Jennifer D. Collins, President & CEO of JDC Eventsproduces engagement-driven live, hybrid and virtual events for leading brands.
As in-person events become part of our standard social fabric again, there are many aspects to consider when planning them. While there are some event professionals looking to return to pre-pandemic 2019 programming, that has become unrealistic. However, it is equally unrealistic to simply stop moving forward.
As event professionals, it is important that events remain safe, no matter what situations we may face as a society. It may be helpful to view this through the lens of “duty of care”, which, according to the Legal Dictionary, means “a requirement that a person act toward others and the public with the vigilance, consideration, caution and prudence that a reasonable person would use in the circumstances.” When organizing events, there are many considerations to keep in mind, and the following are a few good places to start.
Get advice from key stakeholders.
When my team and I started talking to our clients about progress and how they could potentially do it, one piece of advice we gave time and again was to consult and rely on their key stakeholders. They are the ones who determine if you are successful and supported. You want to know where they are and you want them to be part of the decision-making process. You want to maintain a people-oriented value system and tackle challenges jointly instead of authoritarian.
Suffice it to say, it’s important to meet your stakeholders and target audiences where they are. You can’t just throw an event together and hope that people will come. Instead, really talk to your community and apply the principles of everything you learn from them as a sign that you see and hear them.
Decide on the organization’s security policies and protocols.
Many organizations follow the guidelines of the CDC and local jurisdictions. In many cities and states there has been a relaxation of the use of masks, testing, proof of vaccinations and other protocols, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t implement them. It is still wise to consider the level of risk in the communities where your event will take place.
If it’s in a high-risk area with high transmission rates, consider establishing additional protocols for your event. The same can be said for the size of your event, especially if it will be larger. Communicating this is even more important to ensure that those who attend – and those who decide to attend – have a full understanding of the level of risk and the safety practices that will be adopted and implemented.
Lead with empathy.
There are those who don’t necessarily consider attending events because they are unsure or not comfortable with what the environment might look like. They or others in their home may be immunocompromised, or they may be the parents or guardians of young children who are ineligible for vaccination. There are also people with disabilities for whom participation can be dangerous, as well as international stakeholders who still have travel restrictions. In addition, there are those who simply haven’t been on the travel circuit in a while and are unfamiliar with, perhaps even concerned, how things have changed.
The path of inclusiveness begins with conviction. Be mindful, aware, and empathetic to these strong concerns and emotions as you plan paths forward. From my perspective, it’s not enough to think that just because mandates are removed, we’re back to “normal”. We are all different people than before the pandemic. We have all changed and many have realized that the easiest and most well-known tactics are not always the best for every situation. We can’t just repeat what it was like.
That is why a good dose of empathy is needed when exercising your duty of care. Prioritizing the physical and emotional wellbeing of stakeholders through your planning, protocols and safety practices is what will make all the difference. If ever there was a time to grow and prosper beyond the ordinary, it would be now.