With events back on the cards, it’s time to think about your events for 2021. But how do you plan a COVID prepared event? Meet the ‘New Zealand Events Sector Voluntary Code’.

Christmas is finally looming (Argh! The countdown clock says 65 more days until Santa says Hi!). No doubt, the entire world is sitting tight to turn the 2020 corner and see the back of a crazy year. Although I’m sure you’ll agree that ‘crazy’ doesn’t quite do the level of turmoil justice.

In the meantime, Aotearoa has once again been declared Covid-free, and the country has returned to level 1. Borders may remain closed, but we’ve binned social distancing requirements once again.

The best news? Events are back on the cards! Woo-hoo!

Events are back: Plan a Covid prepared Event.

With 2021 looming, it’s time to think about next year’s business events. But how do you organise an event when Covid is still causing havoc around the world and our privileged situation is tentative? 

An extremely pesky virus can be quite the nuisance. Sometimes it comes down to working with what you have, rather than rowing against the current. We’re all learning to navigate these turbulent waters. The good news is that with a bit of common sense, creativity, joint forces and a contingency plan, we are fast learning to ride the storm as best as we can… and remain standing. 

So… what’s the Covid-safe event plan? 

What’s the Safety Plan?

Aotearoa may score top marks in a Covid-riddled world, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t remain vigilant, even at level 1. We’re all desperate to have events going again, but it is crucial that we play it safe for everybody’s sake.

Business events are the safest way for large groups to get together, because as an organiser you have a high level of control on how they operate. (It’s the mosh-pits, bouncy castles and dance floors that are harder to navigate.)

Which is exactly why Conventions and Incentives New Zealand (CINZ) in consultation with New Zealand Major Events at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) recently released a ‘New Zealand Events Sector Voluntary Code’.

‘The Code’ (I bags this as the title of a future movie) is an intent from the events industry to support directives from the government. And while it’s not legally enforceable, it allows big events to go ahead in a safe way. Let’s admit, it is what we all really, really want.

The ‘New Zealand Events Sector Voluntary Code’ under the Microscope

The question on everybody’s mind is: What does the Voluntary Code for Event Organisers say?

In short, it means that the events industry is:

  • Enabling contact tracing and keeping records

Basically, we want to know exactly who was in the room at all times.

We may be at level 1, but it’s still important to be able to contact trace quickly and effectively just in case COVID-19 re-emerges. Therefore, event organisers can use a self-chosen technology and safely store records within the bounds of the Privacy Act and/or use the NZ Contact Tracer App.

  • Encourage good hygiene practices

It should be familiar by now: stay at home if unwell, wash your hands, clean surfaces before touching them, cough into your elbow and all the other guidelines the Ministry of Health has released. The events industry is committed to them.

  • Introduce a culture of best practice around COVID-19

Event organisers encourage the education of attendees prior, during and after the event on hygiene and record-keeping practices. ‘The Code’ may be published on the website and other channels of communication prior to the event. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

That said, it’s important to point out that ‘The Code’ was written in a way that works for the sector as a whole.  But it obviously doesn’t override any government-led Health and Safety or workplace requirements for the sector.

Planning a Covid Prepared Event in Practical Terms

But there’s nothing ground breaking in ‘The New Zealand Events Sector Voluntary Code’, is there?  Generally speaking, it’s exactly following the guidelines that have been sent out by the government. Practically speaking, it underpins a whole range of small but effective actions that can keep events Covid-safe.

Event organisers have a wide range of measures up their sleeve. Here’s just a scattering of ideas that can be adopted:

  • Train staff to make sure they are well aware of the public health measures.
  • The use of safety marshals is widely used and advertised in Australia. But it doesn’t stop us from borrowing the idea. (Hey, if they can steal our pav, we can take their marshals idea.)
  • Choose an outdoor marquee over an indoor venue for better ventilation.
  • Add additional venue entry points to spread the entry load.
  • The staggering of patrons’ arrival and departure can help too.
  • Mark out 1.5m distances at entry cues if needed.
  • Avoid activities that call for loud shouting, blasting music and … sad but maybe necessary … singing. Our time to display your singing chops will return! Just not now.
  • It may be a good idea to allocate specific timeframes for sessions with plenty of time in between to avoid crossover traffic jams.
  • Automated, digital ticket checking can make sure you keep track of everybody’s whereabouts at any given time.
  • Small measures can make a big difference: pre-packaged lunches, reduced numbers around the tables, limiting numbers in elevators, stepping up the cleaning, branded face masks, etc. Just to name a few.

Obviously, these are just some examples.

There’s so much more you can do to plan a Covid prepared event.

The Role of PCO’s in Covid Times

Professional Conference Organisers (PCOs) are little angels in a business suit during the best of times. They’ve made it their jobs to manage conferences and events on a full-time basis. In other words, they make it very easy for you and take the hassle and the worry of event organising away. These days, they know all the tips and tricks to make your event Covid-safe while still making sure everybody has a good time.

CINZ Approved PCO’s in particular have gone through a strict accreditation regime.  Amongst an entire list of other things, they have all signed “Minimum Service Levels” and “Code of Ethics” documents to confirm that they comply fully with the CINZ “approval” requirements.

With ‘The New Zealand Events Sector Voluntary Code’ in mind, it’s not only your warranty of a quality service. It’s also your assurance of a Covid-safe event.

Events in 2021: Ready-Set-GO!

As we’re heading into 2021, moving in and out of alert levels could be something we’ll have to live with for the foreseeable future.  But we’re getting better and better at making it part of our daily lives and anticipating the challenges it is throwing while we’re just getting on with things.

New Zealanders are desperate to meet face to face again, we’re committed to playing it safe. So let’s get events rolling for 2021!

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