An Event Organiser’s Nightmare

The last indoor presentation I was scheduled to give was 23rd March 2020.  Covid‑19 happened, and lockdown, and the presentation was cancelled.  The venue, part of a chain, still has an embargo on any events like that.  Last autumn legal advice was was to classify an outdoor presentation as a ‘performance’ and work to those regulations, as that appeared to be the most appropriate guidance at that time.  As a proof of concept, the event was a success: a business presentation could be given outside.

One venue, the Fareham Innovation Centre, part of the Oxford Innovation group, is now willing to host indoor events.  Their Sharon Reeves is being incredibly supportive in this.  They are allowing a ground-floor room to be accessed directly through an open courtyard from the car park, without walking the length of the building from reception.  Attendees will be able to register in the room, using a now ubiquitous QR code.

In April 2021 holding a training event promptly after the 21 June relaxation date seemed feasible.  That date however rapidly looked uncertain, and inevitably the “Step 4” date was postponed to 19 July.  In Hampshire, England, the schools’ summer term ends on 23 July, with the new term starting 2 September.  With parents of school age children possibly away on holiday, that meant an earliest date for a training day of 6 September.  In the first half of September there are four trade fairs, many delayed from the Spring, that could draw prospects and limit their availability for other events during the same period.  Like a boulder rolling down hill, the earliest date now effectively became the week of 20 September.

Back to Covid-19: it has not gone away, nor liable to.  For 15 July, the last day with full data available today (22 July 2021), there were 55,989 people tested positive in the England: that number is doubling every ten days or so.  If that trend continues then the reinstatement of some form of legally enforceable restrictions will be inevitable before the 20 September date projected above.

On that score, clairvoyant mode is failing to engage: will the English government get luck yet again, and cases drop during the long school summer holiday?  On the other hand, another variant of SARS‑CoV‑2, more virulent than the currently predominant delta variant, is surely about due to be identified somewhere on the planet.  Will people returning from foreign holidays bring new cases, perhaps a new variant, back with them?

Here’s the thing, this week the NHS app can now generate two documents with QR codes: the 'original' for travel, now with two vaccination QR codes, plus a new one for domestic events in England, with just one QR code.  Downloaded, the new companion Covid Pass Verifier app confirms a domestic/events QR code as valid, but not the new two QR codes on the travel version.  By clicking on the "?" icon in the top right of the screen an option to verify the 'international' QR codes appears but stated to be intended for use only by "an approved travel provider".

For the purposes of planning a presentation event, the working hypothesis is that by 20 September an indoor meeting of 16 people probably will not be allowed, or at least restricted.  If they are allowed however, the intention is to ask all attendees to prove full vaccination, using the new verifier app.  Knowing for sure all the people are fully vaccinated will give peace of mind to all concerned.  While still going ahead with the event, all that can reasonably be done has been.

Giving in-person presentations is both an income earner on its own, plus a broader marketing strategy for many freelance consultants.  These months since March last year have proven difficult.  It is important to be able to scan body‑language: to tell if people are keeping up, hopefully not bored, or need a few seconds to process the information.  This cannot be done on a video call.  Having also attended, pre-Covid, many hybrid courses in the classroom, it was easy to witness that the remote attendees have a rough time keeping up.  There has never been a case when a person in the classroom has been called by their employer: that was not true for the remote attendees.

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