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Reimagining event space design

Business, Tips and Techniques | December 1, 2020 | By:

Guidelines and trends to follow for events and meetings
in a post-pandemic world. 

by Kevin Dana

Over the past few months event professionals have pivoted quickly to support the new landscape of our industry. From virtual trade shows to micro-weddings, we’ve seen a major shift in how we approach meetings and events as a result of COVID-19. Because of the pandemic, it’s important for planners to design spaces with safety and social distancing top-of-mind. Using technology, modularity and creativity, planners can develop thoughtful and trendy designs that are safe and comfortable for attendees. As we look toward a brighter future, here are guidelines and trends to follow for events and meetings in a post-COVID-19 world. 

Facilitate movement through design

To encourage attendance at in-person events, planners should consider the various comfort levels of all guests. While some attendees are eager to return to social events, others will naturally have concerns. Designing with safety top-of-mind allows planners to meet the needs of each attendee. Facilitating movement through the venue can be achieved through design with wayfinding, using free-standing clear dividers, stanchions and floor decals. Promoting socialization through social distancing will be an obstacle for planners, though not impossible. 

When designing a safely spaced social event, use a 6-by-6-foot grid to make sure attendees have room to circulate with a 36-inch “halo” around them. For reassurance, be sure to provide at least 500 square feet for every 10 attendees. Consider using both physical and mental cues for attendees to utilize designated seating. By adding barriers, such as C-shaped tables between seats, guests will know where to sit, allowing for a greater sense of safety. Personalized signage cues will not only assist attendees, but will also strengthen your brand’s presence. To reinforce wellbeing, include plenty of reminders for attendees to sanitize their hands and practice social distancing.

Utilize technology 

Technology is one of the most valuable tools for a planner. In this new era, expect future events and meetings to be smaller, meaning fewer in-person attendees (100 or less) and more virtual attendees. Since speakers will be sitting farther apart, consider designing with drapes and greenery so stages have a greater sense of warmth and comfort. Integrate live chats and polls to ensure speakers are engaging with remote attendees. Pairing comfortable chairs with individual power hubs will create a truly owned space for each attendee. Utilizing individual power hubs will ensure attendees remain in one seat for the entire event and reduce touches on multiple surfaces. To avoid clusters of attendees, incorporate additional large monitors around the event space. Consider how audio will impact the event experience—will background music hinder attendees from hearing each other at a safe distance? Understanding how to utilize technology at every step of an event will create a more seamless and enjoyable experience for both attendees and planners.

Clear communication with attendees at all stages of the event will be important, but especially beforehand. Prepare a digital guideline for attendees to examine so they know what to expect upon arrival. Physical assets such as programs and personnel identification cards should be converted to digital versions to minimize interaction whenever possible. Facilitating pre-registration, wellness check-ins and seating arrangements online prior to the event will put attendees at ease and provide a safer experience. 

Reimagine conventional dining 

As we prepare for post-COVID-19 events, out-of-the-box ideas will need to be implemented—especially when it comes to dining. To maintain a six-foot distance between attendees, consider using communal tables for two, placing two seats at each end of the table. The “dinner for one” concept, where smaller, individual table and chair sets are configured six feet apart, also promotes socialization and communal conversation from a preferred distance. Accessorize with draped floral arrangements or intimate candle centerpieces to divide the space. Consider that two or more attendees from the same household may be arriving together, so provide a mix of seating options to accommodate all guests and party sizes. 

For food and drink stations, planners should utilize multiple individual stations to limit interactions and lengthy lines. To provide safety and comfort, divide food and beverage areas with plexiglass, keeping an opening for service. Provide social distancing markers on the floor to indicate one-way traffic through the station. Buffets are no longer an option, so instead opt for plated or boxed meals. Cutlery, condiments and drinks should also be pre-packaged for single use. Be sure to include plenty of sanitation stations. Guests will have peace-of-mind and appreciate the chance to connect with others while dining. 

Kevin Dana is executive director of marketing and product development at CORT Events.

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SIDEBAR: Top tips for event space design

  • As a rule of thumb, be sure to provide at least 500 square feet
    for every 10 event attendees.
  • To facilitate movement, consider free-standing clear dividers, stanchions and floor decals.
  • For warmth and comfort, incorporate drapes and greenery onto stages.  
  • Digitize physical assets such as programs and ID cards to minimize interactions.
  • Utilize multiple food and drink stations to limit lengthy lines.

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