How to Responsibly Host an Event Post-Lockdown
With the government lifting restrictions, the events industry has recently been given the go-ahead to begin running small scale, in-person events for pilot.
But keeping up with the latest guidance and regulations can be overwhelming. With things changing so quickly and everything being reliant upon infection rates, what we can and can’t do sometimes becomes a little confusing.
This blog post intends to answer common questions and shed some light on the current situation as it is now (as of 31/07/2020), but the health and safety of you, your staff and your attendees come first – so if you’re still unsure, or want a reassuring voice on the end of the phone, please get in touch.
This guidance should be read alongside the current government guidance which can be found here.
When can I hold my event?
On July 25th, the government allowed a small number of businesses and venues to reopen, starting with sports facilities and indoor swimming pools providing that the businesses adhered to social distancing rules, and added hygiene measures.
As of August 1st, the government will begin to pilot small events and conferences, again ensuring attendees are able to keep their distance and follow the government guidelines.
Larger conferences and exhibitions will be permitted from October 1st 2020, if the rate of infection does not increase in the meantime. The prime minister has stated that the local authorities will have the power to close events should they pose a threat to the public.
How many people can attend?
Currently, business events can hold up to 30 people in an indoor venue, providing that your attendees can abide by social distancing rules and the venue can show it has taken Covid-19 guidance into consideration (more on this below!).
Larger conferences could be on the cards from October 1st, although this is dependent on the situation as it stands then. We will have to await government updates on this.
If you can’t wait until October to hold your large-scale event, you could look at turning your event hybrid. Using a combination of live and virtual event aspects, you can create a memorable, meaningful event with the capabilities of going global!
Do we need to social distance?
Yes. Social distancing measures will still need to be met in order to remain compliant with the government’s guidelines. As it stands today, the official guidelines are a recommended 2 metres from anyone outside of your household or support bubble, or 1 metre if you can mitigate risk by taking additional precautions (such as PPE, or not sitting face to face). As a rule of thumb, we would suggest that in planning your event you should use the 2m rule as often as you can, exercising a little extra precaution.
While it’s not a guideline, its important to note that research shows the virus is less likely to be passed on outdoors and in well ventilated areas, so if you can use an outdoor venue, this could be a safer option.
How can I minimise risk?
As businesses start to reopen, venues are asked to ensure their venue is ‘COVID-Secure’. To be considered COVID-Secure, the venue needs to implement a number of minimum requirements which enable them to reopen and stay open safely.
These minimum requirements are outlined in the Meetings Industry Association’s (MIA) roadmap to reopening safely.
Event organisers, like always, are asked to evaluate their health and safety policies by filling out a risk assessment form prior to the event. The post-lockdown risk assessments should follow the same guidelines as previous risk assessments, but also be made to include:
- Proposed action taken regarding distancing measures
- Proposed additional hygiene measures
- Contingency plans and what to do in case of an outbreak
- Food and beverage risk and mitigation
- How you plan to communication these actions to both staff and attendees
Plus, any additional risks that the Coronavirus presents within your venue and your event.
You can download the AEO assessment plan here.
Policies will need to be considered, especially your cleaning and disinfecting protocols, distancing and capacity policies and additional PPE (read below for more details).
There’s nothing worse than going into a venue and not knowing how their new system works; it can be a cause of anxiety for many. It is your responsibility to put their mind at ease and to show them clearly how they need to comply with your venue or event requirements.
The best way to deal with this is signage. It is down to venue owners and event planners to visually remind and inform attendees and staff of the procedures you have put in place to ensure their safety. This includes social distancing reminders at key points, such as on arrival, at reception, inside meeting rooms. Reminders for hand washing/sanitising and wearing facemasks (when appropriate) are also recommended to achieve COVID-Secure status.
Following on from signage, a good idea when organising your event is to communicate with your attendees what they can expect from you and what guidelines to follow prior to your event. This not only helps to reduce anxiety, but will also make sure the attendees are compliant, keeping your staff and attendees as safe as possible. These messages should be communicated across all platforms relevant to you, such as social media, your website and app, and even urgent SMS via text should you need it.
Reduce Numbers of Attendees
The Meetings Industry Association (MIA) advises against lounge areas, also stating that meeting rooms should be as close to the entrance as possible, with small groups of people and social distancing in effect in the conference rooms.
What kind of hygiene practices do I need to have in place?
The AEO, together with the AEV, ESSA and the UK Government, have recently released the All Secure Standard for event recovery. In which enhanced venue cleaning, hand washing/sanitising stations, waste management, and share equipment guidelines are highlighted.
The venue needs to offer a visible cleaning regime where key touch points such as restrooms, food and beverage areas and entrance/exit points are given extra attention, with regular disinfecting.
At key locations, hand sanitiser needs to be offered, including restrooms, meeting and conference rooms, and at entry and exit points. Visitors and staff should be prompted to sanitise or wash their hands regularly with signage.
Shared equipment needs to be removed to reduce risk of spread through shared objects such as stationary or microphones. All equipment that is necessary needs to be sanitised between uses and shared areas need to be cleaned regularly throughout the day.
To mitigate this risk even further, you could utilise tech on people’s phones. Polling and Q&A’s can be submitted from audience member’s phones via easily accessible event apps, meaning they aren’t coming into contact with shared tech such as tablets, voting handsets or roving mics. To take this even further, UKSV can help with bespoke app creation for your event! That way you can encourage participation, receive measurable and meaningful data, all while reducing the risk of spread.
With this in mind, you may need to rethink the communal water fountains and jugs. While we wouldn’t normally recommend plastic water bottles and disposable cups, this could be a better way to go.
As an event organiser, you can ask for face coverings to be worn by attendees, however currently the UK government only requires face coverings to be worn on public transport, in shops and shopping centres, banks and post offices.
Something you could consider is branded PPE – if you have to wear it, you might as well look good, right? Branded PPE is a great way to keep people safe, whilst reinforcing your brand and heightening brand awareness. Win-win!
What additional considerations should I be taking?
The NHS Test and Trace service requires venues to assist with their efforts, meaning that customer data should be acquired and stored for up to 21 days should the NHS Test and Trace need it. This will help contain outbreaks in clusters should there be an outbreak at your event.
Communication with the Venue
Communication all around is important at this time, but a particularly critical communication line is between the event manager and the venue. You need to work with them in advance to ensure that your event is suitable for that space. For example capacity will have changed due to social distancing, so have a thorough conversation regarding how many people you are expecting. If you’re in a large venue, discuss arrival, departure and breaking times to make sure you won’t be in the same communal areas as other guests. Some events organisers are staggering arrival and departure times for groups with larger numbers – again, this could be something to consider and discuss with the venue.
A different approach to an age-old classic; why not offer goody bags with the safety essentials such as hand sanitiser, gloves, even branded PPE! This again keeps your audience safe, while reinforcing your brand.
Don’t forget to get creative and have some fun! While this is a time of uncertainty and doubt, it is also a great time to try new things for your events or your venue. Think outside the box – for example whilst you can’t offer the traditional food and beverage options, why not try socially distanced food offers such as a small picnic basket or individually packaged meals.
Yours may be the first event your delegates attend, so make sure you give them a great experience; put their mind at ease but most of all keep them safe!
This sounds like a lot to consider; can I have assistance?
It’s important to note that this is a quick evolving situation and you may take all this into consideration only to have the guidelines change overnight. Your plan needs to be flexible and reactive.
All of this can seem a bit overwhelming, and it really is important to get right. That’s why we suggest leaning on an events agency that can help you not only be compliant, but also give your attendees a good experience whilst keeping them safe. At UKSV we have been closely monitoring the situation and can help alleviate the stress of organising an event post-lockdown.
Please note that all guidance in this article needs to be taken into consideration alongside the UK government guidelines. Below are some really great resources for events organisers during the reopening of the events industry. Alternatively give us a call! We’re more than happy to help – and friendly, we promise!