how_we_did_it

CASE STUDY #SAFECONVENTA

Conventa was the last great international B2B event before the corona crisis and the first to take place after a year-long hibernation of the meetings industry. The organisers were forced to postpone the event from January until August and connect it with the Conventa Crossover festival. Due to the corona situation, we decided to execute the event in hybrid form.

After a long period of standstill, Ljubljana welcomed foreign participants from 24 countries. That increased our worries regarding the safe and healthy organisational aspect of the event. Under no circumstances did we wish to find ourselves in a situation where one of the participants fell ill at the event. We took such a great responsibility very seriously and prepared a detailed plan for managing the corona situation. The event was envisaged as a pilot project and a good practice case that would encourage event organisers to organise such events. The key finding of all pilot projects carried out in Europe is that the additional risk of infection at an event where rules are adhered to is less than one per cent. We successfully proved that in practice. Below, we present a series of restrictions that we implemented and several practical recommendations.

97.2% of exhibitors and 97.1% of hosted buyers responded affirmatively to the question: Do you think that safety measures at Conventa 2021 were enough for preventing the spread of Sars-Cov-2? For event organisers, this is the best confirmation of a job well done.

conventa
Photo Credit: Marko Delbello Ocepek

Basic principles for attending the event

According to recommendations, we set the recovered-vaccinated-tested (RVT) principle as the prerequisite for attending.

In practice, this meant ensuring the following restrictions:

1. Certificate of vaccination or having recovered from COVID, which participants proved by showing their European vaccination passport.
2. Rapid antigen test upon arrival for all others
3. Quarantine in case of having a positive test on-site
4. Strict adherence to the rules of “Safe and Healthy Meetings & Events” standards, published by the Slovenian Convention Convention Bureau.

To attend, attendees had to ensure the following:

– certificate of vaccination in digital or printed form
– At the time of the event, to enter Slovenia, the following vaccines were valid: BioNTech/Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Sinopharm. The regulations meant that one was considered officially “vaccinated” from the twenty-second day after having received the first dose. The vaccination lasts for 90 days from the date of vaccination.
– proof of having recovered from COVID (only participants, whose certificate had not been older than six months, were allowed to attend)
– a negative COVID test (in line with the RVT principle, unvaccinated attendees had to show their PCR test that must not have been more than 72 hours old or a negative rapid antigen test that was not more than 48 hours old. The tests had to be issued by an official health institution)

For individuals who entered Slovenia from countries on the orange or red list, the rule at the time meant that anyone with a European digital certificate or digital COVID certificate from a third party could enter the country without having to undergo quarantine.

The structure of participants regarding entry requirements for attending Conventa 2021:

– R (recovered) percentage: 2%
– V (vaccinated) percentage: 86%
– T (tested) percentage: 12%

*Out of all attendees, there were 7% of PCR tests and 5% of rapid antigen tests

conventa
Photo Credit: Marko Delbello Ocepek

Additional measures for ensuring safety
To ensure the safety of participants, we prepared a plan of action. We based the plan on the findings from the pilot projects that took place in the Netherlands and was organised by Fieldlab in cooperation with TU Delft. At the same time, we adhered to the current guidelines issued by the National Institue of Public Health. Thus, a control list came to be, one which I thoroughly recommend to every organiser until the end of the crisis. No one wants to find themselves in a situation where their event records an infected attendee. Therefore, we recommend you implement the following ten restrictions when organising larger and hybrid events.

1. Safety complementation to the registration process
Alongside classic registration, all participants should, prior to attending, fill out an online form intended exclusively for ensuring their health and safety. That way, event organisers can plan the organisation of testing. With the help of the acquired information, we ensured quick contactless registration. The challenge we faced was that the government application for verifying COVID certificates was unavailable during the event. That is why gathering information beforehand proved to be greatly useful. We recommend all organisers do the same.

2. Rapid antigen testing on-site
We had to ensure testing with rapid antigen and PCR tests for attendees who did not have a vaccination certificate or a European vaccination passport. In our case, testing was carried out by professional staff who measured the temperature of participants in accordance with the recommendations of the National Institute of Public Health. Considering that the majority of attendees had been vaccinated, we executed on-site testing for only 40 participants.

3. Vulnerable groups and self-isolation
The process of safe registration and the rapid antigen tests enabled us to prevent infected individuals from attending. In case the health of a participant were to worsen, we would have been obliged to provide a self-isolation space, in cooperation with the medical staff. That space was ensured together with the help of the venue’s team. Fortunately, we did not have to resort to it.

4. Limiting the size of groups
When transporting participants, it is crucial to limit the number of passengers whilst ensuring an adequate safety distance following the government restrictions. That meant a substantial rise in the costs of attendee transport. At the event itself, it is wise to prevent the forming of a larger group of participants by advocating a smart system of stands and the overall layout. In practice, for an event such as Conventa, much space is needed, as evident below.

5. Event logistics
The logistics were specifically tailored and followed the simple logic that all spaces should be 50% larger. That enabled us to ensure a safe distance of 1.5 metres. According to standard DIN 15906, the net surface per participant was:

SettingBefore the crisisCurrently
Theatre setting1.2 m2 per participant1.8 m2 per participant
Classroom setting1.6 m2 per participant2.4 m2 per participant
U setting1.8 m2 per participant2.7 m2 per participant

 

6. Airing and using outdoor spaces
Special attention was placed on airing and ensuring quality air. Air quality needs to be measured constantly and communicated with the attendees. You can also ask the venue for special filters. Our cooperation with the Ljubljana Exhibition and Convention Centre in this field was a textbook example of a great partnership. As the event took place during the summer, we executed the focal social part of the event outdoors in the Ljubljana Castle courtyard.

7. Catering
We suggest that you ensure contactless catering for attendees. Where possible, try to organise all events outdoors. At Conventa, we arranged the tables, chairs, exhibition stands and equipment so that social distancing was ensured throughout. We are particularly proud of our partners who made sure this part of the programme was bulletproof.

8. Personal protection and hygiene
Disinfectants have become a prerequisite at all events. The same goes for instructions regarding personal protection and hygiene. Regarding face masks, we recommend following up-to-date instructions from national institutes for public health. During our event, the rule was that business event attendees who demonstrated proof of vaccination, testing or recovery could move without masks in closed spaces.

9. Participant behaviour
The behaviour of attendees should be regulated with clear instructions that need to be highlighted at every step. Our recommendation is to create an infographic comprising clear instructions for all attendee groups. Clear communication should also be advocated by all partners and associates. Above all, it is crucial to mark the direction of the participants’ movement.

10. The SMART organisation of Conventa
When organising the event, we strictly adhered to the guidelines published in the “Safe and Healthy Meetings & Events” certificate. We strived to raise the bar of event organising and execute the pilot project as a good practice case, thus intensively qualifying all key project stakeholders for safe and healthy project execution.

conventa
Photo Credit: Marko Delbello Ocepek

Recommendations for other event organisers

The whole process of ensuring safety was holistically documented. Moreover, attendees’ responses were comprehensively analysed. The aforementioned recommendations do work in practice. We also took a few additional measures for improving the entire process. Thus, everything we did was in accordance with the current restrictions in Slovenia that were imposed when the pandemic situation deteriorated.

The attendees greatly praised the on-site testing, the verification of COVID certificates and the restrictions we implemented at the event. However, they were self-critical regarding the behaviour of participants. As the event gathered attendees from 24 countries, each brought with them specific cultural conventions regarding corona behaviour. As organisers, we can balance between a radical and liberal outlook exclusively through honest and transparent communication.

In any case, the “Safe and Healthy Meetings & Events” standards, prepared by the Slovenian Convention Convention Bureau in cooperation with the National Institute of Public Health, proved to be highly successful. We demonstrated that event organisers have been responsible and working in accordance with the guidelines of experts ever since the corona crisis started. Undoubtedly, events organised in such a manner are among the safest places.

This article was brought to you by:
Natalija Bah Čad
Toleranca Marketing
Live & Digital Events and Marketing Agency
W: www.toleranca.eu

For more information, please contact Natalija at natalija@toleranca.eu.