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When It's Okay to Go Outside Again

By Bob Priest-Heck

Is it safe to go outside yet? It’s a question we’ve all asked at some time or another. Whether the object of our fear was a tornado that drove us to the basement, a high school crush so intense we hid in the restroom, or an extended lunch spent avoiding a boss waiting to assign anyone some thankless task, we’ve all sought refuge from time to time. And there’s always a pivot point where we feel it’s okay to make our move back to the daily norm.

Unfortunately, we’ve been sheltering a long time from COVID-19, and the signals have been kind of vague about how long it will last. We are all eager for the “all clear” sign. But will we trust it? I suspect that the longer we’re in quarantine, the scarier it will be to come out.

This must be a consideration when those of us in the Live Events industry start planning for a rebound. We need to think about a global population reeling from the trauma of a pandemic caused by the kind of casual human contact that typifies participation in a conference, trade show, exhibition, or ticketed entertainment event.

There’s a precedent for this kind of lingering fear. After 9/11, many people were reluctant to fly. The global response was to add elaborate security measures that forever changed the boarding procedures — and a way of life — for all of us. In the wake of 9/11, the anthrax scare rekindled fears and additional security measures became part of the new normal. Mass shootings and other terrorist actions further heightened our sense of vulnerability and fear. Today, we don’t really blink twice when asked to step through a scanner at the airport, or through metal detectors at a sports arena or even our kids’ school. On some level, these new routines are reassuring, even if they’re annoying.

So what should we be doing now to anticipate the feelings of people whom we hope will rejoin us at our events when it’s officially safe to come out? How can we make it feel safe to mingle at live events where large crowds will be gathered? A recent TrendWatching report points toward “ambient wellness,” wherein those hosting live events “embed health-boosting measures into the very spaces that their customers pass through, making staying healthy effortless.”

We are working with our events partners to establish new, industry-wide safety standards. Convention centers and event planners are already considering measures to ease congestion, promote better air filtration, provide wellness booths, and even screen people for temperatures. Most likely we’ll be given hand sanitizer at the doors. And the wearing of face masks may become a sign of respect for fellow event participants that are as ubiquitous as a lanyard and credentials. It’s vital that we consider both what is required to keep people safe — and what it will take to help them feel safe.

A coalition of businesses representing various aspects of the Live Event industry is working to solve this and related challenges. Together, we are advocating for additional funding to support safety standards. And we are considering other programs that might encourage attendance at Live Events, once sanctions are lifted, because we believe this is needed to accelerate economic recovery. This has everything to do with learning to be smarter, more generous, more innovative citizens of the world. As we state in the Freeman manifesto, we “stand in support of the human commitment to create prosperity, economic impact, knowledge, learning, and social connection.” The live experiences we produce collectively, as an industry, create a space where innovation, change, and purpose come together.

Although people in the coalition represent diverse organizations, each is a champion for the power of live events and the need for live, large-scale human connection. It’s how good ideas spread and how innovation become contagious. If you’d like to be part of this movement, visit golivetogether.com. It will help you stay informed about opportunities for action and provide access to tool kits you can use to engage your employees, partners, the media, and legislators. You are also invited to join Go LIVE Together colleagues who are connecting via the usual social channels: Facebook / Twitter / LinkedIn.

Until it’s safe to come out, don’t! But there’s so much we can do right now to get events back on track. We don’t have to be afraid. We just have to act responsibly, be proactive, and collaborate on solutions. Let’s help people come together in a way that is safe. Let’s do what we can to help them feel secure. Let’s go LIVE together.

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