Events in a COVID World…The Sequel
For the last couple of months, event profs everywhere have been hotly debating the topic of events in a post-COVID world.
And that includes us. In our own speculative blog post, we talked about:
- potential small-group restrictions for post-lockdown events;
- the possibility of pre-event testing and/or gathering health data to see if delegates qualify to attend in person;
- Covid-19 delegate packs with hand sanitiser, gloves, and branded face masks (we kid you not);
- and the mind-boggling logistics of no-contact arrivals, registrations, plenaries and—even more bizarrely—no-contact networking. (If you haven’t read it, we suggest you mosey on over there and catch up).
But honestly, this list barely scratched the surface. Not to mention, it all felt very hypothetical, and very far off.
Until now, that is.
As the UK takes its first tentative steps out of lockdown—with Scotland now in Phase 1 of the government’s lockdown easing strategy—it’s starting to feel a bit more real. And that first post-lockdown event feels closer than ever (we can already taste the complimentary Champagne!).
That means it’s time to start asking the really difficult questions. Not just “what might events look like?” but “how the hell are we going to get there?”. What are the many technical and logistical hoops (flaming or otherwise) that event profs will have to jump through to ensure events can go ahead, and go ahead safely?
So in this blog—‘the sequel’, if you will—we’re deep-diving into the murky waters of what it takes to produce an event at reduced capacity. So it’s a behind-the-scenes look at how event design may need to change (*understatement alert*) and how some of Scotland’s most popular venues could be reconfigured for a socially-distanced world.
Deep breaths, everyone.
Set & Event Design
There’s no two ways about it, Event Designers are going to have a very challenging job after lockdown (and it wasn’t exactly a walk in the park before lockdown).
If capacities drop, which they’ll have to, then the specification and level of AV equipment must drop too. But in order to be COVID-safe, there are measures we need to take—and it all starts with workflow.
This is an example of the typical workflow for a Production Manager on a fairly average pre-COVID event.
Now, we’ve kept this deliberately brief (you can thank us later). But trust us when we say…even at the best of times, this is hours and hours (and hours and hours) of work. Checking, double-checking, cross-checking, and generally stressing over every detail. That’s the reality of event design, because there are so many moving parts. And at Cameron, we know every tiny detail matters—so every tiny detail is *worth* stressing over.
Throw COVID-19 into the mix (not literally, of course) and this process from point 7 onwards will be…very different. Let us explain.
7. All equipment prepared & shipped
Normally, there would be 4 to 8 people preparing and shipping the equipment—but this just won’t be possible when allowing for social distancing, so this stage will take longer than usual.
Plus, a lot of the equipment is heavy and requires 2 or more people to lift it, meaning a revision to how this equipment is housed and a review of how to use said equipment. Then, if it can’t be used, we’ll need to switch out the gear, or re-design the show.
8. Event installed & tested
The installation time is also going to increase, working within social distancing guidelines. For starters, staggering the times at which different crew members can install each discipline will slow things down. And the show equipment—such as vision mixers, audio, and lighting desks—should only be set up by those operating them to reduce the risk of contamination.
The layout of the show control area will also need some thought, as it’ll inevitably take up more precious floor space to allow for social distancing (floor space will be a hot commodity, that’s for sure).
9. Rehearsals, then show time
All content must be sent digitally in advance, of course.
10. Show de-rigged, shipped to warehouse, all equipment checked & returned to shelf
Just as it’s going to take longer to set up events, it’ll take longer to de-rig them too. Plus, there’s the extra time it’ll take to implement more rigorous hygiene procedures, and sanitise all the equipment after use.
So. . .what does that mean?
To start with, what we could be looking at is a back-to-basics approach to equipment on site. And, due to the issues above and the inevitable reduction in capacity, event profs should make the most of webcasting wherever possible.
In case you hadn’t heard, hybrid events are the future. Everything we’re seeing and hearing suggests that this will be the new normal for our industry—at least for a while. So you’re going to want to acquaint yourself with Cameron Live.
Social Distancing in Scotland’s Venues
As the next step, we’ve chosen 20 of the most popular venues in Scotland, and we’ve had a go at redesigning their event spaces to accommodate social distancing. Why bother, you ask? Well, when we started drilling down to the technicalities, it made sense to explore this—and it made even more sense to share it with everyone. Our hope is that it helps venues, Event Managers and…well…anyone in our industry to start envisaging the reality of post-lockdown events. At the very least, we hope it gets the conversation started.
But be warned. The outlook for allowing 2m distance is very, very scary—so we’ve allowed for 1.5m and 1m as well. (We’re spitballing here, just roll with it.) It will be no surprise to anyone that the larger venues will be able to cater better under social distancing. Venues like the Edinburgh Corn Exchange come out on top. Even then at 2m they have a 70% drop in capacity cabaret and 87% theatre style. Like we said, it’s scary.
- Argyle Street Arches
- Assembly Rooms Edinburgh
- The Balmoral
- BT Murrayfield Stadium
- Crieff Hydro
- Crossbasket Castle
- The Crowne Plaza
- DoubleTree by Hilton Glasgow
- Edinburgh Corn Exchange
- Edinburgh First John McIntyre Conference Centre
- The George Hotel Edinburgh
- Glasgow Hilton
- Glasgow Marriott
- Gleneagles Hotel
- Prestonfield House
- Radisson Blu
- Stirling Castle
- Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh
You can download our risk assessment methodology here, too. (How could you resist an offer like that?)