Hybrid Event Toolkit:  The Compliance Officer

Image result for couple wearing masks

The closer we get to hybrid events the more clarity we'll have about the "tools" that are necessary to successfully execute this new type of virtual / in-person gala.

The "tool" we'll focus on today is the concept of a "Compliance Officer."

Will someone be responsible for telling your guests to keep their masks on and maintain social distance?

The options are:

  • The Nonprofit
  • The event planner
  • The venue
  • No one
  • An independent third party

Let's examine each of these options in detail:

THE NONPROFIT

If you, the nonprofit, are responsible for enforcing compliance what will that actually look like? Who would actually do it?

Will you instruct your staff and a group of volunteers to work the room and remind people of the rules?

Think back to how timid your staff and volunteers can be sometimes when they're trying to sell raffle tickets or mystery boxes or heads-or-tails chances.

To make the sale, they have to interrupt people who are chatting, and typically the guests are between the ages of 40 and 80, and the staff and volunteers are younger than them. 

I've watched this delicate dance happen at hundreds of events, and it's awkward and uncomfortable for staff and volunteers to interrupt a conversation to try to make a sale.

I don't think we can expect your staff and volunteers to interrupt a group of adults to ask them to put their masks back on, or pull their masks up over their noses, or to stand farther apart

So what about the Executive Director or Development Director or Event Coordinator?

Maybe they'd have the boldness to do it, but on event night, these people need to be smiling and mingling and smoothing things over. They don't want to be the mask police.

THE EVENT PLANNER

The event planner is overseeing the AV team, the caterer, the entertainment, the decorators, the check-in-check-out team, the timeline, the MC, the Auctioneer, the speakers, the volunteers, etc. 

The event planner will not have the bandwidth to also be the mask police.

THE VENUE

Maybe it's most logical for this duty to fall to the venue. It's their facility. The health department has placed limits on the venue's capacity, so maybe it will be up to the venue to have several people assigned to police people's mask-wearing and social-distance compliance.

But does the venue really want to be in that role?

These venues will be trying to re-start their businesses after getting shuttered for more than a year by COVID-19. If your event is in a hotel ballroom, your attendees are all potential guests of the hotel.

The hotel wants to show off its hospitality, its customer service, its beauty, its elegance, its willingness to accommodate, and the fact that it's back in business. The hotel doesn't really want to be in the business of pissing everybody off.

NO ONE

It could be that no one is assigned the task of enforcing compliance.

I suspect that many nonprofits will take this route. They'll say, "We're going to plan a compliant event, come up with a compliant seating chart, and inform everyone that masks and social distancing are required, but we're not actually going to walk around the room tapping people on the shoulder, telling them to put their masks on. We're going to trust them to do the right thing."

And, of course, they won't do the right thing.

I have twice been at "hybrid" events where the nonprofit planned everything perfectly, but when the guests arrived, they did whatever they wanted to do. They hugged; they kissed; they took off their masks; they gathered close together and them moved from group to group.

They simply did not follow the plan, and there was nothing the nonprofit could do to change that.

AN INDEPENDENT THIRD PARTY

All of this leads to the option of hiring an independent third party as an enforcer. Of course, I'm sort of joking as I suggest this, but it's kinda serious, too.

When we think about WHO can speak to your guests, it really needs to be someone who is not connected to the nonprofit, the venue, the event planner or anyone else.

We need someone independent who can be an enforcer.

Maybe someone in uniform.

Maybe someone like a retired fire marshal.

Maybe you hire a retired fire marshal to attend your event. It will be his or her task to interrupt a group conversation to ask everyone to put their masks on.

Or he or she will walk up to a table and tell a group that they're exceeding the max capacity of that table. Two of them need to return to their assigned tables.

A retired fire marshal would have the gravitas and authority to speak to people; and your guests would recognize that he's just doing his job.

If they get angry or annoyed, they're angry or annoyed at him or her or the rules, but they're not angry your charity, the venue, or the event.

Again, I'm sort of joking with this suggestion, but the more I think about it, the more it seems as if a retired fire marshal might be a critical partner as we move into the uncharted territory of hybrid events.

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