Events, exhibitions and meetings have consistently put destinations on the map. From boosting the economy to raising the profile of the host city or town, the investment opportunities and knowledge-sharing value of business events are unbounded.
With the pandemic closing of entire business sectors, including the eventing and exhibiting industry, many businesses found themselves having to re-imagine and rethink these spaces.
We find ourselves slowly being eased out of lockdown, this is a great start to reopening our industry. Events, exhibitions and tradeshows are no longer about dates, rates, and space – they are about safety, efficiency, and transparency.
Here are 5 things that will be considerably different at future events
1. Safer environments
We will see an uprise in 'touchless technology' and handsfree interactions. From contactless
sign in to no-touch exhibitor spaces, new methods will arise. For example, an alternative to brochures and flyers could be QR Codes. A QR code works in the same way as a barcode at the supermarket. It is a machine-scannable image that can instantly be read using a smartphone camera. When your Smartphone scans this code, it can open up any digital document or link you wish to share with your audience.
2. Clear communication
Communication with all parties involved, stakeholders, venues, exhibitors and attendees, will be more clear and transparent. With constantly updated precautions and safety guidelines, it's important to equip all with the most up to date information to ensure a safe environment. A plan needs to be made clear on how issues will be dealt with should they arise.
3. Prevention and control measures
Venues and event organisers will need to have an event safety officer in place who can fulfil the role of the COVID-19 compliance officer.
Maintaining an updated log of attendees (containing full names and contact details) is of utmost importance to easily manage contact tracing should the need occur for exposure notifications post-event. Another area of prevention that will be highly visible is the use of hand sanitiser. Possible key points of sanitising would be The main venue entry/exit and any other side entrances, smaller space entries and exits - such as cafeterias and discussion areas, individual exhibitor entry points or within their space and of course PLENTY of sanitiser freebies.
4. Updated health and safety rules
In addition to venue rules and regulations, and to add an additional layer of protection, creating clear health and safety rules specific to your event is advisable.
As people start to come together again in group environments, there is a wide range of comfort levels to accommodate, especially when it comes to physical proximity and contact. Many people, who will in a lot of cases be seeing colleagues and industry friends for the first time, also find it awkward to let others know their preference.
Global event strategist networks are finding creative solutions to the aforementioned problem. Taking their cue from traffic lights, they’ve created colour-coded wristbands with red indicating ‘no contact’, yellow meaning ‘elbow bumping allowed’, and green meaning ‘high fives and handshakes welcome’. Thus, individual preferences are easily communicated without anyone having to say a word. With ‘touchless’ networking encouraged locally, the colours can be creatively rethought to accommodate your event.
5. Hybrid events
The presence of cameras will significantly increase, most events could be broadcast online to 'Virtual' attendees. These broadcasts could include almost any area of the event, including panel discussions, exhibitor and attendee interviews and more. The best thing about hybrid events is that they combine the best of virtual and in-person gatherings, providing a format that allows event organisers to safely bring back live experiences, while still realising the benefits of a digital event platform.
We've only covered a small portion of what's to come and how we could be seeing changes in these spaces. It is important to follow up-to-date South African National Department of Health and the World Health Organization guidelines, strictly adhering to the guidance for onsite events. The South African Events Council, consisting of 12 event and exhibition associations across South Africa, has published reopening guidelines in line with the national COVID-19 protocols and regulations. This document, which is available here, is an easy-to-reference resource to ensure your event observes all protocols.
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