As we enter the “living-with” Covid-19 era you maybe thinking, are in-person events safe? After-all going to any event, conference, sports match or concert isn’t considered essential travel right? So why risk it?
The truth is, humans need physical interaction to survive and to work collectively as a socially cohesive species. It is an important part of being a human. Being locked down, inside your own 4-walls, isolated from the world and others for almost 2 years has an amazing negative effect on our mindset. It makes us look inward, become selfish, depressed, angry and seriously affects our ability to interact with others.
In-Person events in whatever genre are important. They give us opportunity to experience new things, to meet and interact with old friends and make new ones. The ability to talk, laugh, and enjoy each others company in a similar setting is very important to our good health. You should not underestimate the power on being together and sharing moments with other people.
Some people have compared the restrictions our collective Governments have enforced on us over the course of the pandemic to that of World Wars of the past. I myself haven’t lived through both era’s to comment on this with any form of authority. But, I can suggest that they are not the same.
Whilst the war effort meant people had to give up their possessions, convert their businesses and jobs to help, lose loved ones, restrictions on travel and rationing we can see many similarities, except one. With the pandemic, we all had to go through similar chaos and emotional turmoil in our lives, except we had to deal with it alone, locked in our homes. No one beyond live-in family could help, no shoulders to cry on, no one to talk to and no escape from our homes that became our prison. Life was tough mentally and its left its scars.
One of them scars is people’s reticence to reintegrate with society and life. We now start questioning our every decision to leave the house. Do I need food? Yes. OK, where shall I go? I’ll go to the express supermarket because there is less people, or I will order a home delivery. Shall we go to the beach? What’s the weather going to be like? Oh hot! and its the weekend, oh it will be busy, let’s stay at home and have a BBQ instead. I know this to be true, because those are the thoughts going through my mind each time i think about setting out of the house.
This may sound really weird coming from a person who has organised and run an in-person conference in September 2021, just as we start to get out of the most severe of restrictions. I mean, it can’t be that bad, my anxiety if I did that right? Trust me, I thought long and hard about if it was the responsible thing to do. Could I overcome my inward thinking, break the trend and could I make an environment that others in similar mindsets feel confident enough to also venture out?
Are in-person events safe?
Together we need to build the confidence back and this starts with Event Organisers planning mitigations and communicating those to the attendee demographic. People have become used to being told what they can and cannot do and the psyche has been altered by the lockdowns. It is down to the organisers to communicate protocols and procedures that help attendee’s confidence grow.
A lot of events are now starting to implement their own entry conditions beyond simple ticketing. Some implementations have been:
Events are now requiring all attendees, staff, exhibitors and speakers to take at least a lateral flow test no more than 48 hours prior to admission regardless of vaccination status. When you arrive at the venue, you may find a pre-admission reception outside the venue asking people to show their proof before being allowed into the building
Some events are going further and requiring all people to show proof of Covid-19 vaccination. This condition isn’t something that we have seen as prevalent, but it at least ensures that if any delegate should contract the virus at the event or on the way to/from then, they should have only mild symptoms
There are different situations within a conference that could change people’s minds on what they consider safe or risky. Some conferences are introducing coloured lanyards or badges that determine a person’s approachability. For example, red lanyard, please keep your distance and green lanyard, I’m OK with close contact. This allows people to make a personal decision that requires no explanation
Another step events are taking is to offer a hybrid seating model where a portion of the room’s seating is socially distanced. This allows people to make a choice as to where they wish to sit without drawing attention to themselves or being made to feel like a minority.
One Way Systems
In order to ease the flow around the venue, one way systems or “Keep Left” traffic flows are in place. The principle for this is to allow a smooth flow of people in the same direction and avoid unintentional bumps and collisions which again reduces the risk of involuntarily close contact
It has been common for session room doors to be closed during a talk. However, employing a doors open policy or open plan auditoriums minimise transmission by touch
These are some of the common implementations at events such as Commsverse as we come to terms with living with covid. But the responsibility for your safety is not all on the organiser’s shoulders. You also have to meet them half way and take your own precautions.
What Steps Can I Take To Protect Myself & Others?
The fact that you are reading this article probably means that you are sceptical about going to an event. You’re not quite confident enough to make a definite decision, but you are searching for ways in which you can help your conscious make the decision to attend. I am here to tell you that it is not as scary out there as social and mainstream media make it out to be.
The reality is that when everyone is at the event, they naturally respect each other and are conscious of what they are doing. It’s not like everyone goes around coughing on everything or are there to indeed spread the virus. They are there with the same risk and mitigation as you and it’s shared responsibility.
We shouldn’t be asking ourselves “are in-person events safe?”. Instead, the biggest risk to a person’s health when it comes to catching covid isn’t necessarily at the event. Although it may spread there. It doesn’t matter what precautions an event brings in, they can only control the environment around the event. They cannot control who you sit next on on a train, who you bump into in the motorway services or who touched that airport trolley last before you. If there is an outbreak at an event, it will because one (or more) people brought it to the event with them and not that it was waiting at the event for everyone.
This brings the responsibility on to everyone’s shoulders to make the event as safe as practically possible. These are the simple steps you can implement without being too onerous on your life
Wear a Mask
When you travel to and from the venue, wear a mask whenever in confined spaces such as underground railways, trains, buses, taxis, service stations and shops.
Keep Your Distance
Wherever possible keep your distance from others. Even if social distancing is not a legal requirement, consider your surroundings and take the time to make good choices.
It might be tempting to share a car with a colleague, but where possible limit your exposure and travel alone. If you need to make stops, keep distances and limit the amount of time you’re in a public space. Take a coffee on take-out and sit in the car or outside to drink it.
Bring with you some lateral flow tests just incase you suspect that you may have fallen ill to covid. But also do not rely on the venue or the event to supply hand sanitizer. Bring your own pocket sized dispenser and use it regularly
If you suspect that you may have fallen ill with covid at the event, be responsible and immediately remove yourself from the event and isolate until you have had a PCR test. Do not take the selfish stance of continuing to be present at the event. Inform the organisers that you suspect you have Covid so they can communicate this anonymously with the rest of the delegation
This Sounds Hairy… Why Go If Its Everywhere?
I am not here to tell you that Covid is gone or that you will never catch it at an event. That would be a lie. Covid is not going anywhere and is something we all have to learn to come to terms with. We have to place our trust in the vaccinations and the immunity from antibodies that they will give us enough protection against falling severely ill with it.
Ultimately, we will either get used to it and treat it the same as the flu or stomach bugs or we will forever live in fear. How you choose to live with that is up to you. I am not here to judge either way.
However, I go back to the beginning where it is important as humans, that we interact physically. Virtual meetings solve an immediate and definite problem of being able to communicate on a basic, prescribed level. They do not replace feelings, or chance moments or sentiment that we thrive on in the physical world. You should not be scared.
There are lots of opportunities out of in-person events that you will not get in virtual. Your mental health will improve, your happiness will improve and possibly even your career! Don’t miss out on it. We are all working hard for you to attend safely and we encourage you to consider attending events that would be high value to you