It’s difficult to gauge when it will once again be safe to hold large in-person gatherings in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. However, we will likely see a smaller, scaled relaunch of conferences and live events in the coming months. What can companies that frequently host, sponsor, or attend conferences be doing to prepare?
Reduce the element of risk
Help put attendees’ minds at ease by selecting venues that place a strong emphasis on safety precautions and provide strong sanitation protocols. For example, venues should be equipped with a thermal scanner to take the temperature of all visitors and staff as they enter the building. They should also have a clear plan in place for how to handle any participants that show symptoms of infection.
Ideally, venues will also be investing in air purification technology on par with what is used in hospitals. Proper air circulation can decrease the risk of transmitting the virus when participants are indoors for long periods of time.
Region and size
While everyone is eager to safely resume attending or hosting large conferences, it’s likely that the event industry will start making its comeback with smaller regional events. Attendees will gravitate towards events in their geographical area that are accessible by driving or a short flight. And with less participants, it will be easier to social distance as well as disinfect common areas or meeting rooms. Expect to see smaller gatherings like seminars or workshops taking place before large-scale conferences resume.
Traditionally, events and conferences help build brand awareness, foster connections, and drive meaningful conversations. So how can you provide an environment that maintains safety regulations while still encouraging that response?
All attendees should have a clear understanding of social distancing expectations. Venues will also need to carefully plan room setup. How will they space out tables and chairs as well as create aisles that maintain distance? And of course, make sure the venue has a clear plan for distributing food and beverages. Buffet-style lunches of the past should be replaced with grab-and-go packed lunches or seated meals served by a trained staff.
While we look forward to the day that in-person gatherings can return to their former glory, it’s always smart to be prepared for future challenges.
That’s why it will be very important for you to review the language in your vendor contracts. Specifically, you’ll want to work with your legal team to update the Force Majeure clause. This clause usually allows you to cancel a contract without penalty due to an “Act of God,” which covers things like state-of-emergency weather or terrorist attacks. Most, however, do not currently include pandemics. After seeing the effect of the coronavirus outbreak, all contracts should now include the ability to cancel without penalty in the event of an outbreak.
Hopefully, this step will be one of overpreparing, one that will bring peace of mind to your team as you plan for the return of large in-person events.
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