June 19, 2020

With restrictions easing on face-to-face gatherings, here are some of the emerging best practices event planners can follow to ensure a healthy event space.

Timelines back may vary, but we’re all looking forward to gathering with our tribes again.  As hotels and venues  reopen, some organizers are preparing now to resume face-to-face gatherings in the next few months.  While new standards for healthy meetings are still a work in progress, everyone agrees that future events will look different. 

New health considerations when selecting and preparing an event space are one of the first changes planners need to address moving forward.  Here are some of the emerging best practices you’ll need to know to reduce the risk of a health crisis and accommodate the new expectations for health and safety.

the world in a mask

Choose a venue partner you trust

Planners can expect to see a range of new venue provisions addressing health and safety. Choosing a venue partner you can trust to attend to the cleanliness and health of their facility should be a top priority moving forward. Some venues are going to offer more health amenities than others. It will be incumbent on planners to assess the differences and budget as needed for incremental precautions necessary to meet the needs of your attendees.  

The American Hotel and Lodging Association in partnership with all major U.S. hotel brands and under the guidance of the CDC has created a StaySafe initiative that standardizes new policies of cleanliness for hotels. Leading venues may shoulder an even larger part of their events health and safety burden with enhanced protocols.

Wynn, Las Vegas is one example of venue leadership in preparing for healthy gathering spaces. Their properties recently reopened with an extensive set of new health safety measures in place. Guest temperatures are monitored by thermal camera, anyone registering a temperature is escorted to a private area for secondary screening and referral to local medical care. New signage helps to maintain social distancing in guest areas and touchless hand sanitizing stations have been added to public spaces.  Additionally the hotels proactively disinfect guest areas 24/7, and provide complimentary face masks. 

safe space for gathering

Plan on new occupancy limitations

Current public health guidance indicates that to limit the spread of illness in a group setting, people should maintain a distance of six feet from others at all times. Venues and planners will need to work together to calculate acceptable occupancy rates for each event.

The USA Fire Administration  suggests one new conservative calculation of 113 square feet per person – based on drawing a six foot circle around each attendee.  This is just a beginning factor though. The space requirements to hold your event at a particular venue will also have new calculations for considerations such as  queueing locations, traffic flow, restroom access, and the quantity of ingress/egress points available.

Consider outdoor spaces

Venues are also putting plans in place to offset new occupancy limitations by expanding the space they make available for events. Look for creative and functional new options that utilize patios, breezeways, and even parking lots. 

Outdoor event spaces are uniquely appealing in locations where weather is mild, however tenting and portable heating/cooling elements can make these non-traditional spaces inviting even in inclement weather. While it’s still mandatory to maintain social distancing in outdoor spaces, an outdoor setting  also brings the assurance that your gathering will be well-ventilated. Attendees may in turn feel safer meeting face-to-face outdoors.

meet safe outside

Embrace new seating arrangements

Experts are converting social distancing requirements into creative new seating arrangements that rethink everything  from the bar to the ballroom. Don’t be surprised to see six foot rounds that used to seat ten replaced by six foot squares to seat four.  Shoulder to shoulder theater seating is gone, replaced by rows of two chairs buffered by six foot aisles and accommodating no more than 250 in a single space.

Events platform  Allseated offers planners free access to their new physical distancing tool to build safe and compliant floor plans. The tool includes on-the-fly seating distance measurements that you can adjust based on state and local regulatory guidelines to prepare seating and floor plans with the click of a button. PSAV’s MeetSAFE guide is another free resource aimed at equipping planners with social-distancing guidelines for laying out a room and managing traffic flow.

new seating arrangements

Monitor emerging “safe gatherings” guidance

Expect that the guidance on safe gatherings will continue to evolve. Organizers will need to regularly check national, state, and local guidance for safe gatherings and adjust to any changes leading up to a face-to-face event. 

The national Center for Disease Control provides broad guidelines for maintaining a healthy meeting environment anywhere in the U.S. As COVID-19 outbreaks ebb and flow on a regional level, planners also need to track changes to state and local guidance through agencies such as the California Department of Public Health .  Finally, planners can monitor events industry groups for their latest best practices for event health and safety. The Events Industry Council offers a clearinghouse of  COVID-19 resources and information  planners can use to stay informed.


If you are feeling uncertain about the safety of planning  any event, a knowledgeable events agency such as Shiloh can assist with the risk assessment and contingency planning that will help ensure healthy return to gathering face-to-face.

Ready to start planning your next event ? Contact Shiloh to get started today.

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