Best Practice: Successful events during the coronavirus pandemic
How can (large) events be held at times of limited participants, social distancing, and strict hygiene measures? Which rules have to be observed? What is permitted – and what not?
A look behind the scenes at #futurework20 shows how events can be held safely and successfully during the pandemic.
In May 2020, when Kerstin Heinrich, GDA CEO, and Tobias Apel, Head of Event Management, Marketing and Communication, began planning the second #futurework20, they were facing a host of open questions. Four months later, they know the most important answer of all – it does work! Events are possible during the coronavirus pandemic.
With over 2500 attendees (in person and virtually), 50 international speakers and four stages, the second #futurework20 was at least as successful as the first edition held last year.
But how can you plan an event against a background of lockdowns and restricted contacts?
The path through the crisis: Be prepared and plan hybrid events
Berlin’s Guidelines for Hygiene Planning provide the framework for ensuring conferences, meetings, incentives and congresses are corona-compliant. But there is a certain flexibility in how these provisions are to be applied in each individual case. As Tobias Apel says, “Since developments are so dynamic, you always have to be on your toes.”
His advice is to plan hybrid formats from the start especially since, as Kerstin Heinrich notes, you can then increase or reduce the volume of in-person participants to meet current limits on group sizes indoors and outdoors. Explaining the format’s success, she adds, “By adopting a hybrid format, we could generate the greatest possible reach and, in this respect, were ultimately even more successful than last year.”
A concrete look at corona-compliant event planning
Marko Schilp, Sales Manager Corporate Events at Berlin’s Tempodrom venue and visitBerlin Convention Partner Board Member, also highlights the ability of Berlin’s MICE sector to design and realise corona-compliant events.
The decisive factors here are a mix of solid hygiene planning and a healthy dose of common sense. After all, event organisers are not always dealing with precise instructions, master plans or legal provisions you can implement one-to-one in all cases. “The Guidelines for Hygiene Planning set the framework,” Schilp explains. “But the individual event organisers draft the concept for how these guidelines are actually put into practice.”
As he points out, this should act as an encouragement to all Berlin’s event organisers and partners since, as he says, “No one needs to be afraid of getting something wrong. What’s essential here is drafting an overall plan with the key points and implementing them to the best of one’s knowledge and belief.”
This overall concept includes a cleaning and disinfection schedule as well as an appropriate ventilation schedule, social distancing rules for admission and the event itself, the distribution of arrival slots, catering services that minimise direct contact and, last but not least, a good communication plan. As Schilp emphasises, “Communication must be working effectively across all phases of the event.”
Constant reminders are required to heighten awareness of the hygiene and social distancing rules. Here, floor markings and signs can play a role just as much as stewards or staff members to monitor the rules. Moreover, the attendees have to play their part by providing their contact details, times present at the event, and place of residence – all things obligatory for contact tracing in the case of infection. Naturally, as Schilp says, this applies equally to the event’s set up and dismantling phases. Organisers taking these aspects into account in line with the individual conditions will be well prepared for a successful corona-compliant event.
After first establishing the maximum capacity of the rooms, we could then monitor the entire event digitally by scanning in the participants’ name badges.
Exploiting possibilities for individual solutions
Following these principles, #futurework20 on the EUREF Campus could develop individual solutions to adhere to the guidelines on distancing and hygiene. “Where possible, we moved everything outside,” explains Kerstin Heinrich. In this way, many in-person attendees could follow the event on LED screens outdoors. The numbers in the interior rooms were also monitored: “After first establishing the maximum capacity of the rooms, we could then monitor the entire event digitally by scanning in the participants’ name badges.“
For attendees like Nora Lemhadden, EUREF Campus project manager, this approach has proved itself. As she says, “I never once had the feeling the rooms were too full.” Thanks to distance markers, fixed seating, clearly communicated signage and separate visitor flows, participants had a strong sense of security. As Lemhadden emphasises, “There was never a temptation not to keep to the required distance.”
The feeling of security was further enhanced by hygiene provisions at admission, disinfection stations in each room, obligatory wearing of face masks, and the venue’s increased cleaning schedule. With pre-portioned snacks, the catering was similarly corona-compliant – something much appreciated by the participants.
A good feeling: You can plan for safety
Corona-compliant event planning aims at giving guests a feeling of security, providing responsible support during the event, and identifying any critical points in advance.
Tobias Apel regards the time and money invested in developing corona-compliance as part of the standard processes in preparing for events. “The budget frame was similar to the previous year. Technical implementation and the digital monitoring or streaming equipment did involve extra costs, but we could compensate by savings elsewhere. Ultimately, reliable planning is essential.”
So event planners should take heart for 2021! After all, as Apel notes, people are especially grateful at present for the prospect of a little bit of normal life away from their computer screens and home offices.