By Sara Fordham, CMP
If someone asked you what your greatest fear is, what would you say? Heights? Spiders? Clowns, maybe? (Yikes!) Or would you identify more with the fear of large crowds?
For IAVM members across the globe it is most likely NOT crowds because, after all, that’s kind of what we do best. However, hosting a mass gathering during an international pandemic with little to no playbook to go off of may be a new addition to my list of worries given the current climate of the event industry. A way to combat the nerves of reopening is to do what you do best as a venue manager — what you’ve been trained for, what you’ve prepared for and what you already love to do — get into the details and communicate.
When it comes down to opening a facility after a pandemic, every building will be slightly different. Since most states have varying regulations, the requirements to reopen will depend on where the facility is located as well as the stakeholders. At some point, the focus of each facility will need to be on the guest experience. Adapting communication and signage to fit the needs of your venue is a key component to focus on prior to reopening. The following tasks are recommendations on how to get organized and how to pay special attention to the guest experience while writing your reopening procedures.
You Are Not In This Alone: Brainstorm with multiple team members to determine the message you want to send to guests once they return to your facility. Regardless of the message you choose, be sure it is consistent.
Some questions to ask during the brainstorm period are as follows:
– What signage is needed and where?
– How will you share the CDC guidelines and social distancing information with your clients in advance as well as onsite?
– What do guests returning to your venue need to know in order to feel comfortable?
Once you have a complete list, organize and create specific wording for your reopening communication.
Dollars and Cents: Consider your budget first and foremost as you most likely did not have a “pandemic” line item that was previously approved. Perhaps there are areas in your budget that you can pull from in order to assist with the overall signage footprint and guest communication. Whether internally produced or outsourced, identify what signage is most important to your reopening message. This will help you determine what is worth outsourcing and possibly spending money on.
Use What You Have: Look at your inventory in a different light to determine how it can best be used during future socially distanced events. Examples of items that can be used to aid in your signage or attendee flow plan are easels, pipe and drape, display boards, digital signage, rope and stanchion, gaffers tape, A-frames, etc. Get creative with what you have to assist with your bottom line.
Place Signage Appropriately: Outlining the best location to display new facility requirements is an important area of focus. Placing signage at Facility Entrance/Exits (both front and back of house) as well as attendee touch points (doors, concourse areas, food and beverage kiosks, escalators, elevators, restrooms, etc.) is a great way to get messaging across once guests arrive onsite.
Welcome Back: Consider how each person will access your building. With new procedures in place to enter and exit, getting people into your facility is more complex. Items to consider and ask questions about before opening your doors are face covering ordinances, temperature check station requirements, health screenings, and capacity counts. Determine what signage or additional guest service staff is needed to facilitate these new items. The goal here is to ensure guests are returning to your venue in an efficient manner while also remaining safe.
As a reminder, this is the first time you’ve done this. Any mistakes are opportunities to learn and improve. So, don’t be afraid of events hosted during a pandemic. Stay diligent and focused on the safety of all involved. If you prepare correctly and work with a team to focus on your communication strategy beforehand, you can confidently reopen and begin welcoming folks back to your venue.
Sara Fordham, CMP, is Senior Event Manager at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center in Columbia, South Carolina.