How to Host an In-Person Event During the Pandemic

Corporate events like team building retreats and galas are crucial for fundraising, keeping up employee morale, and more. Special moments like weddings and sweet sixteens deserve to be celebrated. But actually coordinating and successfully executing any in-person event can seem daunting in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. As global health organizations continue to battle COVID-19, corporate event planners, engaged couples, and families alike are left wondering how they can possibly pull off an in-person event—or if they should.

We’re here to tell you that a memorable function isn’t out of reach. It’s possible to plan an in-person event that follows Minnesota’s safety mandates. Here’s some insight into the state’s current gathering guidelines, along with some creative solutions for holding a safe, memorable, and fun in-person event.

COVID-19 Safety Precautions for In-Person Events

Before you even think about the venue, catering, or entertainment, it’s essential that you understand the current limits placed on in-person events. First, we recommend taking a look at the CDC’s guidelines on planning events during the pandemic. Next, familiarize yourself with any state and local restrictions that might affect your event. Take a look at the most recent guidelines from the Minnesota Department of Health below.

If you’re hosting an event at a private residence:

  • You’ll have to limit the guest list to 10 people for an indoor event and 25 people for an outdoor event.
  • People who are working the event are included in those numbers, so be sure to adjust your plans accordingly.

If you’re hosting an event at a venue:

  • Both indoor and outdoor capacity is limited to no more than 25%, up to 250 people—as long as guests are able to maintain social distancing.
  • If your venue operates as a restaurant, you can follow restaurant capacity, which is currently limited to 50% up to 250 guests.
  • You’ll need to keep tables limited to four guests, or six if everyone is part of the same household.
  • Masks must be worn at all times, except when guests are actively eating or drinking (just holding your drink doesn’t count!).
  • Dancing is a go, so long as social distancing can be maintained on that dance floor.
  • Event speakers—keynote presenters, officiants, the couple getting married, etc.—aren’t required to wear masks.
  • You should institute a set start and end time for your event in order to better control the flow of guests.

Venue Selection

Now that you have a better understanding of the logistical alterations you may need to make, it’s time to start booking! Venue selection looks totally different in the middle of a pandemic, however.

Here are some things to look for when hunting for a place to host your in-person event:

  • Indoor space that lends itself to the creation of a one-way path. This will help you safely direct attendees through the space while allowing them to remain socially distant from each other.
  • A clean, sanitary area. Make sure you ask your venue contact what their COVID-19 cleaning policy is. If they don’t have a good answer, it’s not the venue for you.
  • Multiple spaces. Having numerous available areas in a venue will make it easy for guests to safely spread out and do different activities while keeping their distance from one another.

Food and Beverage

Everyone knows that food and drinks can make or break an event! But with COVID-19 putting a damper on standard buffets and food stations, you may need to think outside of the box when working on your menu. 

Here are some options:

  • Choose menu items that can be wrapped and served individually.
  • Instead of a “build-your-own” station, stick with pre-made sandwiches.
  • Elevate your event while making things safer by putting those finger foods on a stick!
  • If you have to go with a buffet, ensure that your chosen caterer has safety precautions in place, such as a barrier between guests and food.
  • Strategically position trash cans and bussing stations around your venue to encourage guests to dispose of their own items. This will work to reduce the risk of spreading germs.
  • Looking for a way to jazz up the dining experience while keeping things simple and safe? Bring in a food truck for made-to-order meals at a distance.

Schedule of Events

Sure you may need to trim down your invite list to comply with Minnesota’s guidelines, but sometimes more intimate groups are more fun, as you’ll get more one-on-one time with each other. To keep those guests socially distanced yet having fun, it’s important to have a well thought out and communicated schedule of events. 

Here are some creative solutions for sharing your timeline:

  • Create a VIP lanyard-style name badge to provide an exclusive feel for your guests.
  • Use the space you’re given! One side of that name badge can have the guest’s name, while the back can showcase a map of the venue and the event timeline.
  • Divide your group into subgroups and assign groups to activity time slots in order to prevent larger groups from congregating in lines. For example, when group A is assigned to eat, group B could be in the photo booth.
  • Why not make good use of the PA system and have your entertainer communicate the schedule of events? “Team Maddie, it is now time to dance your way to the photo booth—don’t forget to smile!”

COVID-19 Swag

It goes without saying that the current times are trying for everyone. Ultimately, all we can do is embrace it and get creative to provide a safe gathering atmosphere. 

Here are some creative swag items that can lend a little levity to your event while still promoting fun and safety:

  • Branded facemask
  • Branded hand sanitizer
  • Branded sweatshirt with built-in mask
  • Pool floaters to use later or socially distance yourself (quirky company photo opportunity, anyone?)

Signage

No matter how often a message is communicated to your guests, some people are bound to need reminding. Visuals are an important way to keep everyone on the same page. They not only tell an important message but are also a great option for incorporating a theme and splash of character. 

Here are just a few examples of event visuals:

  • Floor clings to remind guests to stay 6 feet apart
  • Directional signage mapping out one-way guest traffic, restroom locations, or other important venue information

Make Your In-Person Event a Success with Event Lab

Social or corporate, indoors or outdoors, we’re here to help you make it happen—safely. The Event Lab team has worked tirelessly to establish event planning protocols that prioritize guest safety. 

With some creative adjustments, you can still have that elegant get-together under the stars or that vital stakeholder luncheon. Reach out today, and we’ll get started making your vision an entertaining, socially-distanced reality.

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