Handshakes, queues for buffet lunches and dinners, networking in a crowded space...these are just some examples of social norms at business events that are being reassessed in light of Covid-19.
With social distancing and health and hygiene measures set to take centre stage, attendees’ behaviour when events are allowed to resume will look very different.
Think devices worn around necks or on your person that make a sound, light up or vibrate if someone gets too close, or colour-coded wristbands, which allow users to signal their ‘social distance’ preference. Designed along the lines of traffic light colours, a red band for example signals no contact, a yellow one could indicate ‘elbow bumps’ while a green band shows that the wearer is prepared for closer contact.
Other potential wearable solutions include the PounchPass, developed by PouchNation Singapore, which provides wristbands for festivals and conferences. PouchPass is a cloud-based, remote monitoring solution that records body temperature via a wearable wristband and an app.
The wristband sends data to an app via Bluetooth, which is then stored in a dashboard; safety checks can then be carried out on individuals to monitor fever signs.
Stefan Lim, country head at PouchNation Singapore, says the technology could be deployed in a number of ways.
“Gateways can be placed across venues; when guests wear a wristband, the dashboard will be able display the positions of each wristband, thus also helping with social distancing,” he says.
Wristbands can also be issued to guests days before an event, to check temperature levels ahead of time and the bands also feature RFID, which can be used for cashless payments or for access purposes.
Ian Cummings, vice president of commercial at CWT Meetings and Events believes colour-coded solutions may not gain much traction at events, as some people may forget to wear them, while others may not want to wear them or the wristband could end up being covered with a long shirt or jacket.
Wristbands that incorporate some form of technology, such as contactless ones to pay for items, drinks or to gain access are likely to prove more popular.
He anticipates that fully automated, pop-up temperature check devices will also prove popular, while the use of apps is likely to increase.
Enabling delegates to meet and exchange details virtually at the pre-event stage, so they can agree on a time and place to meet in a socially distanced way, is another viable option.
“[They can meet] in person without so much of an emphasis on the physical handshake and delegates can have badges with in-built QR codes – printed out at home – that they can scan from a distance, exchanging information without the need for physical contact,” suggests Fiona Pullen, head of production at Invnt APAC.
She adds that as the industry returns to physical or hybrid events, heat mapping technologies will also prove a valuable way to monitor attendees’ movements in real time and therefore the numbers flowing in and out of spaces, with respect to social distancing requirements.
With the likelihood that many events will continue to be hosted with virtual elements, Pullen says the industry needs to devise creative ways to share experiences across different locations at the same time.
“The senses play an important role here,” she says. “Think UberEats for events where items available physically can also be ordered and sent to attendees’ homes, or VR/AR experiences that immerse users in highlights of the physical experience on a virtual basis.”
On the food and beverage side, Cummings suggests that exclusive buy- outs of restaurants and hotels could work and anticipates a higher demand for private dining spaces. Other options include socially distanced outdoor activities like picnics or drinks where people can meet at a distance and bring their own consumables.
“From a catering perspective, pre-ordering food and paying in advance of the event either via the event website or an event app on-site will help to reduce physical contact,” says Invnt’s Pullen.
She believes that physical networking will still be possible, but suggests that planners need to ensure attendees are seated in small groups and that furniture is positioned in a way that enables social distancing.
This story was first published in Meetings & Conventions Asia.