Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the events industry has spent the better part of this year adjusting their plans and adopting a virtual event format. But now that stay at home orders have eased back in some places, event professionals are turning their eye back to hybrid events that combine virtual elements with live event elements. In some jurisdictions, indoor gatherings are allowed to accommodate anywhere from 50 to 100 people. While keeping attendance numbers down can help mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, event organizers will still need to follow a series of COVID-19 safety measures to ensure attendees and participants are protected. Managing all of these pieces can be tricky. In addition to normal event security, a hybrid event will require you to implement cybersecurity elements as well as additional COVID-related precautions. That’s a lot of work and planning!But don’t fret! As long as you do your research and properly prepare for your hybrid event, you can rest assured that you have the capabilities to handle any major event interruptions or emergencies!To help you get started, we’ve put together this short guide to security measures for hybrid events:
Every physical event needs to have basic security measures in place to ensure the safety of the participants. If this is your first time hosting an event using the hybrid model, know that for the most part, these security measures are the same as a traditional physical event. All that changes when adding a virtual portion is that the online sessions need to be protected as well. If you’ve never hosted a virtual or hybrid event, the good news is that securing the virtual elements is relatively straightforward. When using online event software, it is likely that it will come with several security features that can be controlled by you or any team member that you grant admin access. Beyond that, all you have to do is securely store any data collected by the virtual event platform and encrypt any sensitive information.In addition to cybersecurity considerations, an event planner will also need to consider COVID-19 safety precautions. Any event attendee that does not follow the COVID-19 safety set up, they need to be considered a security threat. Many of the required coronavirus precautions are legally mandated by municipal, state, or federal governments so failure to comply will not only create potential disease transmission at your event, but it can put you at risk of a hefty fine. There are many resources available that can help you navigate what is required from you as a host and from the venue you choose. Consult your local and state authorities and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization to stay up to date with the latest disease information.
Ensuring the physical security and safety of your event attendees is of the utmost importance. Just because a hybrid event has an added virtual component does not mean that you can neglect the safety of your in-person guests. For the planned physical sessions, make sure that you have the following in place:
A security team with a security manager and guards should be on-site. If the venue does not provide them, look into sourcing a third-party. Usually, if an event is housed at a convention center or hotel, the venue will have security staff. However, if this is not the case then you should source them yourself. If the event is small enough and you are not concerned about security, be prepared to handle any security issues personally or with your staff.
An on-site security team will usually adopt a form of video surveillance to monitor the event venue from one secure location. Video surveillance is helpful because it gives the viewer a birds-eye view of the event. This way, a security incident can be better mitigated and stopped faster.
In essence, anyone can sign up for any event and attend, in-person, and online. Well, it is still important that you filter your registered attendees so that you know who is attending your event and that your attendees are secure. If there is a name that does not make sense or could be spammer, flag it for follow up. If that person is checking in at the event, make sure you have staff alert someone when that person arrives so that you can identify whether or not that person is a threat or not. Be mindful that this type of filter is not meant to be discriminatory. It is to look out for potentially malicious actors or spammers.
Managing the virtual security of your hybrid event is straightforward if you use an intuitive event platform. Treat this software as the gateway into your virtual and physical event environment. With the right software, you will be able to manage who has access to the event and the level of access that they have. Depending on how your event is using the virtual portion, you may need someone to moderate virtual attendees in live chats and each individual session. Not only will this improve virtual audience engagement, but it will also improve the overall virtual experience by preventing unwanted and inappropriate comments. You should also designate higher-level personnel to oversee cybersecurity and delegate a team member to moderate the chats. That way the security supervisor is not bogged down with the individual chats and they can monitor the program overall. Beyond monitoring disturbances during the hybrid meeting, you’ll also need to ensure that any private data collected on remote attendees is collected and stored securely. Robust event planning software will collect lead and CRM data for use in analytics, but you need to ensure that this data is used properly. If you are live-streaming the event or using a Simulated Live format, you need to have additional security measures in place. The software cannot be the only line of defense. Instead, have security teams on-site, in addition to a production manager who understands the cybersecurity elements you have put in place. Outsource this important task by hiring a cybersecurity team. Make sure that anything digital is uploaded and/or stored through a secure server.
While the world is still in the grips of the pandemic, events must consider the likelihood of coronavirus transmission occurring at an event. Therefore, it is vital that your event follows the relevant social distancing guidelines as well as providing personal protective equipment (PPE). One extremely supportive resource that your event should take advantage of is the GBAC Star Facility Accreditation, a new accreditation that was rolled out by the Global Biorisk Advisory Council as part of the ISSA, the Worldwide Cleaning Industry Association. As part of their program to ensure cleanliness at events and reduce the transmission of disease, the GBAC Star Facility Accreditation puts the resources in the hands of the event organizer. This accreditation gives facilities and venues a comprehensive element guide to proper sanitization and procedures when navigating an event. It covers things like infectious disease prevention, and proper cleaning and sanitization techniques. It ensures that the venue has the training and the equipment it needs to keep people safe. Choosing a venue that has this accreditation will give your event a leg up on the competition. It will let potential attendees know that you take their safety seriously and perhaps help them feel comfortable enough to attend in person.
COVID-19 has changed the world as we know it. And as those in the events industry follow along to see how things shake out, it can be difficult to know exactly what is expected and required for proper hybrid event security. Start by considering the items in this article. Remember, even though it is a hybrid event it does not mean that you skimp on physical security. Additionally, your event software should not be the only line of defense for cybersecurity. Make sure that you have an IT team on-site to mitigate any threats and that any virtual equipment on-site is hosted through a secure server. Lastly, look for the GBAC Star Facility Accreditation when searching for an event venue. This accreditation will tell you that the facility has considered the health and safety of all event participants and has taken active steps to mitigate several risk factors.--Transitioning to a hybrid event by adding a virtual component to a physical event can help you reach a broader audience. But, when expanding your audience, you need to be mindful of the security requirements for each session of the event as well as all COVID-19 regulations By abiding by these security measures, you are sure to have a successful hybrid event.