As performing arts venues eagerly make plans for their reopenings, patrons have mixed feelings of excitement and hesitation about returning to the theatre. They certainly miss the thrill of live performance’s but with questions of safety, they’re understandably uncertain about starting to purchase tickets again!
So as you and your organization begin to make plans for bringing people back to the theatre, we’ve rounded up five tips for planning a safe event that patrons can enjoy and will meet all COVID guidelines.
Understand Your Patrons’ Needs
At the beginning of your planning, you have to first understand the needs of your patrons to ensure you’re planning a performance they will feel comfortable attending. The primary question to ask is would they attend an indoor event, or are they only interested in outdoor and/or virtual events? You wouldn’t want to put significant time and resources into planning an event only to find out that your patrons don’t feel safe enough to attend, so start with sending them a survey. Find out what their comfort level is with each type of performance option and how likely they would be to attend. Use your results to guide your planning so you are more likely to see great attendance for the event format you choose.
At the top of everyone’s mind when thinking about gathering with other people at a performance is safety! When you survey your patrons to determine if they’re comfortable returning to the theatre, also get their feedback on what protocols would make them feel the most safe. Would they like to see a strict masking policy for the entire performance? Would they feel comfortable sitting next to other patrons or would they prefer socially distanced seating? What cleaning procedures give them the most peace of mind? In addition to their feedback, keep in mind that the UK government recommends physical distancing, well-fitted masks for everyone attending, exceptional ventilation, and modified layouts and traffic patterns to minimise contact between both staff and audience members. With your survey results and safety guidelines in consideration, what is the best and safest event format for your organization?
Along with thoughtful safety protocols, what patrons will appreciate most is transparency and communication. If you decide to go forward with planning your event, set up a communications plan between your organization and your patrons. Clearly outline the safety measures in place, let them know if seating will be socially distanced, and if there are any new procedures for entering or exiting the theatre. Make sure to answer any questions patrons have and share information across social media and email to reach a larger audience.
Even if you take every precaution, there will still be some patrons who will not yet feel safe enough to attend a live performance, but still want to support your company and enjoy entertainment at home. That’s why we recommend using a hybrid model so any patron not comfortable attending in person can access the event via live stream. This keeps a larger group of people engaged with your organization, makes it easier to socially distance those who decide to attend in person, and keeps your performances accessible to everyone.
Update Your Online Presence
Once you have gone through all of your planning and know your event can be presented safely, update your website with the new protocols and make sure your ticketing platform includes both safety information and an updated seating map if social distancing will be in place. You want to make it as easy as possible for your patrons to access the safety information at any point before the performance.
We are still living through an unprecedented time, but we would like to applaud all of the performing arts organizations who have created beauty in unexpected ways and brought joy to people’s lives during a tough time.
For more information about safety recommendations for in-person events, check out the GOV UK guidelines.