A preview of how events might be handled in a world still dealing with COVID-19

I was wondering when we’d see this. The organizers of Digital Book World are going ahead with their September event in Nashville. They published protocols for in-person events that hint at the new normal we could be dealing with in the months ahead.

Notable guidelines include:

Every attendee must be tested for COVID-19 at the event—I’m not sure how they’re going to pull this off since in-house test results take around 24 hours and results from external labs can take a week to come back. Perhaps the organizers are banking on rapid tests being available by September.

If you’re immune to COVID-19, you get a badge—The organizers added a bunch of necessary caveats to this guideline. Information around COVID-19 immunity is murky at best because all of this is still so new. But, if a reliable immunity test is available and the conference organizers can use it and there’s a valid form of immunity certification, immune attendees will get a special badge that grants “greater freedom of movement.”

Attendees must get tested for a fever every day of the event—Seems reasonable.

You’re kicked out if you test positive for the virus—Also reasonable.

Masks must be worn at all times inside the venue—By September, we’ll probably be used to lots of people wandering around in masks.

Less people, more distance—Digital Book World is making 400 passes available for the 2020 event, compared to the 1,000 registered attendees they had in 2019. In addition, there will be one empty seat between each attendee in the auditorium.

No swag and no food—I’m sure people will go along with this in the near term, but I expect free stuff and buffet lines to return to events as soon as possible because folks love their junk and their food.

To be clear, this is tricky business and I give the DBW organizers a ton of credit for publishing their guidelines. Events will return at some point, and it’s going to take a lot of iteration and a lot of patience to work out the best practices. The more collaboration and transparency we have, the better this will be for all involved.