The novel coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot about the way business is done. Arguably the largest change has a direct impact on the association world: the strict limitations, if not outright cancellations, of large-group gatherings. In the membership world, this means conferences and meetings.
Like it or not, associations are beholden to local regulations at their venues. If you’re headquartered in a state that is opening quickly, your event still may not happen as scheduled if it’s in a hotspot. Even if you happen to be ready to go, attendees may have other ideas. If there’s international travel involved for your attendees or your event site, you have even more hurdles.
Suffice it to say that the events world is not going to be the same for a while. ASAE conducted a snapshot poll in early June, asking several pertinent questions about planned events. Among the eye-opening results: 50% of association executives believe their next in-person conference will be in 2021 or later, or have no idea. Nearly 25% of them said their associations canceled at least four in-person event slated for 2020. The major takeaway: uncertainty reigns.
But events will happen, and when they do, associations and event planners have to be prepared. The International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) has taken the lead in developing a best-practices guide for safely reopening events to attendees and exhibitors. The guide is not prescriptive, because every event is different—from number of attendees to the venue layout. But the 35-page guide runs event planners through big-picture basics on how to assess risk, establish protocols for ensuring physical distancing is practiced, and—perhaps most importantly—how to communicate it all to audiences.
Much of the guidance relies on existing protocols, such as using event-specific apps to supplement communications efforts. But other things are completely new to the events world, such as health screening.
The 35-page guide is available at IAEE’s website at https://www.iaee.com/covid-19-resources/. The first version was released in early June. IAEE plans to keep updating the guide as protocols change, so bookmark that page.