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As 2021 has progressed, our industry has seen tremendous optimism towards the return of face-to-face events. While we’re not 100% out of the woods yet, there is not a better time than now to invest in a technology partner that will be there to support your strategies and visions of success. In this guide, we will outline each step of an in-person event and how each can be conducted safely and effectively.
As we move further into 2021, return to a more normal world seems within reach. In-person and hybrid events may soon become the norm again as compared to 2020s purely virtual event options.
Event technology partners are committed to safely and effectively assisting event professionals in holding their in-person events. Various onsite products and services are geared toward the return to in-person events and have been instrumental in maintaining the health of individuals when meeting face-to-face. Event technology has evolved with the times by providing a blueprint for practicing safe live events through onsite safety technology.
Taking CDC and WHO health guidelines into account, Event technology providers have developed processes that will contribute to safe and successful in-person events. Starting with registration and progressing through the event to the exhibit hall, event partners have developed protocols and solutions that will lead us all back toward a more normal world in terms of live events.
In this guide, we will outline each step of an in-person event and how each can be conducted safely and effectively. We will also examine these steps in action, as we revisit the most recent live event that Aventri assisted with, Informa’s Magic Pop-Up.
The registration process sets the tone for the whole event. This is the first time that attendees will be able to see what types of safety protocols are in place, and this can help them know what to expect throughout the event.
During the registration process, you’ll want to have all safety info clearly and prominently displayed. While there are general guidelines across the country, there are also local and state safety regulations to consider. Therefore, it is prudent to consult with local authorities to determine exactly what is allowed for in-person events and what is not.
The registration process, in general, should provide an idea of how the event will look. It is critical that you outline where and how many sanitizing/washing stations you will have available and what precautions such as mask-wearing will be enforced.
Additionally, protocols and regulations are constantly changing. To account for these shifting regulations as new evidence becomes available, it’s vital to ensure that during the registration process, all attendees are aware of the refund policy is in the case that the event needs to be cancelled. If possible, a contingency plan should be in place in case the event does need to be cancelled.
It’s likely that this whole registration process will take place remotely and through email and/or your event website. Therefore, the most critical information needs to be highlighted and easy to find for anyone who may be interested in attending your event. This information also needs to be updated frequently as new guidelines are put into place.
Once the registration process is complete, the next opportunity to reinforce safety protocols will be at check-in. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways including, but not limited to tape markings on the floor for social distancing, clear arrows and markings to indicate the direction of foot traffic, multiple check-in kiosks organized by last name, staggered check-in times, and mobile app check-in.
While social distancing recommendations have changed or been considered for certain settings (i.e. discussions of three feet of distance in schools instead of six, fully vaccinated individuals able to be within closer contact in the same household, etc.), there is still agreement that social distancing should continue to be practiced. A gentle visual reminder at check-in by having tape markings spaced out at an appropriate distance is an easy way to remain within compliance with safety protocols. This can also be combined with clear signage indicating the current rules on distancing. It is never inappropriate to over-explain in this day and age.
Splitting up a single check-in area into multiple kiosks can help to direct people and keep everyone at your event safe. There are numerous ways to organize the kiosks that will vary based on the nature of the event, but separating by last name is a clear and easy way to direct attendees to the proper area. Another option is to have mobile kiosks, where staffers can roll the check-in kiosk to the attendees. This can be used in tandem with multiple check-in counters to keep groups of people from having to wait in lines and risk being in too close of contact.
In the same vein as social distancing tape markings, arrows to indicate the proper flow of foot traffic during check-in can reduce confusion and pile-ups. Creating a one-way flow where people can easily follow and maintain distance while they enjoy the event is an easy way to maintain compliance with current guidelines.
By only allowing attendees to check-in at specific times or on specific days, there is less chance of creating an unsafe, large group of people. An easy way to implement this is to only have a certain number of check-ins available for given times throughout your event, which can be assigned or available to choose from during the registration process. Additionally, extending the event over the course of a few days rather than just one can help to keep people spread out. The more options the better in terms of check-in time.
With a large percentage of people having a mobile phone with them at all times, an easy way to expedite check-in is to provide a scannable QR (quick response) or NFC (near field communication) code. Additional benefits to this mode of check-in are that it is eco-friendly (less paper is used in the printing of credentialing/check-in materials) and that it makes check-in contactless, further maintaining compliance with safety guidelines. However, for those who can’t or would rather not use a mobile app for check-in, other options can be made available such as pre-printing and mailing materials ahead of the event.
After all concerns regarding registration and check-in have been addressed, the next element of the event to consider is event access.
As was touched on earlier, contactless options are some of the best ways to avoid breaking social distancing rules and to expedite the whole process of the event. Contactless event access credentials can be accomplished in a variety of ways including mobile apps with NFCs, QR codes, or pre-printed/mailed event credentials.
The mobile options such as NFCs and QR codes are contactless, which may be desirable depending on the event in question. Additionally, these options allow for contact tracing, by creating a timeline of check-in, etc. in case attendees needed to be contacted after the event.
Pre-printed or mailed badges are also an option if the event would benefit from having a physical credential for attendees. Mailing the badges out essentially makes them contactless. However, having badges printed onsite or at other satellite locations can reduce the chances of contact when retrieving badges.
Regardless of whether attendees have a physical badge or one through a mobile app, scanning pods can be provided and allow attendees to tap their badges for scanning purposes. This enables everyone in attendance to maintain appropriate social distancing without the need to directly come into contact with a staff member.
Also, these scanning pods provide the ability to perform contact tracing on attendees in terms of a specific location within the event. Thus, the event organizers can determine who all might have been in contact, how long an attendee lingered in a given location at the event and provides an easy way to convey the appropriate information to all who may need to follow up with an appropriate professional after the event. These measures can provide peace of mind to anyone in attendance at the event that their health and safety are being taken seriously by the event organizers.
Industry sections are an integral part of conferences and trade shows. Within these individual sections, capacity limits can be difficult to control. Luckily, a solution has been developed: handheld scanning devices. The handheld version is similar to the scanning pods but can be quickly and safely used on individuals in the smaller sections of the event. These handheld devices can be maintained by one staffer so that it is only touched by one person throughout the event. However, these and all devices that have the potential to come into contact with multiple people should be frequently sanitized before, during, and after the event.
Event organizers can scan attendees’ badges and determine quickly if the person 1) has access to the area in question, 2) whether or not the section is at capacity, and 3) for contact tracing purposes if needed.
The busiest part of any event is likely to be the exhibit hall. Sponsors and exhibitors invest time, energy, and money into these events. In return, they expect that they will generate leads and receive a high return on investment. It is no small commitment to sponsor an event, and if a sponsor has a less than positive experience that doesn’t generate significant leads, it can be difficult to convince that person to sponsor an event again in the future.
With the new climate involved with in-person events, leads are not generated in the same way as they used to be. Handing out physical business cards, flyers and swag needs to be done safely or avoided altogether. Event technology has developed the perfect solution to lead generation at in-person events: scannable lead generation.
Through the use of your own device or by renting one, attendees can scan their badges and receive an instant email from your business, thus providing a contactless way to generate leads at the event. The data that you receive from this can be customized to provide you with the most valuable information on these leads as it relates to you and your business.
As far as traffic in the exhibit hall, the use of pods and handheld scanners are crucial to monitor capacity. Additionally, dedicated entrances, one-way traffic flow markers, and exits that are clearly indicated will keep large groups gathering in one place at the event.
The onsite staff puts health and safety above all else, while not compromising quality. Staff will follow all protocols as outlined during in-person events:
All staff will have their temperature checked before traveling between locations and daily while onsite. If any fever is detected, the staff member will not be onsite that day, per health guidelines.
Staff will wear appropriate personal protective equipment such as masks and gloves at all times. Appropriate PPE will depend on local regulations that are in place at the time of your event, but PPE will always be considered based on the best available research and recommendations.
All equipment necessary for the event will be thoroughly sanitized before shipping, in the morning before the event, hourly during the event (as event traffic permits), and in the evening after the event. This includes anything that may be frequently touched by multiple people including exhibitors, attendees, and staffers during the event. Additionally, your onsite team should practice good hygiene following current recommendations by practicing frequent hand washing or sanitizing throughout the event.
Staff will organize the spacing of the event to encourage social distancing and minimize contact. Currently, the recommendation is to maintain a social distance of at least six feet. However, questions are being raised about reducing the recommendation to only three feet of social distancing. Whatever the recommendations are at the time of your event, your event technology provider will ensure that the event is compliant and work with the event organizers to ensure safety.
Support doesn't end when your event begins. Event technology partners strive to make every event successful through assisting event organizers in planning before the event, training on new ways to run events, and support during the event.
It can’t be overstated: events need to be planned down to the last detail in this time and age. Event specialists help to plan out the process step-by-step. From promoting the event through means such as sending out email invitations, organizing the event website, registrations, and surveys; they work closely with event organizers throughout the whole process.
Event experts can train your team on what to expect during the event and how to handle any issues that may arise. Contingency planning is a must, and they are well-versed in the practice.
When the day of the event finally arrives, you are not alone. Onsite specialists can help troubleshoot any problems or questions you may have dealing with your technology or other portions of the event. These experts may include check-in/badging specialists, lead retrieval specialists, and session/access control specialists. They are ready and willing to help.
Some other elements of in-person events that need to be considered deal with venue specifics, signage, and vendor compliance with safety regulations. Event technology partners have vast experience in assisting with events and can help navigate these situations as needed.
Earlier we discussed state and local guidelines that may differ from federal regulations. Complicating the matter even further, there may be specific considerations within the venue where the event will take place. Things to consider are the capacity limit on the venue as a whole, capacity limits in any of the breakout rooms or the exhibit hall, and the contract that you sign with the venue. These are important considerations to make and clearly define in your contract with the venue so that you don’t find yourself in a tough situation where you are responsible for an issue that arose as a result of your event taking place.
Signs at the event need to be clear and concise. Your safety messages should be conveyed in short, readable print at many different points throughout the event. This will lessen the chance of someone violating the safety guidelines and having an embarrassing confrontation with a member of the staff who is enforcing the guidelines. Additionally, even though it may seem like everyone should know the symptoms to look out for in the era of COVID 19, it is helpful to have prominent signage displaying these symptoms. This way, attendees know to stay home or leave the event if they begin to experience symptoms. Last but not least, a sign indicating the proper way to wear a face covering and types of face coverings that are acceptable. This information should also be displayed on the event website so that no one shows up with an inappropriate face covering and has to be denied entry.
While we have discussed at length the safety precautions as they relate to attendees of your event, it is equally important that all vendors and exhibitors understand the safety requirements as well. Again, these vendors are investing a lot in your event, and they should know exactly what will be expected of them at the event. Your technology provider can help in defining what should be conveyed to your vendors to ensure that everyone at the event including attendees and vendors are kept safe throughout the day.
In February of 2020, Informa Markets held an in-person event with a “Magic Pop-Up” exhibition in Orlando, Florida. The event was a massive success, safely combining thousands of attendees with hundreds of exhibitors in creating an event that raised over 15 million dollars for the local economy.
The event was held over three days and capacity limits were strictly enforced. Vendors were showcasing men’s and women’s clothing, accessories, and footwear.
Aventri was an integral part of the success of this event. We provided support to the event and were able to work seamlessly with the event organizers to accomplish this incredibly successful event utilizing meticulous planning and all of the steps described earlier.
Specifically, Aventri provided a contactless check-in process, eliminated registration lines, utilized touch-free lead retrieval, and provided onsite services for the event.
A mobile app was utilized for this event, eliminating the touching that inherently often goes along with printed badges and lanyards. During this event, all of the badges were within the app on the attendee’s phones. This enabled easy, contactless, and socially distanced check-ins and the ability to track and contact trace individuals, if necessary. However, for those that didn’t have smartphones or those who were uncomfortable using a mobile app, printers were available onsite.
Registration at the magic pop-up was seamless. This was accomplished by providing multiple check-in counters. In addition, mobile, instant check-in carts were utilized by event staff to approach attendees directly and quickly credential these individuals. As a backup, these mobile units were equipped with their power supply and an internet connection, in the event of an outage, staff would be able to continue to check-in attendees without interruption.
One of the main draws for exhibitors to an event such as this is the possibility of acquiring leads. But with current precautions in place, exchanging business cards is not the best option. Therefore, Aventri instituted the use of The Lead Retrieval app. This app not only reduces paper waste inherent with exchanging paper information, but it also enables exhibitors to instantly scan a potential customer’s QR code and add them to their contact list. This made it extremely easy to follow up with these attendees after the event.
Aventri worked closely with the event organizers throughout the entire process from initial planning to the last day of the pop-up. Our professional services team was there handling any troubleshooting or questions that arose throughout the entire process.
With the success of this event, Aventri is confident that the model utilized by Informa can serve as an example of how to effectively handle in-person events in the new climate in which we find ourselves.