Rethinking in-person events for the “new normal”
Gemma Edwards | Tuesday, June 02 2020
Across Europe, businesses and facilities are starting to reopen and there are positive signs countries are adapting well to the “new normal”. Spain, our EMEA Forums’ host country, has had a tough time with COVID-19, but there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel. The home of our Forum venue, the W Hotel Barcelona, is reopening to the public in July, with noted demand for events in coming months. It is a relief to see that cities and countries are beginning to see some movement. But movement rightly comes with restrictions and I am navigating what these restrictions will really mean for our events.
The safety of guests must remain a priority and the job of the in-person event organizer is changing to ensure they can facilitate valuable face-to-face interaction in a safe way. In my view, this will not be a temporary fix or something we are navigating solely for events in 2020. Restrictions will be present to some degree for years to come. This is why I am taking the time to rethink traditional event parameters to adapt for all future events, rather than rushing into an unsustainable solution.
It is no bad thing that organizers will need to approach events with a new outlook. Conferences need a refresh, and this situation will prompt long-needed innovations and improvements that will ultimately improve the attendee experience.
Recently, I was inspired by the social distancing measures being used in New York’s Domino Park (see photo). Such a simple idea has meant that the many New Yorkers who do not have access to outside space can enjoy fresh air while maintaining social distancing rules.
A priority with the team during this crisis has been thinking about how we can use our event venues and spaces in fresh new ways that are compliant with the measures that will be in place. Breakout sessions around the swimming pool rather than in a meeting room, yoga on the beach, theater sessions on the deck, multiple locations to hear and listen to one presentation, and meetings in dedicated, marked-out spaces, like in Domino Park. Logistically, this also gives us an opportunity to rethink and enforce new systems that can replace guests’ least favorite event experiences: registration and hotel check-in queues, bus transfers and waiting for lifts!
There will still be a need for in-person interaction in this new normal, but the parameters and surroundings for this interaction will be rethought. I predict that this will usher in a new era of innovative event organizing. Organizers that do not make space to adapt positively will not succeed in the future. Those that do will continue to facilitate meaningful, valuable and safe experiences.
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