By Slade Thompson

Back in October I wrote about our first venture into live events during the pandemic era and the principles of time, space, and volume. Since then we have been sharing and refining those concepts with many of you via our blog, webinars, and in continuing to plan events.

One of my personal favorite attributes of working in events is the opportunity to refine and re-iterate on an idea. Like many folks in the event business, I have that dominant perfectionist gene which makes me want to keep trying and improving on new ideas.

Just two weeks ago we had the opportunity to once again implement and adjust our core concepts of time, space and volume as we partnered with AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) to produce the Florida AIDS Walk and Music Festival in Fort Lauderdale. While Covid-19 requirements and guidelines vary dramatically from state to state, it was important to both our team and AHF that this event err on the side of being overly cautious and protective of our participants’ safety.

This event was the perfect opportunity to build upon our best practices, because in addition to the traditional 5K walk that most peer-to-peer fundraising events have, there is also a music festival on the beach after the walk concludes.

So, on top of all the recommendations we have shared about providing a safe walk experience (contactless check-in, staggered starts, new water distribution practices, wearing masks, new safety signage, etc.) we needed to tackle a few unique challenges on this event.

  • Going paperless: QR codes have been around for a while now and we have used them occasionally, but they are essential when trying to eliminate contact points. We used them to allow participants to register or make donations the day of the event via their phones, and to access information that in previous years had been provided via a printed handout.
  • Participant traffic flow: the space at this particular location is pretty unique. The site is long, skinny, and not very flexible. We used lots of barricades and new signage to minimize the face-to-face passing of people as they walked around the site. Large flags marking entrances and exits which can be visible from a distance and above the crowd kept people moving in the directions we needed for safety.
  • A safe music festival: after much discussion, doodling, drawing, calling vendors, and reviewing with the health department, we settled on a plan to build viewing boxes on the beach where participants could gather with their self-selected pods to enjoy the music. We used traffic cones and plastic bars to mark out hundreds of squares on the beach and directed each pod of people towards their designated box. To be honest we weren’t sure if participants would go for it. But they did! Our keys to success were pre-event communication, ample security and volunteers to serve as ushers, and frequent stage announcements.

Of course my perfectionist gene continues to flex and point out what we could do differently next time. And each of our future events will benefit from our thorough debriefing. But we are extremely proud of our ongoing partnership with AIDS Healthcare Foundation and the new safety measures we implemented at this year’s event. Although we all look forward to the day (and it is coming soon!) when Covid-19 will not be a hurdle to producing a successful event, we also have learned many lessons that we will gladly pack in our tool bag of skills and practices we use regularly as we move forward.

Slade has been with Event 360 for more than 17 years and has played a role in planning and executing more than 100 events ranging from a 5K for a few hundred people to multi-day events for thousands of participants.

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