Each day that passes, more and more people are getting vaccinated, and the odds of us most of us returning to what we consider normal in our pre-pandemic lives increases. Whether you are looking forward to in-person birthday celebrations, family gatherings, happy hours, attending your favorite sporting event, or even your favorite conference, it is safe to say that we all cannot wait to be back to “normal” in-person gatherings! As various states begin to roll back or ease some of their COVID-19 restrictions, many of us in the industry are contemplating the best way to return to hosting in-person events, tradeshows, or conferences. With travel concerns or restrictions and mandatory testing or quarantine periods for many states, many of us are turning to local or regional events.
For many of us, upcoming regional events will be our first planned in-person meeting for over a year, and a lot has changed in that time. Figuring out what regulations to follow and safety measures to take can be a considerable challenge on its own. Add in keeping your attendees engaged and involved throughout the event, and continuing to add the value they have come to expect from your events can be daunting for the most experienced of meeting and events planners. We’ll dive into the best practices for regional events below and leave you with some tips and tricks that will leave your attendees looking forward to your next event.
CDC Gathering Guidelines
One of the best ways to prepare and plan for your event during the COVID-19 pandemic is to familiarize yourself with the current and up-to-date guidance provided by the CDC. Nearly all of the guidelines flow directly from this agency, so it is best to get your information from the source. The CDC provides an abundance of useful information for all things regarding COVID-19, one of which is how to conduct a gathering.
The CDC provides a handy guideline referred to as the Events and Gatherings: Readiness and Planning Tool. This guide was specifically created to help event planners and administrators protect themselves and event attendees as much as possible. This tool is comprehensive and covers everything from policies, procedures, how to prepare your facilities and supplies, and the education and training your staff needs to conduct the event.
A Few Of The Most Important Highlights Include:
- Reviewing relevant local and state regulations, policies, and orders related to events, gatherings, and travel.
- Consulting local health officials about recommended testing.
- Developing a plan that allows for social distancing before, after, and during the event.
- Developing online attendance options to help keep the total of in-person attendees low.
- Consulting with venue operators to learn about their COVID-19 policies.
- Developing plans to deal with sick staff members, those who begin to feel sick at the event, and possible outbreaks.
Why Regional Events Are Key
We have always been mindful of attendees and event staff's health, safety, and well-being, but the past year has magnified this focus exponentially. As anxious as we all are for large gatherings and events to resume, there is a delicate balance we are all working on finding between getting back to “normal” and prioritizing health and safety.
The CDC released new guidelines on how to protect yourself and others when you’ve been fully vaccinated. Even fully vaccinated people are being advised to avoid medium or large-sized gatherings and delay domestic and international travel. This is the sweet spot that smaller regional events serve.
It goes without saying that these smaller regional events have fewer attendees than large-scale national events. This puts people more at ease because they are limiting their exposure and risk of contracting COVID-19. Regional events also allow people to travel shorter distances, often by car, avoid air travel, and limit their interaction or exposure with others before the event. In spite of all the cleaning and safety precautions that have been implemented by the airline and hospitality industry, many of your attendees still are not comfortable traveling by air or staying overnight anywhere, but their own home, events close to where they live will assure they still register and attend.
What Practices Should You Use During Your Event?
Hosting an event during the COVID-19 pandemic will differ significantly depending on where the event is held. Currently, states and locales determine which policies and practices to abide by when hosting events and gatherings. These guidelines are typically determined by the rate of infection, availability of resources, and how many people are infected in the area.
Events hosted at a venue, both indoor and outdoor, will likely have a limited capacity based on their preexisting capacity and size. The larger the venue, the better attendees can socially distance themselves. Countless measures can be taken to ensure that your guests are as safe as possible while attending your gathering or event.
Here are the practices that you should consider:
- Require attendees to wear masks at all times, except for when actively eating or drinking.
- If you are using tables, limit the capacity of guests at each table – four is the recommended limit, six if they live in the same household.
- Control the flow of guests by creating a determined start and end time and designated paths to control traffic flow.
- Rather than one large gathering spot, have multiple meeting places throughout the event to keep crowds at a low number.
- If you are serving food, try to choose menu items that can be individually wrapped.
- Buffets should have barriers between guests and the food.
- Strategically position trash cans and bussing stations to encourage guests to dispose of their own trash.
- Dividing your attendees into groups can help to prevent too many people from congregating at once.
- Strategically place signage around the event to remind guests to maintain six-feet of social distance and to direct one-way traffic.
How To Keep Your Attendees Engaged
As an event planner or organizer, your main goal is to create an event that keeps your attendees interested and captivated. Having a few tips and tricks at your disposal can help you ensure that your attendees are getting the most out of your event. There are many different ways to keep your guests interested. Here a few to get your event started on the right foot!
Display A Digital Social Wall
Make sure your attendees are participating in the event by creating a social wall! Event organizers can set these up to help personalize the experience for guests. It is simple, and it can be completed with just a television or two. Create a hashtag that appropriately represents or identifies your event. Then, using a tool like Tagboard, live stream the tagged posts. This encourages your attendees to share how they interact with the event and actively keeps them engaged with the event and other guests.
Create Networking Opportunities
For many attendees, one of the main goals of attending an event is to network. Because of this, it is essential to have networking sessions worked into your event’s schedule. This could provide a fantastic opportunity to incorporate a virtual element into your event. Not only will those attending from home be able to interact with those at the event, but you can still set up laptops or tablets to foster interaction between those at the event safely.
Have A Mobile-Ready Website
Passing out programs or literature may not be the best idea as your guests worry about the spread of germs. Creating a website for your event that is mobile-responsive is an excellent solution. You can include schedules, content hubs, maps, and even credentials to allow your guest to engage with the event in the safest way possible.
Create A Community
Creating a Facebook Group and other communities across social media platforms allows your guests to stay engaged before, during, and after the event. You can upload videos, gain feedback, hold discussions, and keep the momentum going from start to finish.
Incorporate Virtual Elements
Giving attendees the opportunity to attend your event in-person or virtually not only extends your reach, but it keeps the number of in-person attendees to a much smaller amount, which is excellent for social distancing regulations and precautions. These hybrid events give you the greatest chance at reaching the largest possible audience. If you are adding a virtual component to your regional event, head over to Tips and Tricks for s Successful Hybrid Event!
There is going to come a time when we can enjoy large, in-person events. For now, we can still gather and host events with the proper precautions and by creating new ways to put on regional or hybrid events. The primary purpose of any event right now should be to add value and engage your attendees while ensuring their safety. With this in mind, your next event is sure to be successful with the right plan in place.