The Show Must Go On: Safe Practices for the Return of Live Events

The return of in-person conferences and events is crucial to helping economies recover. They attract exhibitors and attendees from all over the world, generating millions of dollars in tourism revenue, and support tens of thousands of jobs across a multitude of industries.

As co-chair of the Exhibition Services and Contractors Association’s health and safety committee and a member of the industry event and health advisory group for the Global Biorisk Advisory Council, a division of the worldwide cleaning industry association ISSA, we are developing standards for the re-opening of trade shows and other live events. It is of paramount importance that event management staff identify new ways to foster necessary face-to-face interactions as they’re an essential part of doing business, while implementing operational practices to promote the health and safety of exhibitors, event planners and attendees alike.

Here are four measures to ensure a smooth reopening and long-term success.

Health and Safety Precautions
Rethink space allocation. Consider designing event space to accommodate physical distancing and reduce capacity levels in high-traffic areas like registration, walkways and queue lines.

Be proactive and provide employees with necessary personal protective equipment, such as masks and disposable gloves, as well as donning and doffing training.

Check each person’s temperature prior to arriving on the show site floor and screen for COVID-19 symptoms through the use of a verbal questionnaire. Create procedures for anybody that is or starts to feel unwell.

Contactless Service
Redefine exhibitor and show floor services. Use contactless communication methods so exhibitors have options to work directly with service teams through digital tools (like QR codes and text message) to order products and services in the convenience of their booth space, hotel room or remote location, and approve and sign labour requests and new orders.

Advance Communication
Recreate show correspondence and ordering processes. Provide robust digital communications prior to and during the show to minimize person-to-person interactions.

Map out attendee and exhibitor journeys to identify areas to alter for less contact. Provide attendees with hotel registration, shuttle bus pickup information, and badge and exhibitor registration before they leave home to eliminate the need to visit a registration hub. For exhibitors, this may include more pre and post-show communications and digital tools to handle forms, billing and shipping orders.

Sustainability Considerations
Regroup on sustainability in the ‘new norm.’ Focus on going 100 per cent paperless at the show site by using technology for ordering, labour tickets and project management.

Encourage exhibitors to be thoughtful with swag bags and giveaways to address sustainability issues and concerns about attendees having to clean their contents upon opening. Instead, promote digital redemption codes or reusable pre-packaged items as an alternative.

Sheila LeMaster is vice-president of exhibitor services for GES in Las Vegas. Sheila has more than 30 years’ experience in the hotel hospitality and trade show convention industry. She holds a bachelor of science degree in hotel administration from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. At GES, she guides a team of professionals in maintaining client and customer relationships, while providing exceptional customer service.


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