The event sector is built around networking, whether a conference, product launch or meeting with suppliers.
We shake hands, exchange ideas and share knowledge and the two-metre distancing rule is sure to have an impact on how networking takes place.
"We had to reconsider the entire customer journey and experience," says Danny Pecorelli, managing director of venue group the Exclusive Collection. "From the trade association who want to bring their membership together to the corporate who may be more reticent in hosting face-to-face events as their employee duty of care will be a top consideration.
"Ultimately it is government advice on how to and how many we can bring together that will be the guiding principle of the important business of networking.
"However, the commercial shock of lockdown has given us time and space to prepare"
Here's what Pecorelli calls 'networking 2.0' looks like:
"Capital cities, major hotel chains and large-scale public spaces are creating minimum standards on how accommodation, public areas and shared spaces will be sanitised and cleaned," says Pecorelli.
"Hand sanitising products are already standard in many lobbies and we will see sanitiser appear in every area of a hotel or venue for use at coffee and afternoon breaks, a pre-lunch or dinner cleanse, as well as back of house areas.
"Although the use of face masks is not mandatory at the moment, it is likely that those working in close proximity to the public, such as hospitality staff, will be required to wear gloves and masks.
"PPE is sure to be much more prevalent in all departments who are public-facing and may likely be the next creative challenge for uniform designers and suppliers.
"Ultimately hygiene and sanitisation will become as important as provenance and seasonality both of which we uphold as a core pillar of our business."
Social distancing and space per guest
"The two-metre rule means a re-think of the traditional meeting room set up such as theatre and classroom style," says Pecorelli. "And with the potential that large gatherings are fixed at 50, venues will need to be able to demonstrate the available space per delegate.
"Queues for registration or food and drink will remain staggered, which is something we are all now accustomed to given our current practice of queuing outside supermarkets!"
Even greater value on face-to-face
"Post-lockdown, there will be a higher value attached to meeting face-to-face," Pecorelli explains. "We have all become used to meeting online and a return to the office doesn’t mean it will stop. However, greater value will be placed on bringing people together for the right reason and for the most productive output.
"After months of the nation being cooped up, organisers will be looking for venues that give their delegates a chance to stretch their legs and minds; paying heed to their mental health and ensuring maximum productivity.
"People will naturally gravitate towards places with plenty of open air space not just because of the obvious social distancing benefits, but because being stuck at home has made people appreciate the endless benefits of being in the great outdoors."
Pecorelli says The Exclusive Collection is putting the finishing touches on its new standard operating procedures, which will become part of its proposal process to help clients complete their own event risk assessment.
"When networking is back on the agenda we want to help our visitors continue to meet safely in a new era for face-to-face."
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