Part 1 – In-Person Conferences
In Spring 2020, announcements flooded the voice-over news network. Conference season was over before it started. VO Atlanta, One Voice, and others all having to cancel their ‘In-Person’ conferences last year. The Pandemic hit hard. Voiceover, already a very solitary occupation, lost its opportunity to break the shackles and see friends, learn from the best, and network your heart out.
I have been to both in-person and online conferences and it's been great to see the creativity of event organizers coming up with ideas to maintain Covid conference protocols. Changes in personal and business etiquette have become an important factor. VO Atlanta was fully virtual for 2021 and provided webinars, workshops, break-out sessions and an excellent voiceover conference via zoom.
With One Voice UK and USA, in-person conferences coming back into the picture. An overview to see where things currently stand with Conferences seemed in order.
In general, conference organizers may request (but not always require) a negative Covid test for attendance. Internationally, especially in places like the UK, there will likely be track and trace, temperature checks, and testing when required. For the uninitiated, track and trace is a system wherein if you attend a public place (like a restaurant or a conference) a contact number is required upon entering. If it turns out someone in the same location tests positive for Covid, there is a possibility of quarantine.
Most in-person conferences are considering what safety measures should be in place but masks and disinfectant gel will still be a part of the picture. (Voice-related masks and sanitizer advertising could be a thing). There may be certain situations where presenters or areas request them and with Covid variants proliferating, there may be circumstances where the law changes overnight. This has happened in the UK when they changed whether travel to & from Portugal and Mexico suddenly required quarantine (when the Covid numbers got too high). Although it appears currently that quarantines and masks have relaxed a little, Covid variants are causing some rules that were removed, to now be reinstated (In my town, at our local library, masks were not required for a short period of time but now they are requesting them again). Depending on the convention center or convention site, masks may be required for all or just for unvaccinated travelers, as is the case, currently in the San Diego convention center.
Meals, drinks, and catering for conferences could be different. Some hotels are not providing room service, the usual buffet-style fare may be absent, and prepacked containers will be used by some of the vendors. Some attendees might choose to bring their own utensils or cups or even their own food. Menus might not be available or only accessible online via a QR code and only cashless payments may be accepted. Also, as seen in so many places, more outdoor options will become the norm. Conference rooms may have less seating capacity than before, so sessions may book up sooner because of this. There may also be smaller break-out groups and various mini-sessions to help keep the event gatherings smaller.
It’s also essential to have a plan if contact with a Covid positive person happens. For example, knowing where the nearest testing site is and having a plan ‘B’ if quarantine is required when you are away from home. Having a travel insurance policy that covers Covid might also be something to consider.
Lastly, checking now and right before traveling on what the regulations of the ever-changing Covid requirements are at the conference destination & with the conference planner is highly recommended.
The One Voice Conference 2021 happening end of August (both in the UK & the US) is the first hybrid Voiceover conference. They have quite the task ahead of them. They have appreciated that things like shaking hands, hugging and even cheek pecks, aren’t a given anymore. An informative email was sent to attendees/presenters stating their Covid contact game plan. They are cleverly giving out bracelets (aka 'hug bands') to signal one's preferences. Red bracelet = no hugs- please keep your distance.
Green bracelet = close contact is fine. It’s all about learning and networking so a safely distanced introduction to attendees can happen within everyone’s preferred boundaries.
QR-style and digital business cards with links to websites might also be a consideration to help keep a virtual touch for in-person marketing.
I will try and be respectful of everyone's choices in relation to masks, social distancing, greetings, and the like. As long as the conference rules are being adhered to, tolerance is key. Attending in-person conferences during Covid requires extensive planning, consideration, and requires being proactive both on the part of the organizers and those attending. The end result is uplifting: to know that there is now a choice.
In Part 2 I’ll be focusing on how virtual conferences and networking opportunities have grown.