The Size and Shape of “SAFE”

Setting a new gold standard

In the 19th century, international businesses urged their governments to establish a gold standard that would enable trade between countries using different currencies. The gold standard eased the risk and complexity of doing business across countries and continents by establishing a monetary system that all the trading partners agreed to. Each unit of exchange was equated to a fixed quantity of gold, so that buyers, sellers and investors understood exactly where they stood. It created a platform upon which multinational commerce could thrive.

Today, people are looking forward to the day they can once again congregate and connect without fear of spreading contagion. And to assure everyone involved that this social contract will move forward on a consistent, mutually equitable basis, we need to establish new safety protocols that take fear and risk out of the equation for live events. We need coherent guidelines to ensure the safety of labor, staff, exhibitors and participants. Further, we need them to be drawn up and accepted by the people who understand the big picture — who know the details of how events come together — so that all of the long tail connections involved are factored into the solution. With industry-wide agreement to follow basic safety protocols, families from Minneapolis and software engineers from Mumbai can all attend the event of their choice without having to consider, “Is this safe?” They already know it will be.

This is a primary goal of the Go LIVE Together (GLT) coalition. As stay-at-home sanctions are lifted, knowing that the timing and circumstances will vary from city to city, we need to be ready with guidelines and guardrails, based on proven health-science practices, to facilitate a safe return to live events. And the good news is that, because conventions and trade shows happen as controlled gatherings in ballrooms and convention centers (as opposed to mass gatherings in arenas with fixed seating and an obligation to season ticket holders) we have good options for ensuring safety. We can adjust distance between seats, widen aisles, and direct the flow of traffic. We can spread participation over three days, amping up content quality based on area of interest, and stage-gate audiences. We can rethink how and from how many locations we offer registration, refreshments, and social areas. We have total flexibility.

Our members are already working with industry leaders, venues and associations to identify and share the latest best practices. There is so much good work going on, led by so many committed organizations, that it is truly heartening. For example, the U.S. Travel Association has issued industry-wide guidelines in a document entitled “Travel in the New Normal.” A broad representation of the industry, inclusive of practically every segment of travel, tradeshow and events, worked with a panel of medical experts to develop these guidelines for reopening the travel ecosystem. This has been distributed to the White House and to each governor’s office. UFI, The Global Association of the Exhibition Industry, has been involved since early days, monitoring the situation and sharing critical information. They also worked with the International Association of Convention Centres (AIPC) to publish such useful documents as the “Good Practices Guide to COVID-19.”

We are also following the Global Biorisk Advisory Council (GBAC). Comprised of world-renowned leaders and scientists in the area of microbial-pathogenic threat analysis and mitigation, they have created the GBAC STARTM certification program that addresses personal safety, enhanced cleaning, social density at events, entrance controls and on-site service and management. These standards are already being adopted by companies and organizations such as Hyatt and the Miami Dolphins. And of course, everyone is closely following the latest CDC guidelines. So the heavy lifting has begun.

But there is much more to do. And it’s easy to do your part. If you haven’t already, visit golivetogether.com and join the movement. Help spread the word on social media. Let people know that live events are critical to our economic recovery and that a safety plan for their return is in the works. You can read more about the safety initiative here and learn how to be part of the plan to move forward.

The future of live events hangs in the balance. Let’s seize this golden opportunity to set a higher standard.

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