Socially Distant Floor Plans Help Usher in Events

How seating chart software and thoughtfully placed furnishings can keep guests safe—without sacrificing the event experience.

Socially Distant Floor Plans Help Usher in Events

Live events will look different in a post-COVID-19 world—at least at first. While timelines and requirements will largely be dependent on your specific state and country, one thing is certain: Guest counts will be down, and accommodations for physical distancing will be a must.

To help event pros navigate this new terrain, event-planning software company AllSeated has launched a new physical distancing tool for mapping out socially distanced floorplans. The digital tool allows planners to easily measure seating distances, space out sanitary stations, and more, and can quickly be adjusted based on country, state, or local government regulations. Here's how it works.

For more public-facing events with theater-style seating, ticketing and box-office platform Ticketor.com has launched a seating chart tool that can be accessible to both event organizers and attendees. When guests are buying tickets and choosing their seats, an interactive tool enforces a certain number of vacant seats between each group. The feature is intended for ticketed events such as concerts, but it's also for free events such as church gatherings that may want to use a seating chart to enforce physical distancing.

In addition to seating charts, furnishings and other rentals will play a crucial role in creating these new event layouts. CORT Events—a nationwide provider of rentals for meetings, events, and trade shows—is using strategically placed furniture, draping, florals, and greenery to keep guests apart while also keeping the room from looking large and empty. 

Jack Scafide, CORT Events’ midwest district account executive, suggests starting by breaking the room into a six-foot grid. “This makes it much easier to place chairs, aisles, decor, etcetera, making sure everyone will be at least six feet apart. Your room or space will shrink very quickly,” he notes. 

For daylong or multiday conferences, CORT suggests giving guests individual chairs that they can stick with for the duration of the event. Stay away from folding chairs, says Scafide. Instead, “Use slightly bigger chairs to make it almost like a destination for that conference attendee. Think of this as their ‘owned space’ for the duration of the conference—that way you don’t have to worry about disinfecting it at the end of each night.”

Scafide also stresses that each attendee should have their own individual table to avoid cross-contamination, as well as their own charging stations to avoid having guests cluster near an outlet. (For its part, CORT offers a line of sofas, chairs, and tables with built-in power supplies.)

In terms of staging, stay away from breakout rooms, which can make physical distancing difficult. Instead, consider having as many as five stages in the same room, says Scafide. Using silent disco-style headphones, attendees can tune in to whichever presentation they want—without leaving their designated seat.

For physically distanced dining, floorplans should offer at least 10 to 12 feet between tables and chairs, notes Scafide. Six-foot bar or dining tables can have a guest at each end and decorative elements in the middle; for another option, give each guest a smaller round table. Markings on the floor—such as a six-foot round carpet or vinyl appliqué—can keep attendees from gathering too closely, he adds. 

From a venue perspective, spaces like the Monterey Conference Center in California plan to work closely with customers to create physically distanced floor plans once live events are able to resume. And starting this month, the center will be hosting a variety of educational workshops for its hospitality partners, to teach them how to safely utilize the venue. 

“Lack of research and knowledge about COVID-19 will force the meetings and events space to be nimble and evolve their practices accordingly—which includes changes to things like table spacing and room setup, food service, and exhibit space configuration,” explains Doug Phillips, general manager of the Monterey Conference Center. 

This article originally appeared on BizBash here.