC Star accreditation. The Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC) has created the GBAC Star Facility Accreditation program to be the gold standard for event venue safety. The program consists of 20 elements, each with a specific set of criteria that must be met, before passing the program. In the end, accredited venues will be trained on proper cleaning and disinfecting practices to ensure that measures are taken to reduce the risk of spreading viruses and infectious diseases. This accreditation can give you and your attendees the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the venue is taking all possible measures to keep everyone safe. But this facility accreditation will not be enough on its own. To keep attendees safe, you will need to actively assume protective measures. As mentioned above, some of these safety measures can be added to your decor. Beautiful, interesting, curious, AND safe—how can you go wrong?
Event organizers and other event professionals are going to start finding ways to keep acc
As virtual events give way to hybrid events, you are going to need to find a way to help attendees navigate your venue. Instead of just putting arrows all over the show floor or conference room, why not use decorative ropes and stanchions? These can help guide an attendee through the venue in a way that helps control numbers and direct traffic flow, preventing people from congregating in specific areas. If your event has a particular theme, you can match the ropes and stanchions to the event theme. Try to match your brand colors and be sure you clearly mark entrances and exits if your ropes are designating a queue. As part of physical distancing requirements, you’ll need to mark 6-foot spacing and directions. These markers can also be personalized to fit the design scheme, theme, and event branding, but make sure that any materials with text on them are easy to read and printed in large font.
If you need to have a sit-down dinner or are hosting something like a conference where you may need attendees to sit down at a table and work together, plexiglass table dividers can make it safe to do so. Already popular in some restaurants, these dividers fit over the top of the table creating little spaces, of cubbies for people to sit in while still being able to see and communicate with people on the other side. You can still decorate the tabletop as you wish and the transparency of the plexiglass means that when you look around the room, the view will remain unobstructed.
For an event organizer that doesn’t want to use plexiglass dividers, why not add a little creativity to the layout? Consider using tables of different sizes or put them together in a way that allows for people to maintain the proper distance. Two long, rectangular tables, for example, when put side by side, make one wide table. With the right number of chairs, people can sit down and communicate without violating social distancing guidelines. But you don’t have to just create big, boxy tables. Use your imagination and try to find creative ways to put together tables and chairs to maximize the space you have, the aesthetics, and respect the proper social distance.
You will often find common spaces, like a lounge or lobby, at networking events or at a conference or trade show. It is hard to prevent these areas from getting crowded. One way to accomplish social distancing is to brand pillows that deliver a message. Something like “To respect social distancing, please do not sit here” with your event logo above it. This will do two things: it will help keep the space safe, and it will help advance your event brand. This idea also works for keynote addresses or demonstrations that require an audience to sit and watch. If you don’t want to use pillows in this circumstance, consider branded seat covers that deliver the same message.
It is now widely required that if you are going to be spending time indoors with prolonged exposure to other people, you should wear a mask. This provides a golden opportunity for you to provide brand swag for your attendees while keeping vendors, exhibitors, speakers, staff, and attendees protected. Sure, this isn’t exactly a decor idea but it will help you enforce the protective measures that are featured in your decor. By handing out masks upon arrival, you are signaling that you are taking the coronavirus threat seriously and are unwilling to tolerate violations of the rules. Seeing this step taken at the very beginning will improve the attendee experience and help them relax a little in the environment, which, in turn, will help them better absorb the information they are receiving and gain more from the experience overall. Because everyone will be wearing a mask, your brand will be front and center when attendees take pictures and post them on social media. For event marketers, this is a dream come true! If there is an event hashtag, put that on the masks to further encourage attendees to use it. And, because cloth masks are reusable, you create an opportunity for your brand to thrive long after the event is finished!
Room dividers are about to become the best friend of event professionals everywhere. They will help separate spaces and keep people where you want/need them to be. But they don’t have to be boring. While a decorative wall may work, you have to be careful because you do not want to do something that will make people congregate around it to look. Large plants and floral arrangements can do wonders in this regard. Distancing can make the space feel empty and you will want it to feel warm and inviting. Add hedges, trees, or floral walls to divide the room while keeping the decor beautiful and intentional.
Food and beverage are an important part of just about any live event. But they present a few issues when in the midst of a global pandemic. Sanitation and safety concerns mean that you will have to find some creative catering solutions. Self serve buffets are not a viable option for the time being so you will have to consider table service. But, this is only viable if the staff is trained in sanitation and food handling. One option is to stagger foodservice and serve individual servings, like a bagged lunch, that the attendee can pick up at a specific time, from a specific location in the venue. Prepackaged meals can also be left on the attendees’ seats before the dining hour so all they have to do is come in, sit down, and eat. You will want to avoid any situation where multiple people will be touching a food item. The goal is to limit contact wherever possible. Where you once may have had guests choose from a variety of food items, you are best to go with some sort of menu-option. Add the meal options to your registration page so attendees can decide in advance what they will be having and staff can prepare and package the meal without any extra contact with the food. One creative catering idea is to create a portal or cubby hole wall.
On one side, attendees choose the prepackaged food they want and pull it out of the hole, on the other side, staff can restock the food. In some portals, put decorative lighting or small plants to break it up and make it look pretty. This can serve as an interesting focal point in the room and protect event staff and attendees from unnecessary contact. Just be sure to perform crowd control, establish distance markers, and set up hand sanitizing stations where people will exit the queue to grab the food. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the event industry to reevaluate the way it operates. And while it was a struggle at first, the popularity of virtual events has been a reason for optimism. The next logical step, as parts of the world and the United States reopen and begin to relax stay at home orders, are hybrid events and small scale in-person events. Because these events have a contingent of people in a physical space, you will have to go out of your way to make the venue safe and comfortable for all participants. While hand sanitizers, directional arrows, and spacing markers will be essential, there is no need for the event decor to suffer! The above ideas are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to keeping event attendees safe AND designing a beautiful space for your event. When you are ready to start the event planning process, reach out to us at Accelevents learn more about all the ways we can help you host a successful hybrid event!
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