We all miss live events done in person in large auditoriums and expo centers. There was a certain energy that cannot be replicated using recorded video over the internet. There is also the fact that the coverage of these events by the press is different, even lacking. In person, the press can get hands-on impressions and ask questions that provide real insight into the offered products and services. Without that, we can expect little more than unfiltered press releases.
While the pandemic has taken its toll on live events, it will not have the last word. There is still room for some type of modified events for 2021. There are a number of factors at play that give us reasons for hope. Even as we are hitting new daily records for the number of hospitalizations and deaths, we have multiple, effective vaccines. The distribution of the vaccine has hit a few snags. But production seems to be going smoothly.
Further, some experts believe we might hit herd immunity by mid-year. That is going to change everything when that happens. However, you will still need to make a few modifications because COVID has left a lasting mark on event spaces. Here is what you will need to know going forward:
Tents Not Buildings
Conferences and Expos tend to happen in large, enclosed facilities. That, however, does not have to be the case. There could be smaller and more portable expos that happen outside under an event canopies instead of large buildings. Smaller events tend to feel more intimate. Presenters can be more personal in their presentation. Event goers can have more time to ask questions and get some hands-on time.
Even indoors, you need a booth with an event canopy so that people can easily locate you in the crowd. You would still have to enforce social distancing and control the number of people at the booth at any one time. This type of crowd control will be a part of the new normal for some time to come.
Add a Virtual Component
One of the easiest ways to ensure crowd control is to provide a way for people to attend virtually. You can even make a virtual food festival work with a little creativity. Turn on the cameras and livestream everything. With current technologies, you can even make your virtual event interactive.
Right now, the largest tech trade show in America, CES, is about to go completely virtual. If they manage to pull this off, it will be a huge win for everyone. Over the past many years the show has been done, the biggest story from the journalists who cover it is how awful it was to be there. Colds and flus are so virulent, they call it CES disease. While in-person shows can still happen in the future, a video component will be a part of the show for a long time to come.
Other Safety Mitigations
In the East, mask-wearing is a norm. It will probably become a lot more normative in bigger cities. Expect it to become a standard recommendation at large events. Coronavirus is not the only viral infection to worry about. Make hand sanitizer available everywhere.
Right now, some retail chains and restaurants are taking temperature checks at the door before allowing people inside. This is a simple and nonintrusive mitigation that requires nothing more than a thermometer and batteries. People who are sick should not be allowed to infect everyone else. That means denying entry to those who are visibly ill. That will be controversial. But it is already in effect in many places.
There is already conversation about creating some sort of vaccination ID. Not everyone believes in vaccination. But to bring back public events to pre-COVID levels, there could be regulations involving proof of vaccination for everyone working and attending live events. That is something event-holders should start researching now before regulators force the issue.
COVID will go away this year. But its effects will remain for some time, especially on event spaces. When events resume, prepare to hold smaller, more mobile, outdoor events. Add a video component and livestream everything. And use all expedient mitigations to protect your staff and participants.