As we emerge from lockdown and begin to open up across Australia, events are making a comeback – providing us with much needed and missed opportunities for face-to-face interactions, celebrations and collaborations. For more than a year, these things have only been possible online, yet even now, the pandemic has not gone away and it’s not exactly business as usual!
In these uncertain days, it’s essential to keep everyone safe while holding a successful and memorable event. So, here are our top three tips for running a COVID-Safe event:
1. Identify the potential COVID risks
Some events present a higher transmission risk than others. For example, outdoor vs indoor, local vs national guests, a one-off event vs multiple days or sessions, and allocated vs unallocated seating, to name a few. Conducting an initial COVID-19 risk assessment should be the first step in planning your event.
The outcomes of such an assessment will help us to determine event essentials such as the venue, number of attendees, catering, entertainment, event format and even the run sheet. We can also make an informed decision about whether a face-to-face, hybrid or virtual event will be the most suitable option for your business.
Trust us, based on eight years of experience - pandemic or not, taking the time to look at your goals and ascertain the best way to achieve them will save you headaches and issues further down the road!
2. Follow the rules and requirements
In Victoria, we’re required to seek permission to hold any public event, such as an exhibition, festival or trade show, that involves more than 1,000 guests. In addition, some of our clients have other COVID rules that we must follow, such as whether their staff are allowed back on site or not. Regardless of the size or scale of the event, everyone must comply with all of the COVID-19 restrictions in place at the time, including venue density quotient, 1.5m social distancing, hand washing, and/or sanitising and mask-wearing.
As event producers, we’re also required to prepare and communicate a clear COVID-safe plan to everyone and keep records to support contact tracing of any guests, volunteers, contractors, and staff who attend or work at the event. There’s plenty of information and some great templates available on the Victorian Government website, which we use and customise, along with comprehensive checklists, for each event.
Remember, each state and territory has its restrictions and requirements that may change in any given week, so if you’re planning a national event, you may need to consider what this means for any interstate attendees or guests – especially if a lockdown is declared while they are travelling. For example, a recent Perth expo was shut down early due to the snap lockdown in Victoria, with many interstate exhibitors having to make a mad dash home before borders closed.
3. Have a backup plan
Live events will always be a little risky and unpredictable; from speakers not showing up to technical malfunctions, you never really know what’s going to happen on the day. A traditional event planning risk assessment will help you identify, think about and plan for potential issues, but as we’ve seen here in Victoria and around the country, snap lockdowns can be called at very short notice, and just when you think things are going well too! If you are planning a face-to-face or hybrid event, be sure to have a well thought out backup plan ready to implement.
There are a few options available, in case of a sudden lockdown, including:
Like you, we’re eager to produce and attend more in-person events, but the reality is COVID-19 will continue to be a part of our lives for some time yet. As long as this is the case, online and hybrid events will remain the best option for ensuring we can keep everyone safe and healthy. We talk more about the trend towards online events in our recent blog – read it here.
So, if you go ahead with an in-person event, we recommend you follow our three tips above and that your event producer has the technical capabilities and experience to run a successful online event, just in case!
Having successfully delivered several hybrid and physical events since easing restrictions, we’re available to provide bespoke advice and recommendations. Get in touch to chat about any of your upcoming COVID-Safe event needs.
The zoom boom
We can’t deny the benefits of online events - connecting people on a national and global scale opened doors and created more opportunities for organisations, with relative ease and at a fraction of the cost. Many of the old barriers simply fell away and suddenly we were doing just about everything online!
Yet, it was hardly the ideal scenario, with regular interruptions from kids, pets, poor internet connections and the dreaded ‘mute’ button. Not to mention the initial novelty of Zoom meetings quickly wearing off. There’s nothing quite like the tangible, interpersonal experience you can only get from real life interactions.
When the threat of the pandemic began to ease, we saw hybrid events become our new hero - providing event guests with the option to participate either online, in person or a combination of both, depending on their location and situation.
Hybrid events appeared to tick all the boxes – offering the best of both worlds, but from a production and planning perspective it’s the equivalent of running two events alongside one another!
Beyond the chat-room abyss…
During lockdown, we saw an opportunity to not only develop and trial our own unique way of producing virtual events, but also support our community at a time when morale and motivation was at its lowest. We looked past the ready-made online meeting platforms and created our own digital event space.
‘Couch Community’ became a virtual place for the JTPM team, clients and broader community to connect, interact and be entertained. We curated and produced a series of fun and interactive online events - from hilarious ‘Chef vs Comedian’ mash up’s to soothing and inspiring ‘Wellness for your Wellbeing’ self-development sessions.
Feedback about Couch Community was positively glowing and encouraged us to keep pushing the boundaries and developing creative online event solutions throughout 2020. As a result, we’ve been able to competently and successfully pitch our concepts to clients, and the digital arm of our business has grown significantly - with one event quickly leading to the next.
We’ve since delivered a number of outstanding online and hybrid events including:
So what’s the verdict?
Online events are not a passing COVID-fad, at least not yet. With many still affected by the pandemic, online events remain extremely important in connecting people. But we won’t settle for the stock standard online approach at JTPM, and neither should you!
Even as the pandemic eases, we may find that some clients will continue to incorporate online interaction into their events and others may not return to physical events at all. So, for now, online events are here to stay and we’ll keep working on innovative ways to deliver memorable experiences and look forward to see what the future of online events will bring.