EVENT PLANNING – COVID 19

EVENT PLANNING – COVID 19

Planning a public event in the time of COVID

Under normal circumstances, planning a public event for your business or organization is never a quick and easy project. There are so many tasks—hiring vendors and suppliers, coordinating public relations, issuing invitations, finalizing the entertainment and, of course, monitoring the budget—that it’s no surprise that those in charge can find the process time-consuming and exhausting.

And when COVID-19 is thrown into the mix, planners must research health guidelines and restrictions, redesign physical arrangements, and rework budgets to cover the additional mitigation strategy costs.

A lot of balls in the air—and a lot of concern that, without proper planning, one or more balls would be dropped and the desired event would turn into a debacle.

That was the challenge facing The Wagnalls Memorial Library in Lithopolis, OH. The second annual Art at the Wagnalls festival was scheduled for the second weekend of August, but when the pandemic showed no signs of being over, The Wagnalls knew that the original plans had to be reshaped to accommodate new health guidelines. Equally important was to communicate to the public and the participants the detailed mitigation strategies that were being put in place, to allay any concerns about attending the event.

There were a lot of moving parts to consider, and when The Wagnalls reached out to us to both help them develop a COVID-19 mitigation plan and secure additional funding to help defray the costs, we were determined to make sure all those parts stayed on track.

Here’s how we did it.

Identified the health-related requirements and changes.

The COVID-19 complication meant that already thorough property maintenance schedule at The Wagnalls had to be kicked up a notch. The entire facility had to be professional cleaned and disinfected on a daily and weekly basis, the exterior of the building pressure-washed, and outdoor tables and chairs used during the event had to be monitored and cleaned as needed.

The outdoor drinking fountains that would normally be in use had to be closed, since it would be impossible to adequately clean and disinfect them during an event. Instead, The Wagnalls had to secure water stations with bottled water to be placed throughout the gardens. The water stations would also be stocked with CDC-approved hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, disposable face coverings, paper towels and tissues, while hands-free trashcans would eliminate the need for physical contact to dispose of used products.

We worked with The Wagnalls to track and document its COVID-specific plans to compile into a master presentation. This would serve as a point of reference for future events as well as become a comprehensive presentation to be shared with the public, the media and potential donors.

Given the expected fluctuations regarding health guidelines, The Wagnalls Memorial will stay in close communication with local, county, state and federal health officials to ensure that it is following the most current restrictions. These changes would be shared with us, so we could then communicate them to the public and vendors via a variety of social media messaging platforms and PSAs.

Implemented social distancing and other health guidelines.

In order to follow the CDC social distancing guidelines of maintaining at least six feet between attendees, participants and library personnel, everything had to be redesigned, from the entry process to the placement of vendor tents. Even the food service arrangements were modified, with professional food trucks now providing food and drinks from one location.

We secured all necessary signage to serve as reminders to the public, and arranged for markers and other physical indicators to encourage people to maintain the appropriate distance. We also used a multi-pronged communications strategy (social media, traditional media, signage) before and during the event to inform the public about the mitigation procedures and health-related guidelines and the need to follow COVID-19 regulations.

Secured funding to help defray expenses.

As a 501(c)(3), The Wagnalls Memorial relies heavily on donations to support its various projects and activities. The additional costs incurred as a result of implementing COVID-19-related strategies placed an additional stress on an already tight budget.

After developing a comprehensive COVID-19 mitigation plan, we researched potential grant sources and contacted them to request financial donations. Because of our detailed planning and outreach to various grant sources, we have been able to secure grants from the Ohio Humanities, Ohio Arts Council and Arts Mid-West to help cover mitigation-related costs for the two-day event.

Notified participants of COVID-related cancellation.

Unfortunately, the increase in COVID-19 cases resulted in this year’s Art at the Wagnalls festival being cancelled to adhere to health department guidelines. However, we do have a date set for next year’s event: May 22 to 24, and we look forward to working with The Wagnalls to make that event successful. As one of our final tasks for this event, we put together notification emails to those who were participating in the event to alert them to the change in status and the date for the 2021 festival.

In the meantime, the mitigation planning we had undertaken provided us with even more strategies that could be adapted to other public events to create a safe yet enjoyable environment.

LET US HELP

If you are overwhelmed with the work involved in developing and implementing a mitigation plan for your event, and communicating that strategy to the public, let us help. Linear Creative specializes in grant research, fundraising and event planning.