It’d be an understatement to say COVID-19 turned the world upside-down. For the event industry, there were three options: cancel, postpone, or go digital. Many canceled while many more went virtual. Now, as the world opens back up, we’re faced with another rather pressing problem—mitigating risk at events. It’s undeniable that the “normal” we’re going to face will be unlike the one we knew before.
Luckily for the event industry, we’re not new to crises. Instead, risk management is one of those things that’s been drummed into our heads from the very beginning. We’re pros at preparing for the unpredictable—assessing every aspect of the event for all possible risks, be it power failure, sponsor withdrawals, or even hurricanes. With COVID-19, we’re once more faced with new concerns, and it’s important to address these issues along with our regular list of potential risks if we want to get back to hosting events that everyone will love.
How can you manage risk at your events?
Risk management can be defined as the process of identifying potential risks and devising possible solutions to mitigate them. So the first step here is identifying the risk factors, both internal and external. There’s a sense of urgency we see today that wasn’t previously noticeable. As the world opens back up, people are in a quandary—they want to attend events and socialize while at the same time they’re afraid of the risks.
In this post, we’ll be discussing some of the more important factors that should be considered when determining your event’s risk management strategy.
Reboard your team safely
For some time now, your offices have likely been closed or operating with the bare minimum of people. As the world reopens and the demand for events increases, getting your team back to the workplace might be a little complicated. You’ve not only got to bring them up to speed about the latest situation at the office but also help them acclimate to their roles—it’s going to be almost like onboarding them again. There are quite a few risks attached to reboarding your team, and here we’ve mentioned a few ways you can mitigate the risk of COVID-19 when doing it.
Only bring in the people who actually need to be there. Others can continue working remotely.
Get your team to fill out a contact-tracing form
Ensure that you are compliant with government procedures
Set stricter protocols for cleaning and sanitization
Keep the communication lines open. Be open about the safety measures you’ve added and how the reboarding process will happen.
Give some thought to your employees’ mental health. COVID-19 has caused more than just physical problems. It’s been a stressful time for everyone, your employees included.
It’s important that you stay updated with the latest news about the virus. You should also prepare for emergencies that may occur when someone on your team falls ill. Your employees depend on you to keep them safe in the workplace. Their health and safety should thus be your foremost priority once you get to hosting events.
Refine your communication plan
Communication gaps in a critical situation can make everything 10 times worse. That’s why it’s important to have a good communication plan. Your team has to be regularly updated about everything—not just on the day of the event, but throughout the whole process, from start to finish. Risk management is about flexibility and agile thinking, and this means frequent changes in your response plan. You’ve also got to find a way to inform people about all these changes so they know how to fill in the blanks.
While previously it was enough to have a plan for how your team will communicate during a potential crisis, the arrival of COVID-19 means that plan has to include more preventative information and steps than before. Today it’s important to keep your team and everyone else updated about the virus and other important government regulations and protocols even before the event—this is in addition to emergency steps to take during the event. This way, they will have an idea of what to expect.
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Consider technological risk
Remote working has significantly increased the risk of cybercrime. With more people working from home ISPs and VPNs, cybersecurity is a chief concern everywhere. These past months saw a marked increase in the number of phishing campaigns, malware, and espionage. Unfortunately, most companies weren’t prepared for it. Increasing the risk threshold of your technology is important to safeguard your company’s safety and reputation.
Events deal with an immense amount of personal data, and in the wrong hands, that could create havoc. So tech security must be a priority in the coming days. This might even be a good time to invest in a tech risk team that could be on the watch for cyber-attacks and help strengthen security.
Assess your venue
One of the biggest changes in our approach to in-person events in the future will be about the venues we choose. Some of the things we should consider for the future include:
Capacity: We need more space now for the same number of attendees. While before, a venue held 500 attendees, today it might be just enough for 250 to 300 attendees.
Breakout rooms: Even the discussion rooms have to take social distancing into consideration. You need more space for people to interact and so you can control the crowd.
Indoor vs outdoor: This is another consideration for event planners. Would an outdoor venue be safer? A lot of people seem to prefer being outdoors to staying indoors at events today. But hosting your event outside comes with its own set of complications (like the weather, for one thing) and you should plan your event will all of this in mind.
Restrictions: Every country and state comes with its own rules and restrictions. The venue you choose should be compliant with these regulations.
Plan for health and safety
Your attendees want to attend your event. After months of social distancing and sheltering in place, they’re just itching to go somewhere. But they are also scared. In a recent survey, almost two-thirds of the attendees said their main concern for skipping events in the future would be cleanliness. Some ways to make your event cleaner and safer, as well as to minimize contact, are:
Having digital tools for check-in. You can also have beacon bands to automatically check in attendees or use facial recognition at self-check-in kiosks so people don’t touch the machine.
Keeping sanitizer bottles throughout the venue.
Skipping the buffet and instead having pre-packaged, single-serve meals for lunch. It might not be as decadent as a buffet, but it’ll be so much safer.
Hosting a hybrid event so people don’t have to travel.
Using color-coded wristbands so attendees can show others if they’re okay with physical contact or not.
Include event activities that are not dependent on contact.
The safer your event, the more comfortable people will be. These days, a safe attendee experience has become almost synonymous with a great attendee experience. So, this time, it’ll be safety first.
Analyze financial implications
Almost every risk has a way of leaving a financial imprint on your event. And some risks are very costly. So every time you assess risk, be sure to add how it’ll impact you financially. Will it affect your ROI? Will some of your sponsors back out? Will you have to compensate people?
Most events don’t come with an excessive budget, and every bit of it counts for the event and for your company. So plan your budget properly and always set aside money for emergencies. For example, a vendor might quit and the next one might be more expensive. Or you might have to purchase more to compensate for damaged supplies. A little extra money can defuse a lot of difficult situations, so ensure that your budget covers these risks.
Monitor your supply chain
COVID-19 has left a huge and somewhat lasting effect on global supply chains. Trade wars, national policies, and geographical restrictions could all result in disruptions. It’s important to be aware of all the politics and the regulations that can influence your supply chain.
It’s best to go local with your supplies now as a lot of people believe regionalization to be the future, as opposed to the globalized outlook of the past months. At the same time, stay in constant touch with your vendors to know what’s happening with them. Figure out alternatives and set aside a certain amount of your budget to cope with such contingencies. You never know when you’ll need it.
Get professional advice
Risk management is a complex process. There’s a lot involved in it. So it might be a good idea to get in touch with professionals, at least at the beginning stages, so your bases are covered. There are a lot of professional risk management companies that can be a huge help for you. And an Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) person would not only help you create a good strategy for your events but also help you identify the risks in your business on the whole, which is equally important.
Other people you could reach out to include your lawyer, your insurance company, and your financial advisors. Their advice could also be especially useful and help you cover all aspects of the event and your business.
Involve your staff
Risk management is anything but an isolated process. And for it to be truly successful, everyone should play their part. This includes the photographer, the decorator, the designer, the staff, and the volunteers. By involving your team, you both tell them how to mitigate risk while also getting a fresh perspective on the strategy—they may see the holes in the plan that you overlooked or have a better response to certain risks.
Also, be sure to discuss all critical situations with your team once you’ve handled it so they know what went wrong in the current event and how it can be prevented in the future.
Learn from past mistakes
Events have a way of surprising (and shocking) you every single time. And there’s a lesson somewhere in every slip-up, every mistake. Make note of them and learn from them. Plan your future strategy with these mistakes in mind so the next time you’ll be prepared.
It’s not just your mistakes you should learn from—other events can also be good learning points. Be on a constant lookout for all the latest news in your industry and the events industry and refine your response plan accordingly. No plan is foolproof and the best ones are constantly evaluated and updated. Always be prepared for the next crisis.
The risks we face today are too big to be ignored. By addressing these risks and planning for them, we ensure that we return to an event world that is safer than ever before—for us and for the people who depend on us. And of course, it’s always better to be prepared now than sorry later, right?
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