The US Based Event Manager Blog spoke to Dr. Brian Labus, epidemiologist and health sciences expert at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to prepare event professionals for the challenges of the next few months. The future looks daunting, but there are safe ways to go back to business.
Key Takeaways & Actions
Small meetings are more controllable. The fewer people, the more manageable the risk and potential fallout. There is no ideal number of attendees, but 50 seems to be a reasonable cap.
Local is safer. Keeping events local and making sure only locals can attend can sensibly decrease the risk of transmission. If a community has a low incidence of community spread, the risk is more controllable.
Keep sessions at a 30-minute maximum. If you want to decrease the risk of transmission, plan for sessions that last up to 30 minutes, allowing attendees to avoid prolonged contact in an atmosphere where the virus may be accumulating.
Testing at the door is not practical. It requires time to process tests, and attendees may get infected over the course of the event, especially if it lasts longer than one day.
Masks are essential and should be made mandatory. They decrease the risk. Consider handing them out at registration.
Meetings should be a single day — half a day preferably. A multi-day event increases the risk of attendees wandering around and contracting the virus, e.g. as they make their way to and from the venue or interact with staff who are not staying onsite.
The full interview can be read here: https://www.eventmanagerblog.com/future-events-small-and-local
It's an interesting point. I came across this article which highlights the issue of viral load in enclosed spaces, based on detailed analysis performed on three outbreaks.
"Length of time is critical.The meals of families B and C overlapped with that of Patient 0 for an extended period, while those at table D only overlapped with Patient 0 for 18 minutes."
"Researchers believe that the air conditioning played a crucial role.It meant the air was recirculating continuously between the three tables, concentrating the tiny, virally charged micro-droplets that Patient 0 was expelling into the atmosphere among these customers."
As we all now know, there's a whole gamut of control measures which would be required to mitigate the risks presented by Covid-19 (Venue selection/physical layout planning/HVAC management/UV-C purification/physical cleaning procedures/PPE to name just a few). Exposure time is clearly a significant risk factor, but I'd question how there could be a blanket 30/60 min rule for events as all other site-specific risk factors would need to be considered first.
That being said, as we look to digital-first formats, we will find that session lengths decrease anyway to maintain engagement for the virtual audience (something in the region of 30-45 mins seems to be the preferred length of time here).
For the foreseeable at least, it's becoming more likely that hub/spoke style sessions spread over multiple locations and time zones will become the norm - as opposed to traditional formats with many sessions crammed into one/two full days at a single venue. It may be that delegates attend just 1 to 2 relevant short sessions, locally at a hybrid event with a bit of socially-distant networking opportunity, and attend the rest of the event online over the following week(s)?
Either way, it certainly alters the way programme and build events!
Yes to shorter sessions, length based on site-specific risks AND virtual engagement
Way less sessions per day - consumed in a mix of online and IRL, spread over a longer time-period
I don't quite understand the 30 minute vs. 60 minute rule. Surely one would be doing several sessions during an event and whether you spend a prolonged time in one room or whether you move to 3 different rooms that all have 30 minute sessions, in one scenario you might be exposed to the virus for a longer period of time, but you would be "meeting" less sources of the virus. In the second scenario, you might be less exposed to the virus in the short term, however would be exposed to more potential sources of the virus.
A lot of the tracing guidelines state that only after a 15 minute long contact with another individual should their contact be traced...
Im interested to see how these timings work out especially at a later date when we hopefully know more about how this virus spreads.