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10 Tips for Pandemic Event Planning

By Brandi McGrath Kong, Director of Member Services

Many Sertoma clubs have resumed their favorite public events, annual fundraisers and regular club meetings. We love that we are able to come together once again after many months apart due to the pandemic. 

However, we also recognize that not everyone’s situation and comfort level is the same. That’s why we have put together a list of 10 helpful tips to keep in mind as you put together your meetings and events during this precarious time. 

  1. Put health and safety first. No matter what your reason is for coming together, it is your responsibility to put the wellbeing of your members, attendees and volunteers first. If COVID is having a strong surge in your area, you will need to act accordingly to local gathering recommendations to keep everyone safe.
  2. Know what is required and recommended. Mandates vary from state to state, county to county and city to city. It is your club’s responsibility as the event or meeting planner to know what is necessary to meet COVID protocols. Make sure to bone up on the latest CDC and area health department recommendations and regulations so that you are doing what is legally required. 
  3. Respect that everyone is different. Comfort levels are all over the place right now and it is very unlikely, if not impossible, to make everyone happy. However, we should do our best to accommodate as many people as possible. Be transparent. Experts say that communicating guidelines (e.g., signage, advance emails, etc.) can have a major impact in allowing for personal choice and a greater sense of ease.
  4. Do the things they have been telling us to do all along. These are the simple things that we all know by now: provide PPE if possible, have sanitizing stations, plan for social distancing, implement touchless where possible, etc. 
  5. Think about food and drink. You can make small changes like switching from a food buffet to plated meals served tableside. Other popular adaptions include closed-lid beverages, removing shared condiments/bread at tables, and offering immunity-boosting snacks like vitamin-rich juices or antioxidant-rich foods. It’s also recommended to allow for extra time and space at meals to adhere to distancing recommendations.  
  6. Figure out how your members want to meet. In-person, hybrid, virtual – they all have their pros and cons. And while we may think that we know what our members want, it is best to survey them to make sure. You might be surprised what you find!
  7. Have a plan of action. It’s inevitable that you will have someone who does not want to follow your rules or even worse, unknowingly exposes your guests to the virus. What should you do? Make sure that you have a strategic plan in place on how you will communicate exposure to other attendees or handle non-compliance situations. By having your talking points and compliance protocol decided ahead, you will be able to act more proactively during times of “crisis.”
  8. Rely on the experts. Professional meeting planners are well versed in COVID rules at this point. Use your event venue staff, local visitors’ bureau and other event partners to know what is required in the area. You will want to make sure to check in regularly as the meeting or event draws closer to ensure that you are up on current conditions.
  9. Review your contracts. If you have existing contracts, now is the time to look over them to see if anything needs to be or can be adjusted due to pandemic conditions in your community. It’s important to be honest with event partners about what you expect will happen with your event, including expected attendance.
  10. Consider outdoor options, weather permitting. Many feel safer being around others when an event or meeting is held outside in the fresh air. While the weather does not always allow this to be possible, there are likely many great options in your area. 

You can get additional gathering guidance from the CDC or the National Association of Health County and City Officials.