- Maggie Pearson
Health and Safety in a Semi-Post Pandemic Time
Times have changed and the worry over having a super spreader has passed. As COVID becomes part of our new normal and nearly all restrictions have been lifted, do we still need to focus on the health and safety of our participants? The answer is yes!
Attendees want to know they can come to your events and be with their peers in a safe environment. They are already taking time off from work to be at your event. They likely can't afford to take more time away from their jobs to cope with an unexpected illness.
It is understandable that not every association or their members will have COVID safety top of mind but as planners you have the ability to care for your participants in simple, low cost- or cost-free ways. Lowering your attendee’s risk of getting sick doesn't have to break the bank. It also doesn't have to ruffle feathers. Every group is going to have an opinion about vax’ing and masking. It is up to your leadership to make that determination for your group.
We are going to look at ways to increase safety, while reducing risk, and keeping things budget friendly and non-political. Here are some things you can consider for your next event:
Go with a ZERO handout policy. Push your attendees to use the app you spent so much of your precious budget on and energy developing. Conference apps provide a great service in being the one stop shop for conference information and materials. Plus, using an app to store all of your traditional printed materials will be less paper for attendees to keep up with onsite and after the meeting and less for you to print - which will save you money in printing, shipping, and possibly tote bag stuffing. You can put those resources to other uses!
You may have those participants who need something in their hands that isn’t tech based or perhaps you don't have an app. For those instances, consider creating a PDF that lives on your website that they can download or print themselves.
Don’t forget to ask your speakers to make handouts electronic too!
Another tip would be to use QR codes or bitly links for handouts that attendees could access quickly and download for their files and resources.
If you are doing tote bags, consider a build your own tote bag option. Think of it like a double-sided buffet or how you would stuff the bags yourself. Make nice and neat piles of each item and let attendees choose what they want in their bag. You can likely order less of each item going in the bag.
Yes, you may have some sponsors who have paid to put their items in every bag. Allow them to put something in the app instead. It won’t cost you more, every attendee will have access to it, and you can tell the sponsor about your effort to be more sustainable and healthier at your event.
Look into options for badge print on demand. Printing on demand requires very little touching. The pricing for print on demand is different for each association, but there are many vendors offering low-cost options.
You can also look to offset your onsite registration costs by selling lead retrieval to your exhibitors. Some vendors make enough funds selling retrieval units to offer reg services for a discount or low cost.
The need for hand sanitizer will probably never go away. Regardless of COVID, attendees want to avoid things like the cold and flu as well. Work with your properties to put out hand sanitizer stations in the meeting space and where food and beverage are served. Hotels and properties invested heavily in these stands and are still using them.
Talk with your properties about hosting events in larger spaces instead of closed in meeting rooms. Perhaps there is foyer space, large ballroom, or outdoor locations on property. If you have to keep large events indoors, consider requiring doors to the hallways be kept open for fresh air.
Remember that just because meetings are coming back stronger, some participants may still be fearful of getting sick. Keeping a method that allows attendees to show their level of comfort will give them ownership over their own autonomy and safety. Some planners have used a color-coding system that designates the attendee’s level of preferred interaction similar to a traffic light, with a go, yield, or stop option. The colors can be simulated from the attendees by choosing a lanyard, ribbon, or even a sticker placed on their badge in the corresponding color.
Lastly, work with your vendors and partners to find out what process they learned about during COVID and see what option they still offer or could offer during your event.
Keeping your attendee’s wellness in mind will show them you care and make your event one they want to come back to every year. Keep a running list of all you are doing and add it to your marketing. It could push someone on the fence to come to the meeting.