What Conventions May Look Like in 2021

It’s been more than a year since I attended a live convention. Where do we stand now? As more and more people get vaccinated against COVID, the prospects of and for physical conventions improves. If all goes well the US should hit herd immunity this summer.

I’ve gotten a few emails from conventions looking for vendors to work their events. This is a godsend for many artists and vendors, but personally I’m not considering any live events yet. But I have been thinking about what it might be like in the first few months of “The Return.”

Attendance Limits | State and local governments set limits on the number of people who can be inside a venue. How will that work? Since most people are there for hours if not the entire open time, how will they handle the people still in line? They could limit the number of registrations to the maximum allowed in the venue, but how would that affect the cost to buyers? Not to mention the bottom line for the event.

Social Distancing and Masks | Events will no doubt state their rules for these safety measures and the consequences if you don’t follow them. Requiring them is one thing, enforcement could be a problem. Making it fun might help, maybe challenges for creatively decorated or illustrated masks, signs or buttons that play off the bumper sticker “If you can read this you’re too close.”

Large Room Events | Small room panels may not be much different from the past, but the large standing room only events with high-profile guests or traditions like Masquerades, may not come back the way they were for a long time after conventions begin to spring back. A possible solution is limited seating inside via lottery and closed circuit so people who can’t get in can still watch from overflow rooms or even their hotel rooms.

Vendor/Artist/Author Areas | I actually see a silver lining for this part of conventions. If flow control is used to limit the number of people in this area at a time, it will be less crowded and visitors can see more and have easier access to tables and booths. Participants may need to adapt, for example samples of merchandise where shoppers can see them and pulling inventory they want to purchase at the back. The con or vendor could have a pre-order page on their website so attendees can buy and pick up, similar to the way stores and restaurants have operated during COVID.

Pre-Testing and Tracing | Large events may require proof of a negative COVID test and vaccination before attendees or vendors can participate. They may also require attendee cooperation regarding tracing after the event in case there is an outbreak. This one will be touchy based on reactions I’ve read regarding the idea of COVID passwords, etc. but I think a lot of potential attendees will feel more comfortable coming to an event if there is a serious effort to minimize exposure risk. More importantly, event tracing will (hopefully) prove how effective the safety measures are and lead to more event organizers and venues getting back in the game.

What I’d Like to See

I did my first virtual event in February and have a couple more coming up. I hope some events will include a virtual track for those who can’t physically come. I envision remote access to major panels, vendor web stores, interactive games and small panels, and movie rooms. There’d be a small fee for remote attendees and free access for physical attendees.

What Do You Think?

Comment with your ideas and suggestions, or experiences if you’ve attended an on-site event recently. People can be brilliant and creative, and together we can find a way through to that light at the end of the tunnel people keep talking about.

Have a great 2021!

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