The result gives me fresh hope that mass entertainment and in-person corporate events will be able to take place following the next government review date. This is on June 21, when the government wants to remove all legal limits on social contact.
However, we are clearly not out of the woods yet. Although some live events started on Monday 17 May, this will be under review as the government remains vigilant to the threat from new and existing variants.
After over a year running online business events from the confines of my home, it was great to get that person-to-person feeling when Soundbite took part in The BRIT Awards at the O2 earlier this month.
Once again, Soundbite provided audio and visual feeds to the many dressing rooms, press areas and production offices to ensure the event is properly monitored.
But, this year, the team had to mask up as the event was chosen to entertain 4,000 guests, including 2,500 key workers. This turned The BRIT Awards into the largest indoor event held in the UK for over a year and a model by which the safety of others would be judged. In a further boost to the events industry following the BRIT Awards, there were zero COVID cases linked to the event. The culture security Oliver Dowden said the findings were a real success and that he was "very hopeful" that venues will be able to fully re open to full capacity on the 21st June.
My experience was that the event went as smoothly as it seemed to on TV. While the audience was unmasked (people had only been admitted following a negative Covid test), everyone working at the event remained masked and socially distant throughout. It was refreshing that coverage focused on the winners not the guests, suggesting others saw it as business as usual too.
So what would I take from the Brits. Here are my top six things for business event planners to bear in mind as you start in-person events again.
Nobody really minds masks – we have got used to masks, so wearing them at an event is not a deal breaker for staff or guests.
Do the basics well – how people react will depend on your preparations. If the atmosphere is welcoming but cautious – plenty of sanitisers, clear signage, many toilets for hand washing, well-spaced table and chairs, one-way systems – then people will feel much more comfortable.
Communicate clearly and frequently – with space and time at a premium before an event, it is more important than ever that staff and volunteers know and understand their role and are able to fulfil it smoothly. Avoid bringing staff into unnecessary proximity to one another.
Eye Contact – we don’t need to hug or shake hands to make one another feel welcome. Being masked means that eye contact is more important than ever.
Don’t forget the hard of hearing – Many people with hearing loss lip read; that’s not possible if you are speaking to them while wearing a mask. If someone is partially deaf, stand back and remove your mask briefly. Then they can both see and hear you as clearly as they can while you speak at a normal volume. Do not be tempted to raise your voice (with or without your mask on) or get closer to them.
Enjoy yourself – you’ve waited a long time for this so, like the alcohol ads say, enjoy responsibly.
Let me remind you what’s allowed under the current restrictions, which started on May 17.
All events recommencing at Step 3 will be subject to the following capacity caps:
1,000 people or 50% of a venue’s capacity, whichever is lower at indoor events
4,000 people or 50% of a site or venue’s capacity, whichever is lower at outdoor events
Remember, these rules only apply to guests. There is a long list of workers and volunteers who are not covered by the capacity limits, including
operational team (such as reception, maintenance, cleaning security & stewarding and ticketing staff)
caterers and concession stand staff
presentation/production/audio visual (AV) team
exhibitors, speakers, musicians and performers
On that basis, it makes good sense for many entertainment and sporting events, but several trade shows and conferences have already been cancelled or moved online for 2021. Speaking to business owners, there seems little appetite to attend or exhibit at trade fairs this year. Many have made alternative marketing arrangements over the past year and there remains a question as to which shows will take place again in their old format. Business event planners are asking who really wants to stand in a vast exhibition hall for hours on end hoping that the right prospect will chance by their stand?
What I am confident that we will see is a surge in demand for more intimate, high-value conferences and experiential events. Places where people can meet for in-depth conversations, to see, touch and experience innovation and service. If the content is meaningful, nothing that can beat in-person events.
To discuss how to plan and deliver better in-person and hybrid business events, simply get in touch.