The Future of Events - everything planners need to know
Whether you live in the nitty-gritty of event planning or dream of the good ol’ days at weekend festivals, we’re all wondering….what are events going to look like when we get to the other side of this pandemic? And, while there are very few, if any, certainties for a timeline or guidelines for how in-person gatherings will come back into our lives, within the events industry there are several key areas we’re focusing on now to help prepare us for the future of events.
Note: The information included in this article is speculative projections and should not be taken as formal guidance. Please check with your local officials for the most current update on what is permitted in your area.
Outdoor versus Indoor
Just like restaurants, outdoor events are on track to be permitted well in advance of indoor experiences. With the significantly reduced risk of transmission when outside, expect events and activations to take place in open outdoor spaces for some time.
As events are permitted, local governments will be looking for events to have a plan for controlling entrances and exits. The level of control required will vary, but free to the public events with multiple entry points (think artisan markets, art shows, community festivals) will have to implement new systems. On the most regulated side, this might require fully contained perimeters with reduced access points requiring pre-registration for contract tracing. A reduced level of control might only require contained perimeters with health screenings and temperature checks upon entry.
Venues will be more spacious, taking up more physical space and/or reducing the amount of attendees, in order to allow ample space for social distancing. Infrastructure will be distanced and tables set apart following restaurant guidelines. Events will need to factor in a reduced occupancy plan for all enclosed areas.
The tech landscape for events is expanding quickly both in what’s available and what’s in development for health screenings, contact tracing, and, potentially, vaccination tracking. While these tech tools can help mitigate risk and transmission, they will come as a hit to event budgets and might not be realistic for smaller less funded events. We expect to see this technology first come in to play with large festivals and sporting events and hope that in a short amount of time it can become more affordable for widespread use.
Entertainment is currently not permitted in most States across the Country which not only affects events but also restaurants, theatre groups and performance venues. It is anticipated that entertainment will return in phases first allowing for distanced spectator performances until eventually getting to lively acts with dancing and interaction.
For the near future, all entertainment and activations at an event will need to be designed to limit interaction as well as congregation.
Booths will need to be separated by additional space or dividing walls. Regulations might be encouraged or required for the number of people at a booth at one time and exhibitors will need to have systems in place for managing distanced lines. Retailers and food vendors will have local guidelines to follow regulating additional precautions. Looking to current farmer’s market guidelines can provide insight into future market-style guidelines for events.
Events will need to take responsibility for the education and awareness of participants, staff, contractors, volunteers and employees. Pre-event messaging should include reminders to stay home if experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19 or having known exposure as well as outline what precautionary measures to expect at the event (mask and distancing requirements, temperature checks, etc.). These same messages should be repeated on-site through signage and verbal messaging, adding in handwashing reminders and possibly even directional guidance for traffic flow.
All commonly touched surfaces will be cleaned at regular intervals. Enhanced cleaning crews will be armed with verified sanitation supplies and will focus on high traffic areas. Events should plan additional restroom attendants and “Hot Shot” teams that target high usage zones including food court tables and lounge areas. Backstage and production cleanliness will also be a priority with extra care taken for areas with rotating personnel like entertainment green rooms and on-stage equipment.
Alcohol-related event activities are not likely to be on the early side of event approvals. When they are permitted, line and crowd management will be key and procedures to reduce mingling of groups might be required.
A lot remains to be determined for the pathway back to reopening the events industry. There is still very little governmental guidance on how events will be phased back into society in safe ways, and the industry is left to speculate and prepare aimlessly for potential requirements. The above is not an exhaustive breakdown but does cover some key areas planners and producers can consider now as we wait for the clearance to gather again.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jenna Thompson
Jenna is a mountain based Yogi with a love for veggie focused foods. When she's not in Warrior Pose you can find her spending time with her Avalanche Rescue Dog Luna with a Matcha Latte in hand!