How to manage the risk of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) at your corporate events

March 11, 2020

The events industry employs over 190,000 people across Australia and delivers about 400,000 events a year, with an economic value of $30.2 billion to the economy. Australian companies venturing overseas for their events contribute even further. When global incidents such as COVID-19 (Coronavirus) occur, the events industry is one of the first to be affected. From travel restrictions being implemented to large gatherings cancelled or experiencing low attendance because some delegates are too scared to attend, the impact can be enormous.

Although the situation can be overwhelming, there are ways to manage and modify your event without impacting the desired goal. Please always consult the up-to-date advice from trusted sources such as the World Health Organisation.

Reassure attendees, reduce risk of infection and meet your event goals with these tips:

Event Here This Year

Following the devastating bushfires in Australia, Event Here This Year was created to encourage businesses to host their events domestically. Coinciding with the ongoing threat of COVID-19, this makes it a great time to host your event in Australia. Hosting an event domestically also eliminates the risk of non-Australian passport holders being stranded overseas if a travel ban is applied. Another benefit is to decrease the chances of delegates choosing not to attend as they feel safer travelling domestically.

Consider hospitals and health care access

Assess the location of your event and its locality to hospitals and healthcare services. Australia has great hospitals that will be able to manage and diagnose attendees in the unlikely event they fall ill during your program. Also, ensure your accommodation has access to 24-hour health care such as afterhours doctor services. If you’re choosing to travel internationally, do some research on local health care. Take time to understand local hospital capabilities and what options are available for your attendees.

Separate your attendees

Think about breaking off into smaller groups and hosting sessions in different rooms, rather than one big event space. Not only will this reduce the potential spread of infection, but it will make delegates feel more valued with smaller, more personal sessions. Take it a step further by hosting outdoor sessions, avoiding recirculated air through air conditioning. Similarly, avoid booking too many delegates on the same flight.

Consider how much physical contact will be needed at your event and make changes to any sessions that require direct contact and close communication between delegates. Encourage attendees to use alternative greetings to a handshake – maybe try the trending foot shake or a simple ‘hello’.

Identify at-risk attendees

Manage risk before the event begins. Request that all attendees complete a fitness check that can be used to identify anyone who has been feeling unwell or has travelled recently and take measures to manage these attendees.

Food & beverage handling

If you’ve planned to cater with buffets, communal coffee machines and tea areas, you might want to reconsider them. Maybe avoid self-serve style eating and if you can’t, reduce the number of people dining at each buffet. Alternatively, hire service staff to serve your buffet food or hire a barista to provide coffee and tea.

Venue management

Liaise with your venue and accommodation to ensure they’ve implemented their own measures to reduce risks, particularly if there will be external guests using the same facilities. Discuss implementing more frequent cleaning and communication campaigns with your providers.

Encourage good hygiene practices

COVID-19 behaves like the flu, so one of the simplest ways to reduce the risk of infection is through good hygiene practices. Provide electronically dispensed hand sanitiser at doorways, before and after dining, and personal sanitisers in a pre-event gift package. Encourage attendees to cough or sneeze into their elbow or a tissue, not their hands. Provide closed bins for disposal of tissues and other rubbish. At this stage, masks are not currently recommended for use by healthy members of the public, however, check this information is current on the World Health Organisation website before your event and provide masks if necessary.

Communicate clearly

Clear communication with attendees is imperative in keeping them calm, informed and confident in the organisation of the event. Reassure them that their health is your highest priority: make it clear that you’re taking the steps to reduce their risk of infection. This is also a vital step in educating attendees about actions they can take to protect themselves and others.

Provide digital alternatives

Make it easy for anyone quarantined or choosing not to attend the event physically to join in digitally. Implement systems that allow delegates to participate in seminars, breakout sessions and more from the comfort of their home, through their laptop or phone.

Coronavirus is just one recent example of an event risk. Risks can come in many forms and severity, so it’s important to have risk management plans in place.

Give us a call on (03) 9949 5900 to discuss how we can host your event with minimal risk and maximum outcome.

Please download and print this checklist for quick reference: