As in-person events return, planners must prioritize duty of care — and that includes selecting an event venue that is taking all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 within its facilities. Numerous certifications have sprung up since the pandemic to help planners make their event management venue selection with health and safety top of mind. For instance, the Global Biorisk Advisory Council has the STAR Facility Accreditation Program, which provides a handbook, training programs, and a review of the facility’s health and safety policies; similarly, SafeGuard by Bureau Veritas involves a third-party audit of the venue.
These certifications can offer reassurance to your attendees and are useful to consider in venue selection. However, you must also do your own due diligence in evaluating the health and safety measures of a site. In addition to coming prepared with your own site inspection checklist — to include location, parking, meeting space, food and beverage programs, audiovisual equipment, cleanliness, and cost, among others — you must also be prepared to ask the right questions to determine whether the venue and staff will prioritize health and safety for your guests.
Space and layout for registration or check-in is a strong point to consider, as that will likely look different than pre-pandemic events. Is there enough space for all check-in pods that will be needed for your attendees that will also allow for social distancing? Will you keep registration in one area, or spread out to satellite locations to avoid overcrowding? If you’re spreading out, where will those check-in pods fit, and how will you direct attendees to them? These are all questions to ask as you’re deciding on a venue.
You will need to reevaluate your process for venue contracts when returning to in-person events. The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent variants of the virus have demonstrated, more than ever, the importance of having a solid contract to protect you from legal action. Previously, many venue contracts did not include force majeure clauses; now, this is a must-have. The scope of this clause should define what specific circumstances may warrant suspension of the contract, including possible event cancellation due to a pandemic. You may also want to add a deposit refund clause into your contract, or a rebook clause that specifies how your deposit may be used toward a future event if you are forced to cancel. It’s always smart to review contracts with a licensed legal professional to ensure you’re entering into an agreement that is appropriate for your event.
Hosting a hybrid event involves evaluating your venue on a few different points, a well. You’ll need to ask about internet and bandwidth capabilities to ensure a strong, uninterrupted live stream to virtual viewers, as well as check on the quality and reputation of the on-site audiovisual team or external production company you plan to use. Ask them about their experience in creating content for your desired format, whether that’s pre-recorded, live stream, simulive, or on-demand. Also think about how you’ll be connecting the experience for virtual attendees and in-person attendees, and how affects your agenda, layout, and content.