There can be no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of trouble for people interested in running conferences in 2020. Conferences typically require indoor spaces and necessitate a large number of people sitting in a room together to learn more about a subject from a speaker.
With social distancing rules still in effect, traditional means of running conferences simply aren’t possible to carry out safely. However, as the world comes to terms with the coronavirus, it is becoming more apparent that this is something that we made to live with for a long time - and this means making adjustments, at least in the short term.
Here we take a look at some of the best ways that you can plan a conference in spite of all of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19.
The first thing to say is that government advice surrounding COVID-19 and what businesses, organisations and events are allowed to do is extremely changeable. Under the current regulations, conferences will be able to resume from 1st October with a number of restrictions in place surrounding how they are run.
Of course, it is important to mention that government advice is changeable - just because conferences can go ahead under current plans does not mean things can’t change. It is important to stay up-to-date with the latest government advice to ensure that you understand the guidelines properly.
Currently, indoor conferences can go ahead from the specified date. However, doing so creates a number of challenges for the organisers, specifically surrounding social distancing. One of the most effective ways to overcome these challenges will be through hosting your conference outdoors. Social distancing still applies outdoors, when proper precautions are taken, the rules are more lenient, which could give conferences that would have otherwise been impossible, the chance to run.
But of course, if you are choosing to have an outdoor conference, it is always best to look into ways you can protect attendees against inclement weather.
“Since the pandemic, we have a had a lot of interest from conferences looking to use our large marquees,” says Katherine Hudson of The Pearl Tent Company “our tents allow conferences to be safer out in the open air but protected from the unpredictability of the elements - we even offer a bespoke 3D CAD modelling service to show clients how it is all going to look, making the whole thing much easier to plan”.
An important caveat set down by the government regulations is the importance of adopting a ‘digital first’ approach to your conference. That remains removing some infrastructure that has previously been considered a vital element of conferences - badges and lanyards, as well as gift bags and paper handouts.
Attendees can make use of their own smart devices to access any required information about the conference. And all elements of registration and entry must be contactless.
It is certainly the case that the COVID-19 pandemic has created a situation in which conference planner must think much more about health, safety, and following government guidelines on social distancing.
A key quote in the government guidelines states that “events will be planned around one way systems for visitors.” This means more than ever, conferences have to take into account things like directions of movement, proper spacing between individuals, and putting safety precautions in place.
This means that for your conference you might need to work with specialists that you have never considered before. Maltaward is a civil engineering specialist company that provides concrete barriers and other security devices. Through COVID-19 these have become important for conferences.
“Our concrete barriers have always been used for managing crowd flow at events,” says Jim Treacy, Operations Manager at Maltaward “we are now seeing events that would have previously taken place indoors, that now need barriers and pedestrian guards to ensure all movement is one-way.”
As with any business or indoor event, all conferences need to prioritise additional cleaning measures and ensure that spacing is in place. There is no reason that conferences can’t run safely, but everyone has a responsibility to do what they can make sure everything is as safe as possible.
Dakota Murphey has over 10 years of experience in marketing and events management. She enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience through her writing and connecting with other like-minded professionals. Find out what else Dakota has been up to on Twitter: @Dakota_Murphey.
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