There’s no question that COVID-19 has caused school leadership and educators to change their approach to events and educational experiences dramatically. Reflecting on the past year and a half, it’s clear that some aspects of the school experience have translated to remote learning more smoothly than others. For instance, school events have been more challenging to replicate with online means, so your school’s approach to them may be subject to change in the post-COVID landscape.
Before planning a transition in how school events are conducted, your school’s leadership should take into account both the benefits and concerns that are likely to arise in the near future surrounding public health and gatherings.
With an approach that stays attuned to public health updates, how other schools are navigating the same situation, and resources providing event management best practices, your school can start successfully planning ahead for what’s to come. To help your school get started, this article will cover four tips for school event registration and management in the post-COVID era:
- Consider key registration requirements.
- Provide hybrid attendance options.
- Research and follow your venue’s guidelines.
- Establish event goals.
Most solutions for navigating public health concerns rely on technology, and your school’s event management is no different. Use this guide’s tips to assess your current event management software and implement new best practices to better leverage them for your upcoming events. Let’s get started.
1. Consider key registration requirements.
Your event registration process plays a key role in determining your event’s success by providing key information about the students who will be attending. While all organizations should strive to gather essential information from their registration forms, for your post-COVID events, you’ll need to take extra care to provide directions and implement registration requirements.
- Use conditional logic. Your event registration forms will likely include more questions than normal, which can make your forms long and difficult to fill out. Fortunately, you can keep your registration forms short and still gather all of your needed information with conditional logic. Conditional logic uses previous answers to inform which questions will appear on the rest of the form. For example, you might ask students if they have health conditions that might make them be considered high risk for contagious diseases. If they select yes, your form would then steer them into virtual attendance options, while those who select no would see questions about in-person attendance.
- Store core data. The data collected from your registration forms can likely be applied to future events and educational experiences. Make sure you have a way to store the data you gather long-term and connect forms to the student who filled them out. Doing so can help you reduce time spent on future forms and make decisions about what questions you’ll need to ask again. For example, you may need to re-attain guardian approval for each separate event, while other responses, such as the preferred attendance method, can potentially be carried over from one form to the next.
- Send out post-event surveys. Your registration process should also include a post-event survey. These surveys can be optional, but the more students who fill them out, the more information you’ll be able to collect on your event’s overall success.
Additionally, consider what forms you’ll need students to submit or fill out. For example, you may need students to fill out an online waiver and provide emergency contact information. Make sure your registration process provides students with a way to submit these and other documents.
2. Provide hybrid attendance options.
Hybrid education is the new normal for the foreseeable future, and the same will likely be true for your school’s events. In order to keep your students safe without leaving some of them out of your events, make sure to offer hybrid attendance options.
Hybrid events can be more complex to run than either virtual or in-person gatherings, as your event monitors will need to manage two groups of students. Fortunately, resources like Bloomerang’s guide to hybrid events offer advice for running these types of events:
- Create activities for both virtual and in-person attendees. If your event has activity or interactive experience planned for your in-person guests, figure out a way to replicate that experience or find an equivalent for your virtual guests. For instance, while your students attending in person participate in hands-on activities, you might create quizzes, polls, and interactive games for your students attending from home.
- Provide social opportunities. Socially distanced communication has likely impacted your school’s ability to forge relationships with students, as well as students’ connections with each other. Use your events as an opportunity to allow students to interact with each other and your event staff, while also learning and engaging with educational material.
- Maintain strong lines of communication. As mentioned, keeping your virtual audience engaged is a regular concern for hybrid events. Make sure you have an event team member monitoring your virtual event attendees’ video and text chat and have them help your virtual guests get involved by sharing their comments and questions with your in-person guests.
- Create “drive-by” events. You can keep children safely socially distanced from one another and provide fun activities for them with “drive-by” events, which have activities kids can participate in from their parent’s cars. For instance, instead of a traditional field day, you might set up your school’s parking lot with ring tosses and drive-thru concession stands, creating a similar experience while protecting your student’s health.
As these tips indicate, your hybrid events may require more planning than a solely virtual or in-person event. However, the work will be worth it as students can have valuable educational experiences without feeling pressured to compromise their safety. Plus, you’ll also be providing an opportunity for those who want to get out of the house and attend your events in person.
3. Research and follow your venue’s guidelines.
Your school has COVID safety guidelines, and it’s highly likely that the venues you are planning to visit do as well. Museums, zoos, and other venues you might host your event at need to keep their employees and other guests safe, as well as your students.
Make sure you start your event experience off right by getting in touch with your venue’s staff to learn their guidelines. Then, distribute any rules or regulations that will be in place for in-person attendees to your students when they first sign up. This will help create an agreement between your venue and your school.
Most venues will likely follow similar guidelines, such as requiring masks, handwashing, social distancing, and refraining from touching communal objects. For elementary schools, it may be necessary to recruit more volunteers to help your younger students remember and follow all guidelines to have a safe and educational event experience.
4. Establish event goals.
As mentioned, your school will need to be even more deliberate when planning events post-COVID due to lingering health concerns. This means that when you plan an event with an in-person component, be ready to justify why hosting an event is necessary and what educational goal it will help accomplish.
This will also apply to your school’s fundraising events. While obviously, the purpose of these events is to raise funds, your event team may need to think more deeply than normal about what is gained by having an in-person audience. To make these decisions and establish clear event goals, start by reviewing your previous events and how similar concerns over health and safety were handled. In some cases, you might discover that your entire event can be hosted virtually without losing anything.
Then, as you move forward and start planning new events, make sure you have data collection tools in place to track whether you met your goals. In some cases, you may have more qualitative goals, which means you’ll need to rely on surveys and feedback forms rather than data. Fortunately, as previously mentioned, your online registration software should come with surveys to help measure your qualitative goals and tracking tools to measure your quantitative ones.
As your school prepares for future events, set specific educational goals for each event and follow all necessary safety procedures to make sure your students have a fun, educational experience while staying healthy. Stay on top of developments in school event practices, and review your current event registration and management software so your school can be ready to make any necessary transitions in the post-COVID landscape.