Conventions and meetings are coming back: That’s the message we heard loud and clear at the Together Again Expo in Orlando. In some parts of the world, re-openings already are happening. But they will look and operate differently—at least until Covid-19 is no longer such a threat.
The Together Again Expo was designed to showcase how an event can enable those all-important face-to-face connections while helping ensure the safety of all involved. Masks: check. Temperature checks: er… check! Staying 6 feet apart? Double check. Yes, it’s possible!
Exhibitors and attendees demonstrated best practices while sharing new smart technology and services in the arena of social distancing and elevated wellness and safety. In many ways, we experienced the convention of the future.
So what does that look like? Today’s post looks at the big picture, while our next one explores individual booths, presentations and meetings.
#1 – Partnerships and Planning are Key …
… With Health Officials – In May, the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, a Division of ISSA, the worldwide cleaning industry association, introduced its GBAC STAR™ facility accreditation program on cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention. It provides “third-party validation that ensures facilities implement strict protocols for biorisk situations.”
The Orange County Convention Center, where Together Again was held, has the GBAC accreditation, and many other venues either have or are working on getting it. Together Again organizers also walked through with their facilities and plans with the Florida Department of Health.
One other innovation we heard about was medical concierge services, which can provide 24/7 advice and resources to event participants.
… With the Hospitality Infrastructure – Everyone traveling to an event needs to feel safe from the plane to the hotel to the places they eat and the transport they take to meeting/convention sites. Airports, hotels and other service providers should be implementing their own safety procedures and seeking third-party verification such as the GBAC accreditation.
#2 – The Basics are Essential.
Masks and Temperature Checks Mandatory – At Together Again, participants received branded masks, and those who passed the temperature check were given an “I’m cool” sticker to wear.
Social Distancing For All – In addition to design that encouraged the standard “6-feet-apart” rule (more on that below), ambassadors roamed the area to remind people to keep their distance as they conversed and interacted.
Sanitize, Sanitize, Sanitize! Everywhere we looked, staff were wiping down surfaces and using electrostatic sprayers and other disinfecting methods. New technologies were also on display, not only to clean but to instill confidence in participants.
#3 – The Guest Experience Has Been Reimagined.
Lower Capacity Lowers Risk – Future trade show floors will have fewer people, with entry perhaps limited alphabetically by time of day.
Traffic Flows Flow Differently – One-way traffic and wider aisles reduce crowding and allow for social distancing.
Central Session Spaces Replace Breakout Rooms – The biggest change we saw was a central staging area where general sessions and breakouts alike take place. Seats were positioned six feet apart, and one design concept showed each with its own desk, storage area and power so attendees could create their own self-contained “pods.” This arrangement may mean fewer breakouts, or repeating sessions to maximize attendance, but it reduces traffic moving from room to room and avoids putting people into smaller enclosed spaces.
Other, bigger-picture ideas were discussed, too.
For example, organizations may hold more regional and local events vs. single big conventions so attendees don’t have to worry about air travel and/or quarantining upon their return home.
And of course, the “hybrid” experience we’ve all been hearing about is here to stay. Even when Covid-19 is no longer a major threat, allowing people to experience at least some of an event digitally from home can actually build attendance for future in-person events by building awareness and interest.
With all of these protocols in place, we heard many Together Again Expo attendees say they felt more comfortable there than they did at their local grocery store. It’s a testament to our growing hope and confidence that with collaboration, creativity and conscientious attention to detail, we can bring back live events sooner rather than later.
To discuss how you can safely host and participate in live events, contact our team.