Planning Your First Post-COVID Business Event
By Diane Tait
Image courtesy Pixabay
After a year and a half of wearing masks and working from home, the rules that restricted how everyone works and plays are starting to ease. This means you can walk into a store without a mask without having the management refuse to serve you. It means people can finally begin to get back to living their lives without resorting to a bunker mentality. Last but not least, it means that all business owners can get back to business as usual. If you’re like me, you need to attend networking events and sponsor get togethers for clients to grow your business. Many business owners are all too eager to get back to business conferences and conventions either locally or in some far-flung locale to help drum up new business. Before you toss that surgical mask in the wastebin only to regret it later, let me show you what you need to know to conduct and attend business events safely.
1. Do you really need to worry? - As of May, 20 2021, the CDC was still cautioningthe public about attending events that attracted large crowds. This includes locales where large groups gather, including airports, planes and trains, buses and anywhere that people are in close contact with others for an extended period of time. Even those who have been inoculated against COVID-19 aren’t entirely immune since a new strain called the Delta variant has recently reared its ugly head. The vaccines produced by J&J and AstraZeneca are only 60% effective against the new strain, while the mRNA vaccines have been deemed 88% effective.
2. How can you reduce the chances of infection? – Small gatherings are recommended over large ones. Since large events require a large staff to work them, this increases the incidence of exposure to pathogens. When large conventions are held, they invariably attract people from afar, which also increases the risks of coming into contact with someone who has been exposed to the Delta variant. The best way to reduce the risks is to limit the size of any gathering.
3. Proper precautions begin with preparing the conference site. – During the height of the Coronavirus outbreak it wasn’t uncommon for hazmat teams to sterilize everything from restaurants and stores to bathrooms and break rooms at the end of every shift. While the conditions that spawned these extreme cleanliness habits have dramatically reduced, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make sure that any conference room or ballroom that you wish to use to host an event is thoroughly sanitized before you and your guests arrive for an event.
4. How much contact is too much contact? - Another one of the warnings issued in late May by the CDC was that the length of contact between members of a group is almost as important as their proximity. This means if you host an event, while you should still maintain a cordon of 6-feet between participants to decrease the risk of passing along a pathogen, you should also strive to keep the duration that people are seated next to one another to 15-minutes or less per session.
Image courtesy Pixabay
5. Educate your staff before you plan an event. – The last thing you want to do is host an event that spreads infection to your guests or your staff. While you can’t always educate those invited to your event, you can and should train your staff on what to be on the lookout for. Should they spot an attendee who is showing symptoms of COVID or should they see a participant who is doing something that could cause other members to become infected, they need to know how to handle such a situation.
6. Provide all your guests with a memo that details what you’re doing to keep them infection free. – One of the best things you can do to insure your guests safety is to email or text them a memo before the event that explains all the precautions you are taking and what they should do to help keep the event safe for all who attend. The CDC also recommends you post signs in places like restrooms that promote everyday protective measures designed to reduce the incidence of infection.
7. Have you considered hiring extra staff for your event? – To help maintain a clean and safe environment for your event, you might wish to hire some temporary workers to make sure that high traffic areas are kept clean for the duration of your event. Little things like making sure that restrooms are sanitized after they are used and waste products are disposed of instead of being left to sit on surfaces close to those in attendance is one sure way to reduce the incidence of contagion.
8. One way to decrease infection is to increase ventilation. – Another CDC recommendation is that portable ventilation systems are installed prior to an event to move air rapidly out of an enclosed area. They also recommend holding events outdoors as opposed to inside by using pop-up tents, provided the tents aren’t the kind with four walls. Enclosed tents have worse circulation than the open-air variety.
9. If you want to go big, consider hosting an event in multiple locations? – If you’re bound and determined to host a large event, consider using telepresence technology to broadcast keynote speakers to multiple locations where groups are kept to a smaller size. Not only will this be a better way to prevent infection, but it could also save your guests the expense of having to fly to your location and stay in a hotel.
10. Should you cater your event? – While there is no indication that handling or eating food can cause the spread of COVID-19, depending on how the food is handled certainly can. That means if you are planning on catering your event, make sure that the caterer adheres to strict protocols including the wearing of masks and gloves by food service staff. Then make sure the food is served individually to your guests as opposed to providing a buffet where those in attendance go to get fed.
Diane Tait owns and operates A&B Insurance. To find out more about how you can save money on boat insurance, go to her site.