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Everyone thought the pandemic would end once vaccines became available. But variants of the COVID-19 virus still have the power to disrupt in-person events. If you’re organizing an event with an in-person component, it’s essential to address your participants’ anxiety so they feel comfortable attending. Here are four things you can do to put attendees at ease. 

Step 1: Partner with your venue and vendors to manage and mitigate risk

Your venue and vendor partners spent much of the pandemic trying to figure out how to bring in-person meetings back safely, so let them take the lead and share with you tools they may have developed, like the MeetSAFE guidelines by Encore. Walk through all the event touchpoints and mitigate any of the transmission risks you can identify. Co-create a safety policy for event staff and anyone else who might encounter your event participants with your venue and vendor partners. Document your plan and secure commitments from all your suppliers, exhibitors and sponsors to follow the safety policy. 

Graph of Encore's MeetSAFE program
Step 2: Address the elephant in the room

The worst thing you can do is pretend that the pandemic is over or fail to mention precautions you’re taking to mitigate risk. With stories about Covid-19 in the news daily, this will only make participants worry that you’re in denial or doubt that you’re creating the right environment for social interaction in an in-person meeting or hybrid event. Instead, be upfront about your policy on vaccination and masking, and communicate what you and the venue are doing to minimize the chance of participants getting sick and how they can return safely to events. Add a clause in the registration that requires people to acknowledge and commit to following your event’s safety protocols and policy.

Step 3: Communicate, communicate, communicate

The safety and wellbeing of your participants should be front and center everywhere: in marketing emails, social media updates, in a prominent area of your website, blogs, etc. This is one area in which you can’t overcommunicate. Also look for good news and data to share, such as these recent figures from the CDC, which show that the latest surge is ending. If you need inspiration, follow #WeMetThere to find stories of how your peers are implementing safety protocols in order to bring in-person meetings back or use these talking points. 

Graph of CDC COVID-19 Trends
How to Return To Hybrid and In-Person Events Safely and Ease Attendees Concerns
Step 4: Help them travel safer

Knowing that your event has the proper protocols in place may not be enough. Your participants still have to travel to get to the event. So, if you have tips on getting through the airport or news about how the ground transportation will take care of them, share them. Consider eliminating onsite registration booths and sending any event materials they need (name badges and lanyards, programs, etc.) digitally or via post before they travel. Many event organizers are selling sponsors on branding personal protective equipment like masks, hand sanitizer and face shields that can be put in these pre-event “care packages.” 

Do you have any other tips? Let us know. 

Pride Month celebrates the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which took place more than 50 years ago. On the first anniversary of Stonewall, a peaceful protest was organized that would become an annual event celebrating LGBTQ+ rights, before blossoming into the large-scale Pride events and parades we see globally today.

As with so many events this year, the global pandemic resulted in many postponed or cancelled Pride celebrations. Additionally, the tragic murder of George Floyd has refocused some efforts normally put forth for Pride into protests demanding change, such as the recent march in Los Angeles in support of Trans people of color.

Action creates change

The progress we have made since Stonewall would not have happened without action. The action you are seeing in the anti-racism protests across the globe today, will transform into lasting change, just as they did on June 28, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City.

I’ve witnessed a lot of that change, including the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a landmark civil rights law protects gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination, and I look forward to the day that equal rights on every level are simply considered human rights. I’m happy today to work for a company that understands this. PSAV supports four business resource groups (BRGs):

  • Black and African Americans of PSAV
  • Pride at PSAV
  • Veterans at PSAV
  • Women of PSAV

The BRGs serve as internal supportive communities, providing personal connections and affiliation for its member​s who identify with or support others similar to themselves, and providing opportunities for growth and conversations amongst the larger organization.

This was recently echoed by our CEO Mike McIlwain in a statement on Diversity and Inclusion that encouraged our team members to reach out to the BRG heads to ask how they can help and better educate their teams, peers, friends and family. I think asking questions and truly listening as someone tells you about their experiences is an action anyone can take to create lasting change.

As the executive sponsor of the Pride at PSAV BRG, I’m happy to share my coming out story to get the conversation started. When I was younger, I thought, okay, all I have to do is say this once in my life, right?  To my parents, closest friends?  Just once?  Not a chance.  I started with my parents, who were compassionate and supportive, but as it turns out, you must come out over and over and over again. New job? Coming out. New friends? Coming out. New brother-in-law? Coming out.

As I’ve gotten older, my view of those conversations has altered. No longer do I view them as “checking the boxes” conversations, or answers just to fill someone’s curiosity. I view them as a chance to educate, to inform, to help break down a stereotype they might have had about the LGBTQ+ community. Twenty years on, I find those conversations enriching.  I feel proud of the woman I am today, and I feel honored sharing my coming out stories with others who ask.

“Rights are won only by those who make their voices heard.”– Harvey Milk

What I have come to learn, is that as a part of a diverse group in society, it is our responsibility to educate others, in other words, “be out.” If someone has a question about your race, gender identification, religion or sexual orientation, educate them. It might be what they need in that moment to change for the better. Don’t rely on others to do the work.

Get to know your neighbors, co-workers and customers. Talk to them, know their story, and in turn share yours. It will only make us better humans. Now my question to you is, whose story are you going to learn about today?