For those of us running events the pandemic has been devastating. Whether you chose to stop your events because you were forced, or because you decided it wasn’t best for your community, one thing is for sure, we’re in the middle of a hard reset in the events space.
I stopped hosting our Marketing Happy Hour because I personally think that it’s in the best interest of our community, for the group, and for Austin as a whole. As vaccinations are rolled out and another spike is starting to ebb, I’m hopeful that in the near future we’ll have enough people immune to COVID19 either naturally, or through vaccination, to keep cases low, our ICU beds open, and our meetups safe.
The world has changed however, and as we start looking at opening up post pandemic I’ve been looking at the right framework to reopen our meetups in a way that is safe, valuable, and inclusive way. I decided to share the current draft of this framework for those of us in Austin who are looking to start hosting events again.
The Post-Covid Event Host Framework
Step One – Who is Your Community
Every community is different, it’s important to get a view of your communities opinions of your best next steps, but also your own view of how safe it is for your community to meet in real life again.
I’ve taken both the temperature check of community appetite for meeting in public again, but I’m tempering it with a gut check for the safety of those attending.
- Is my community vaccinated
- Will they be honest and wear a mask if requested and they are not vaccinated?
- Will they abide by any social distancing rules (Fist bumps not hand shakes, no hugging unless you ask, etc).
The truth is that some of these rules can be dampeners on social networking, and can increase feelings of awkwardness. They can be hard rules for people to follow (If someone automatically reaches out to shake your hand, you’ll probably shake back). These rules can be hard to enforce without causing annoyance, and may cause conflict at the meetup, so be prepared with a resonse to those who may be against both masks and vaccinations.
Step Two – Envisioning the Situation
There’s no doubt that any meetup happening in the near future ill not be the same as ones in the past. Choosing the right venue, and the right atmosphere can make or break your event’s glorious return.
First off, the venue. Ideally the venue will be an outdoor space, fortunately Austin has a lot of those, unfortunately, the Texas heat can make hanging out an unpleasant experience. Finding places that have a lot of open space, but also shade, and preferably misters, will make your event a much nicer experience.
Seating comes in a close second, while many networking events will have you standing for extended periods of time, eventually people will want to rest their legs. Venues with larger tables can help facilitate seating while still helping people maintain a decent distance. Alternatively many venues will work with you to create seating sections that are more spread out.
Step 3 – To Test, or Not to Test
Requiring Covid testing provides an additional layer of safety for guests, especially with the new, less invasive, tests, it makes way more sense. However, it is adds a significant layer of effort for your attendees, and you can expect to see a much lower turnout if you require testing, especially for more informal meetups.
You may ask your attendees to test if unvaccinated, or if they feel like they may have been in close contact with a Covid carrier or a vector, but you cannot guarantee honesty.
In an ideal world testing would be a simple requirement, in reality it may divide your group, and lower your event turn out to the point where it’s not worth having, unless your event has a significant reason for attending.
Step 4 – Dealing with Liability
Currently it’s unlikely that hosting an event will cause legal trouble (source), but it’s not impossible. Unless you are intentionally trying to get people sick, you’re not doing anything wrong. There are some things you can do just to double down on reducing your own risk. Unlike prior meetups it’s worth pointing out in the meetup invite that you cannot guarantee everyone’s safety at the event, and that people attending acknowledge and accept the risk. This isn’t legal advice though, if you are concerned about the spread, want to ensure you are protected against legal backlash, or your meetup attendees/venue/meetup type carry an increased risk of potential Covid spread, consider seeking legal council to create a document that will protect you.
Step 5 – Enforcing the Rules
When you’re at the event things may deviate from the plan pretty quickly. If you asked for guests to wear masks, not shake hands, etc, you need to enforce the rules. This is not just for the prevention of Covid spread, but also to ensure your guests who decided to come based on the rules you set feel safe and comfortable.
This is Still a Draft
As I mentioned, this is my draft framework for how I’m thinking about restarting events, while I think I’ve covered the basics I’d love to hear your feedback and insights on how you are dealing with Covid as an event manager, or any additions/changes you would make to this framework.