We are entering a monumental moment in the live entertainment industry. As cities around the U.S. advance into the next phases of reopening and restrictions are lifted, the return of in-person experiences is on the horizon.
Outdoor gatherings with social-distancing requirements are showing up everywhere. In many places, restaurants are open for dine-in service with new protocols in place, and crews are preparing office buildings for employees to come back soon. [Editor’s note: The evolving pandemic changes reopening plans daily.]
All the while, there is still some lingering concern about in-person events. If these events are brought back without regard to life in the COVID-19 times, producers will have trouble getting permits. Or even if they do get permits, people simply won’t attend. In the worst-case scenario, the large gathering will cause people to get sick.
KEEPING EVENTS SAFE It is paramount that the proper steps are taken and the correct policies and procedures are put in place to ensure the safest environment possible is created. Once that feeling of safety is established, attendees will be able to relax and enjoy their experience. If done the right way with the establishment of a new set of health and safety standards, this first wave of in-person events will usher in the return of the industry as a whole.
A comprehensive study on the impact of COVID-19 on live events was conducted by the Performance Research Group. While the results showed justifiable concern among the population in regard to attending events, the findings highlighted an important sentiment that bodes well for the industry's future. Survey results clearly stated that “fans of all types of events can identify significant milestones and new safety precautions that will get them back.” Identifying and addressing those milestones is the pathway we must follow to put on a safe event. The issues called out as most important the study were:
- Reduced capacity to allow for greater distancing
- Restroom sanitation
- Hand sanitizer available
- Touchless experiences—entryways, payment methods, etc.
Knowing the issues that are important to event attendees is the first step. Now, it’s up to the event professionals to address them, both directly at the event and proactively in every stage of the planning process.
Event Attendance Size
Considering the popularity of the destination mega-events of recent years, holding events with reduced capacities might seem like a hindrance to some. But this can also be seen as an opportunity.
And the results of the Performance Research study back up this positive way of thinking. The study found that “social-distancing measures could strengthen consumers’ appreciation of events in the long run.” Holding smaller community-based events that allow for social distancing while avoiding thousands of people traveling to attend can offer a more personalized experience for attendees.
And through the use of readily available technology and social-media platforms, simultaneous events can be connected virtually, allowing the large-scale shared experience people crave.
Another benefit to this type of “satellite event” is that money spent on event-related services (production, logistics, hospitality) will flow into multiple communities rather than just a select few. In this way, the return of in-person events will accelerate the return of other businesses around the country as well.
Live-Event Health and Safety Standards
Regardless of the size of the event, a new standard of cleanliness and safety will need to be implemented. Restroom sanitation, the availability of hand sanitizer, and touchless experiences are the key milestones pointed out in the survey results, but are only the tip of the iceberg of what’s needed. To address those and identify others, we at GDX Studios looked to the leading health and safety organizations for direction.
Through consultations and certified training from the CDC, WHO, OSHA and ISSA, we became experts on the most up-to date policies and practices currently adhered to the medical industry. By applying those learning to the event industry, we developed the GDXtra Care Program.
The GDXtra Care Program is the first of its kind set of health and safety protocols and practices for the event industry. Rather than invent an arbitrary set of standards, we used the ever-evolving standards set by governmental organizations and adjusted them to fit the world of live events. We have created a template that can be applied to all aspects of event planning for gatherings of any size. The program has three phases, all of which are paramount to creating the safest environment possible.
- Venue audits: Proper air circulation, EPA-approved disinfectants, best sterilization practices, touchless amenities in place
- Pre-event: Advanced staff training, up-to-date recommendations from governing health bodies, partnerships with cleaning and disease-prevention entities
- At the event: Capacity control with physical-distancing guidelines, entrance screenings, directional signage, touchless experiences, increased surface cleaning and waste removal
By implementing in the planning and execution of live events, the GDXtra Care program will address the concerns identified by attendees as well as issues that haven’t even been considered. By establishing the feeling of safety and a level of trust, attendees will be able to be comfortable and enjoy themselves. We’re confident that these policies and practices will become industry standards, and provide a clear pathway to the return of in-person events. As creative engineers, GDX Studios understands what it means to pivot temporarily and live in a world that is still connected, albeit in a different way.
We understand people are physical beings by nature. Brands have a great opportunity to help bring a sense of normalcy back to society though shared and fun experiences. We are grateful for the opportunity to lead the events industry back into creating unique experiences and safe events.
As vice president of operations and executive producer for GDX Studios, an experiential marketing studio headquartered in San Diego, Seth Bardacke is responsible for overseeing all aspects of production for the agency. Starting in the game operations department for the Sacramento Kings while in college at UC Davis, he has more than 20 years of live entertainment production experience. When he’s not busy producing some of the most over-the-top activations for industry leaders such as Adult Swim, Warner Media and Universal Studios, he enjoys spending time with his family in Lake Tahoe and tending to his backyard vegetable garden.