How to Plan for a Safe In-Person Event in 2021

Top tips for reducing contagion and keeping attendees safe at face-to-face meetings.

Vaccination efforts are ramping up and researchers predict that the pandemic should be more manageable in the U.S. by the second half of 2021. Employees and executives alike are excited about the prospect of networking in person again — and Northstar Meetings Group's latest Pulse Survey shows 80 percent of planners polled expect to hold a live event sometime this year.

Face-to-face meetings already required a great deal of planning before the pandemic. Post-pandemic, they will require even more forethought. Below are some top tips for planners to consider when planning for an in-person event this year.

  1. Negotiate a flexible cancellation policy with the venue, in case local levels of Covid-19 are high and it is unsafe to hold the event. You will need to determine how much of a refund will be provided and how close to the event date it will be offered. 
  2. Require attendees to complete temperature checks and show proof of vaccination or provide a negative Covid-19 test result. Covid-19 sniffing dogs, which have been used at airports and some events, are another option.
  3. Make sure that the event staff, speakers and vendors have also been tested or vaccinated. Provide a separate set-up area just for the staff to reduce contact. 
  4. Consider closing the meeting rooms for 30 minutes between sessions for proper cleaning and disinfection. Be sure to sanitize all microphones and equipment between speakers.
  5. Make air-flow adjustments, such as opening windows and using ozone air purifiers, to minimize the risk of contagion.
  6. Use digital scanners for contactless registration. It's also a good idea to invest in contact-tracing technology, so you are prepared in case there are any outbreaks on site.
  7. Add one-way aisles and schedule visiting times for the exhibit hall to control traffic. 
  8. Implement a no-handshake policy and use digital business cards, so attendees can safely exchange contact information.
  9. Use server-attended stations and staggered meal times to avoid crowding and create a safe food and beverage experience. You can also offer to-go containers, so attendees can eat in their rooms if they are more comfortable doing so.

Joanne Brooks is president of Creative Impact Group, a global full-service production company and event supplier. She has more than 40 years of experience working with companies to stage, script and provide the talent and entertainment to support team-building exercises, themed receptions, special events and trade shows.