As in-person gatherings begin to slowly make their way back on to the event scene, meeting and event professionals are looking left and right for direction on how to safely get people together again at live events. Enter: The Green Room, a corporate communication and entertainment agency out of San Diego, Calif., that recently pulled off what has been thought to be the impossible: a safe, socially distanced live event with nearly 200 people.
The event—held from Aug. 17-21 at The Fairmont in Austin, Texas—was one part product launch, one part onboarding team meeting for biotechnology company Revance Therapeutics, and brought together 170 of the company’s newest team members to introduce them to each other, as well as to the latest product offered by Revance.
“We actually designed this event prior to COVID; it was originally supposed to happen in April,” explained Chris Janese, CEO of The Green Room. “So when we went to redesign it based on the new world we’re all living in, we began to think a lot about what could this experience be, in light of what the experience could not be. So we created this notion that everyone would have their own ‘pod’ at all times. We all know there’s this really broad range right now of what people feel comfortable doing and what they don’t, and we wanted to create something that if you were the most conservative from a COVID perspective, you would still feel like you have your place. So that’s where we came up with the idea of individual ‘pods’ spaced out six feet apart for everyone, with a really comfortable chair and a table to put your stuff on.”
Ample health safety measures were also taken in the form of temperature checks, mask mandates, COVID-19 testing done for each attendee and staff member prior to the event as well as three days post event (the event production team also received daily rapid tests), plexiglass separating different spaces, and socially distant seating, or “pods,” with rooms filled at 50% or less than the standard capacity. When it came to food and beverage, each breakfast and lunch meal provided was prepackaged, and dinners featured staff serving masked attendees behind plexiglass walls.
A major bonus? Janese noted that attendees were “very respectful” of the measures put in place, dismissing the team of any issues implementing them. “No matter what kind of safe guards we put in place, they’re only going to be as good as the cooperation we get from people,” he said. “It felt like people were embracing the social side of it as much as they could while understanding that there were also limits.”
And while many events today boast a hybrid component, this one went all in on in-person. “We gave [the client] a lot of options for a virtual event,” said Janese, “but everyone felt very strongly in keeping it as a live event. We felt like we could make it safe enough that it was worth it for everyone to be there in person.”
With a room full of people who had never met before, networking was top of mind for the event production team at The Green Room. To help achieve this goal safely, Janese and his crew ensured all 170 seats were spaced 6 feet apart, of course, but were configured in a way that still allowed and encouraged open conversations. “We also created an adjunct area to the general session where you could sit down and have a conversation, but still have safety in mind,” he said.
Data on each attendee was also gathered and creatively used to connect and introduce people with similar interests (think same universities, hometowns, and the like) via the seating chart shown on the big screen at the front of the ballroom, which showed where two people were sitting and what they had in common, so they could connect individually if they chose to during the event.
“The way we designed the event is the path forward, a template, when companies are able to start doing things again,” said Janese. “We were able to create an event that kept people safe and felt comfortable. … I think it’s going to be a while before we see 5,000 people in a convention center, but I do think it’s the beginning of the way back for planners and companies that see value in getting their people together in person.”
See the slideshow below to get a closer look into the event: