A brave new world: a quick guide to hybrid event safety

Hybrid event safety is important

Just as virtual events became the standard for events over the last two years, now, hybrid events are becoming the new normal. 

With in-person events on the rise again (according to a Northstar Meetings Group survey, 96% of planners will do an in-person event this year), but the benefits of virtual events too strong to simply throw by the wayside, event organizers are bringing the strengths of the two together in the format of a hybrid event. The result? The energy that comes from face-to-face interactions, as well as increased reach, better engagement and improved analytics from virtual event platforms.

However, organizing a hybrid event in this new normal is anything but normal. It  requires new planning and extra precautions to keep attendees as safe as possible. This is mission critical in making sure your hybrid event is a success. To help, we’ve listed out everything you’ll need to keep an eye on when planning your next event:

1. Pick a venue that can accommodate COVID-19 protocol

Venues for your hybrid event need to be able to accommodate Covid-19 protocol

It can be difficult to zero in on a venue for your hybrid event because there’s a lot to consider. From technical support to attendee capacity, here’s a list of things to keep in mind when assessing potential venues. Safety is one of the most important.

Keep in mind that the venue will have to conform to the safety regulations of their respective local and national governments, so look for venues that already have well-documented and clear safety policies and protocols in place. 

Bonus: Venues that have received Covid-19 Safe Accreditation are optimal choices. You can keep an eye out for: 

  • Global Biorisk Advisory Council’s (GBAC) STAR accreditation. This program evaluates 20 elements  of a venue’s operating protocols and risk-assessment strategies, from disinfection practices to emergency preparedness. 
  • The AIM Secure Accreditation. It is an industry-wide mark of excellence focussing on offices, venues and service providers.

When your attendees see that the venue is committed to keeping them safe, your on-site attendance will improve.

2. Make checking-in as safe as possible

Make checking in as safe as possible at your hybrid event

Prevention is better than the cure, so being as cautious as possible is the best way to go. Here are a couple of measures you can take to drive better safety even before the event is in full-swing:

  • Require a negative COVID test or proof of vaccination for entry: By doing so, you’ll decrease the possibility of anyone catching the virus at the event, and it will also make attendees feel more confident and comfortable about attending in-person.
  • Staggering arrival times: A simple way to avoid congestion at the entryway is by allowing groups of attendees to arrive at certain times. Attendees can choose their time ahead of time on your registration form, ticket booking site or event landing page. Consider allowing cohorts of people - such as those from the same workplace - to book arrivals together. 
  • Allow mobile check-ins: Invest in technologies that allow digital scanning or can process virtual tickets to enable entry into the event. Making the process as contact-less as possible will make check-in more safer but more efficient too.
  • Streamline traffic: Set up dedicated entrances and exits at the venue - more than one will be a benefit as it will help to diffuse any traffic jams so to speak. Use floor markers to keep people at a safe distance while they wait to check in, enter rooms, etc. 

3. Communicate health and safety protocols clearly

Hybrid event safety involves communicating health and safety protocols clearly

Make sure attendees know what health and safety protocols are set in place, before and during the event. 

  • Before the event: Keep attendees in the loop by emailing them about what they can expect at the venue such as the requirement for a negative COVID-test or the use of a mobile app for check-ins. Keep in mind that people are going to be anxious about their safety, so being as clear and comforting as possible will go a long way.
  • During the event: Put up lots of signage in your hybrid event venue to communicate expectations and rules for attendee behaviour. For instance, at CES 2022, attendees were given the choice of three coloured stickers to indicate how much touch they were comfortable with.

 Signs that tell attendees to wear masks or where they can find hand sanitizer are some examples. The point is to make attendees feel comfortable and secure. 

4. Keep lots of PPE and sanitation handy

Keeping lots of PPE handy is important for hybrid event safety

Setting up dedicated areas stocked with hand sanitizer and protective masks are a small but powerful signal that keeping your attendees safe is top of mind.(Bonus: they give you a custom branding opportunity for your business or that of your sponsors.)  Highlight these areas with signage.

5. Touchless, yet matchless, COVID cuisine

Touchless food setups are important for hybrid event safety

There are plenty of ways to offer attendees safe but delicious food at your hybrid event. Here are some options to consider:

  • Seated meals, with tables and guests appropriately distanced are a good option for small events. 
  • Pre-packaged gourmet meals that can be easily consumed by attendees at the in-person venue, and which can be delivered to the houses of virtual attendees. 

Ask attendees to choose from a menu ahead of time to personalize the experience. This also makes for a more eco-friendly event.  Steven Enselein, senior vice president of events for Hyatt, gives the example of a hybrid event recently held at Hyatt Regency O’Hare, “The same breakfast, lunch and snack arrived via contactless delivery right at the doorstep of each virtual attendee’s house. Inside was a menu and plating instructions so they could follow along with the group on-site,” says Enselein. “We are always thinking about outside-of-the-box ways to make remote attendees feel cared for and part of events.”

To sum up…

Hybrid event safety is one of the most important considerations for event organizers now and going forward. Keep these tips in mind when planning your event, and you’ll be able to create an experience that makes your attendees feel safe, comfortable, and supported.

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