How safe is your event?
Game Conference Guide Insights - July 2021
For the past four months I was participating in a weekly social gathering with around 180 people. It wasn’t an organized effort, nor it wasn’t a traditional event per se. As time progressed a change started to be visible affecting the behaviour of participants, their mood and clear lack of following the restrictions in place. Now, this wasn’t a social experiment, nor science, these are just my observations from my favourite bar where I hang every Friday.
On the outside nothing much changed, on the inside a lot of it. First off, you can order food and drinks only when sitting. And you can do that only if you have booked a table leaving your contact details. Masks were mandatory when entering the outdoor patio. Warm weather and wide availability of vaccines affected this. Masks are rarely used, and tables are put together to accommodate bigger groups celebrating birthdays. Contact tracing is gone. The rapid vaccination programme gave people additional veil of protection, an extra layer that changed how we are behaving.
Entering the NO-GO Zone
As the time progressed, people started to know how to live with restrictions around strangers (and how to avoid them as well) and loosen up in a familiar place. This is something I realized when instead of a bar we went to an outdoor festival in a park. A completely new venue with open layout in public space with no capacity limits and social distancing. Lovely event but sitting shoulder to shoulder with strangers wasn’t a pleasant experience. Instead of listening to a live act I was more worried about if I should put the beer on the table everyone was sharing. Suddenly my mind was occupied with where we should go next.
Which brings me to, how did you evaluated risks before you have entered a venue? Are my friends inside? Do I have my wallet, ID card and mobile phone? Where is the nearest exit? Are you sure we are meeting at a biker’s bar? Don’t get me wrong, these are super important questions to ask whenever you are going out, especially in a city where you have never been before. Nowadays there are additional questions that must be asked to make everyone safe, comfortable and not to take your mind away from the main event – networking, dinner, conference, pitching meeting.
A way out with one scan
Starting from this July, European Union introduced the EU Digital Covid Certificate (or EU Covid Pass), which is believed to change the events industry and make traveling easier. With one scan, the border control, event organizer or an officer know immediately if you are eligible to enter a country or enjoy your time in a concert hall. For those who don’t know what EU Covid Pass is, it is basically a QR code that can be either a proof of vaccination, proof of overcoming COVID or a negative test result. It is a no brainer to use when travelling or organizing / going to an event, but it has a catch. There is always a catch.
Currently in Croatia for example, you can organize an event with no capacity limits with EU Covid Pass, but only if you can guarantee that everyone will be using EU Covid Pass. Which is at this moment logistically complicated and costly, if you take into consideration those who are still waiting to be vaccinated. The great thing about this solution is that you can upload negative test results to your EU Covid Pass as well, which you can do on the spot before entering the venue, if available of course.
An extra layer of protection.
If this solution would be implemented in the public park, would it make me feel safe? Of course. I wouldn’t even think about where to put the beer down, and I might touch chairs without cleaning them with wet wipes.
Wait for your mega event
Which bring me to PAX West. It is very strange that a mega event goes forward with something like measuring just the temperature of the attendees before they are allowed to enter. I am sure that the organizers are following all the rules in Seattle to the letter, but this decision is strange. For me and many others who already voiced their opinion on Twitter when the news broke, it lacks that extra layer of protection and it just screams: “You will be fine, don’t worry”.
Plus, I have had my first-hand experience with measuring temperature while checking-in to a hotel. Going from an air-conditioned car to a lobby messed up the measurement, so I had to cool down, same for my friend who was enjoying a welcome drink. Creating a bottleneck in front of the entrance is not a very smart nor safe decision. Do you remember the snaking lines in front of E3 halls when they introduced metal detectors and we missed all the meetings because of it?
Honest, transparent, truthful, and reactive communication is the key
Would it work with EU Covid Pass? I am sure it would. Scanning all the attendees before they enter the venue and offer a RAT (rapid antigen test) for those still not vaccinated through a certified mobile team (or teams spread around the city) waiting on standby would be a solution. Plus, as an organizer of a mega event, I would take the opportunity to help to spread the message and encourage the community to get your vaccination shot to help the organization and unburden the bottle neck on the check-in. But this is just me.
Whatever you decide to do, you must communicate what are the requirements to participate at an event and what measures are going to be implemented to create a safe environment. Trust me, saying we are following all the rules by local government is not enough. To maximize the security and safety of the event you must be transparent and no, saying, we will have disinfectant every 2 metres is not going to cut, especially when targeting international audience.
An extra layer of protection.
Summer is here. And with that increased mobility, nice pictures from friends enjoying their vacation, going places, photos from first physical events (do you remember those?), and with that urge to travel, explore and discover. Before you ask a rhetoric question “If others are doing it, why shouldn’t I?” do the due diligence, ask your friends in the destination country if there are any upcoming changes for restrictions planned in the near future and be prepared for these changes beforehand.
What I am trying to say is, visiting familiar place frequently will lower your shield a bit and you are feeling more loosen up, enjoying the moment without worrying. Same as with my favourite beer garden, you will be more likely to meet with your friends & known busines partners first mor participate in an enviroment offering that “extra layer” of protection for you.
As for my extra level of protection for events, it is definitely EU Covid Pass. How is it for you, is temperature measurement enough? What is your dealbreaker for visiting an event?
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[Game Conference Guide is tracking games industry & game developers events, trade shows, festivals, conferences and events around the world.]