Chapter 2: Scale COVID-19 Safety Practices for In-Person Events

January 31, 2022

Assemble a Team of Event Experts

Your team should include staff from each of these areas:

  • Event logistics to create a smooth flow for both live events and streaming content
  • Registration to ensure a consistent, easy-to-understand process for attending both in-person and online events
  • Tech support to create the best possible experience at live and online events and quickly solve any glitches that may occur
  • Event coordinators to organize all event details and communicate with stakeholders so that events unfold as planned

Create a Safer Event Space

Choose a location and an event space that minimizes COVID-19 risks. Outdoor events are recommended if weather permits. Here are some important event protocol guidelines to keep in mind.
Look for a City That...
Look for an Event Space/Venue With...
Is consistently reporting low numbers of COVID-19 cases
Large outdoor gathering spaces to improve ventilation
Supports organizations taking measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19
Indoor spaces with mechanical ventilation and high efficiency filters
Has adequate hospital capacity and medical staff
Rooms with several options for ventilation (i.e., windows that open, walls that open to the outside)
Has clear local COVID-19 safety requirements and regulations
Plenty of space to allow for social distancing and event operations (i.e., check-in and testing)
Has a warm climate to support outdoor activities if needed
Onsite paramedics

Address Testing, Vaccination, and Access Controls

Testing and vaccinations can mitigate virus spread. Using the right technology can help ensure that testing is up-to-date and access controls are swift, uniform, and smooth. In September and December 2021, we took three early steps to help prevent COVID-19 infections at our event: vaccinations, testing, and validated access. Lean into local and federal guidelines to determine vaccination requirements. Note, if a vaccinated individual contracts COVID-19 at your office, they are less likely to become severely ill or hospitalized. A vaccinated individual can still contract COVID-19, or what is known as a “breakthrough infection,” which is why complementing vaccinations with testing is the best opportunity to mitigate both sickness and spread. Read more about these steps in Chapter 1: Define COVID-19 Safety Protocols and Cross-Functional Team Leads.

Respond to Changing Issues

Even if you follow all the best event protocol guidelines for virus control, problems can occur. We had an action plan in place and trained staff to respond to key scenarios, such as the following:
Notify them of positive results, making sure you remain HIPAA-compliant.
Stick to the plan. There should be no exceptions, as these requirements are in place to help keep everyone safe.
Emphasize that the requirements are designed to help keep everyone safe.
Have medical support, a quarantine space, and a quarantine kit ready.
Rely on members of the core events and security teams to reinforce this message.
Listen empathetically and try to understand the person’s circumstances.
If public health guidelines advise it, implement contact tracing.
Consult with your safety advisor to see if any measures can be taken to allow for safer entry.

Reflect and Review

Ask yourself which event protocol guidelines and communications went well and which didn’t? What could you do differently next time? No event is ever perfect, and taking the time to analyze feedback from attendees and staff will pay off in the future. Here are some good questions to ask:

  • Were there any positive virus test results?
  • Was there any negative feedback about your protocols?
  • Did people feel safe?
  • What worked smoothly? What didn’t?
  • Did people enjoy the event?

You should document your results with as many specifics and as much quantification as possible. Then review them before planning your next event to discover ways to improve the experience for everyone.

For us, Dreamforce was a great example of how an organization can successfully deliver a safer in-person experience for employees and customers. Events are an important part of the Salesforce culture, and we missed making those connections with our customers during the first 20 months of the pandemic. After careful consideration, we realized that Dreamforce would be the perfect occasion to bring people back together.

Thanks to months of comprehensive planning and discipline throughout the event, we successfully hosted two Dreamforce events with a total of over 4,500 attendees – one in September 2021 in San Francisco and another in December 2021 in New York City. Maintaining the health and safety of attendees was our number one priority, and following the procedures listed above helped us make the events successful.

Make Events, Meetings, and Travel Safe Again
Take a deeper dive into protocols, planning, and best practices with our free, online training module.

Up Next: Chapter 3: Scale COVID-19 Safety Practices in the Workplace

Next, learn the framework that will help you account for the changing dynamics of the health environment, and your own unique circumstances.

In this chapter, learn how to:

  • Create a leadership task force
  • Outline the phases of reopening
  • Prepare your employees
  • Adopt flexible work policies
  • And more!

About the Authors

Geeta Nayyar, MD, MBA
Chief Medical Officer
Brent Hyder
Chief People Officer
Sarah Franklin
Chief Marketing Officer

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