The EventBuzz Podcast: New Venue Procedures for Event Safety During COVID

Podcast speakers: Savannah McIntosh, the Purplepass Marketing Director and the Audience Services Technician at Chabot College’s Performing Arts Center, Caroline Morrison-Pegg. Jump to links and video notes below. 

The EventBuzz podcast: Chabot College Performing Arts Center

presented by Purplepass

 

Podcast Transcript: Purplepass + Chabot College | Performing Arts Center

 

Savannah (Purplepass):  

Hello, everyone, and thanks for tuning in to another episode of our podcast where we’re talking with different industry experts and event planners each week; getting insights on events they are currently planning tips, hacks and advice for other industry professionals out there, or newbies coming into the event space for the first time.

Unfortunately, the current topic everyone wants to know more about is how planners are navigating events during COVID. Because this pandemic is not going away anytime soon.

Today, we’re going to learn more about a college whose Performing Arts Center is restructuring how they do events, and their response to these new circumstances we are living in. My guest today is the Audience Services Technician at Chabot College, Caroline, thanks for taking the time out to talk with me today.

Caroline (Chabot):  

Thank you for having me.

 

Savannah: 

Yeah, so I just wanted to start with having you tell me a little bit more about the college and it’s performing arts center. That’s basically what we’re gonna be talking about today. And let the listeners know also how you are involved or what your role is with the college.

 

Caroline: 

Yeah. So Chabot is a community college in Hayward, California. And our Performing Arts Center serves both the school and the community. So we host both internal events run by Arts, Media and Communication departments. And we also rent out a space to host events for external clients.

So I personally supervise the audience services department, which essentially means that I am in charge of the front of house operations. So I work the theater manager to make sure that the patrons have the best experience when attending our events. And since the pandemic started, an important part of this has also been looking for ways to run events to keep everybody as safe as possible while they’re visiting a venue.

 

Savannah: 

And so for the events that you’re putting on, what are the type of clients that you guys technically get, or typically get to rent out the center that’s not involved with the college.

 

Caroline: 

So we have a lot of different types of events. And in non COVID times we hosted some huge events like dance competitions, graduations, orchestras. But since COVID, we’ve had to make access to a venue much more controlled. So we can only have 12 performers on stage at any given time currently. And they must be socially distance if they’re not from the same social bubble.

But our clients are finding ways to get pretty creative with this. For example, we have Tiffany Dance coming in December, they’re going to be performing the Nutcracker. But they’ve broken it down into scenes. So they’ve got no more than 12 dancers on stage at any particular time. So it’s basically a lot of thinking outside the box about different ways you can do this.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, and a lot of I didn’t realize, but like the 12 performers on stage at a time, so you have to really get creative.

 

Caroline:

Yeah, cuz that’s how many we can accommodate with a social distancing to make it go safely. 

 

Savannah:

And I know, your plan for hosting some upcoming events, especially during COVID, is to take advantage of the live streaming technology. Could you tell me more about the venues overall goal of making live streaming an option for their clients using the center and how you plan moving forward to implement this?

 

Caroline:

Yeah, sure. So we’re currently unable to have in person audiences at our venue. So we’re offering our clients the ability to stream their shares instead, of course, isn’t quite the same as attending a live event. But it does, hopefully give audiences that shared real time experience that’ so important.

And the great thing about this is that the number of audience members is basically unlimited. And there’s a couple of different options with how clients can do this.

So we can either pre-record the performance, edit it and then set it up with a particular time, or the stream can be truly live and show exactly what’s happening on stage at any particular time. And we’ve got an extensive set of protocols that we need to follow in order to do this. The performers will be following a very controlled, well made path through a backstage area.

And they have to keep their masks on right up until the go on to perform. And then we’ll be sanitizing the stage and the waiting areas between groups of performers.

 

Savannah:

And for the live streaming, do you know what type of software you guys plan on using for that?

 

Caroline:

We’re using IBM for free internal events that’s through the college. And for anyone who’s planning to sell tickets we are planning on using Vimeo for that.

 

Savannah:

Oh, gotcha. I just always like to ask I literally have been asking on all my podcasts because everyone’s doing everything live stream now because we have to because we can’t have in person events. There’s so many options out there. And everyone seems to be using something different. So I always ask because people listening can kind of search around and find what works for them.

Why did you choose? I mean, you’re doing that through the college. I wonder why they chose that software?

 

Caroline: 

Well, we already have a TV station through the college. So with our internal events, it was easier to sort of integrate the TV station, because they already had all the equipment that we needed to use. So we basically made our own accounts with that software so that we’re able to use that, we needed another option for clients that are going to be charging for the shows. So that’s, that’s where Vimeo came in.

 

Savannah: 

Cool. And when you guys start having, hopefully, eventually when we start having in person events again, do you think you’re going to continue doing the live streaming technology and like maybe move into hybrid events? Where so you can continue to reach this broader audience that can’t be reached in person?

 

Caroline: 

Yeah, absolutely. So we’ve actually got a three phase reopening process. So we’re currently in phase one, which is streamed events only no physical audience. And then phase two, which will happen whenever the districts and county give approval, we’ll start bringing in a limited, socially distanced audience. But that will basically limit our capacity to about a third of what it is usually, so instead of like 1500, people will only be able to fit 500.

By socially distancing everyone. So the livestream is still going to be important now because we can’t really operate at a third of our capacity. So they’ll have the option to either purchase a virtual or an in person ticket, depending on their preference.

 

Savannah:

Makes sense? What is your guys’s phase three? If you don’t mind me asking phase three.

 

Caroline:

We don’t fully know what it’s going to look like. Yeah. But we’re basically thinking of it in terms of decreasing the distance between patrons. So when the district county and state guidelines change, we’ve got the flexibility to begin allowing more patrons to attend our shows until we’re at full capacity again.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, I mean, no one knows, no one knows we’re trying to have the answers, but it’s just so crazy, because you think it’s getting better and then we go back five more steps.

 

Caroline:

It’s just a lot of like winging it and kind of going with things as they happen at the moment.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, we’ve all had to learn how to get more flexible with things that’s for sure. On your page on the performing arts center page, I did notice an alert and you might have covered it, it just mentioned that the centers in the process of putting together a health and safety protocol, I kind of wanted to ask more about those procedures, if you haven’t covered it already, if there’s other specific safety protocols that they’re talking about.

 

Caroline:

Yeah, sure. So the first manager, Bernadette and I, we’ve been in contact with an industrial hygienists, and we’ve all been working in the past that their performance staff members and patients will take and identifying any potential hazards that will come up.

So for example, our AC system, which filters the air effectively in most areas, doesn’t purge the air from the sound booth. So we’ve purchased a filter for that area to keep our tech staff from breathing unhealthy air.

And I’m not sure if I mentioned this already, but the patrons and performers will follow a one way system that we’ve carefully mapped out. And that stage in the seating area will be sanitized with an electrostatic spray between performances. And then there’s a hand washing station for performers before they enter the venue. And of course, everyone must be wearing masks and socially distancing while on campus.

 

Savannah:

And how have you been getting besides the alert on your page? How have you been kind of getting the word out about these changes, so people will be more comfortable as time goes on attending events again.

 

Caroline: 

Mm hmm. So in terms of a client’s production meetings with them have got a great deal more involved. So we’ve physically walked them through this path that I’ve been talking about explaining every step as we get to it. And we make it clear to them that their event can only go ahead if they’re able to follow these protocols.

For patrons, our conditions eventually are communicated before they even get to the venue. So when they buy their tickets, they’ll have to tick a box to say that they agree to the terms of entry, which are basically wear masks, they six feet away from the people, stay home if you’re sick.

We plan to make a video explaining our safety protocols, which we can send out to ticket buyers, and also probably upload to our website and social media. And then when the patron gets to the campus, there’s signs everywhere to show the conditions of entry, and which way they should go.

So basically, the idea is that by the time they get to the venue, they already know what to expect. So there shouldn’t be any surprises.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, there’ll be prepped and ready to go. Perfect. Yeah, sounds like you guys have basically covered all the different spots. Again, I like to ask that as well, because it’s just making sure everyone knows all these different changes because they’re coming back to events that they’ve gone to before prior to COVID. And there’s just everything’s changed so much. So it’s really important that we notify them and it might seem like we’re notifying them too much, but really like that’s what I tell our other like promoters like no like you have to do. Just that. Let them know like get in their brains like this has changed. This has changed.

 

Caroline: 

Yeah. If you don’t manage their expectations, then going to show up and expect something different. And then that’s when things start to escalate. Right?

 

Savannah:

Yeah, exactly. And because there are some people too, that are, might not want to wear masks, so letting them know in advance, and they can make that decision if they want to come or not.

Well, that was all my questions. The last one I did, I wanted to ask was, basically, if there’s any other piece of advice, or tip that you would like to offer other listeners that might be affiliated with venues and dealing with clients, or schools that are trying to navigate all this planning during COVID, and trying to enforce all these safety regulations that you guys have thoughtfully put out or trying to go forward with…any other advice or tips or suggestions for them?

 

Caroline: 

Yeah, so firstly, I’d advise other venues to treat it as a learning experience. And basically keep that to your protocols accordingly. So communication is absolutely key with this. So talk to your staff before the events, address their particular anxieties. And then after the events follow up with both staff members and the audiences to see if any issues came up. And then be adaptable to that and just deal with any new information you receive.

My second piece of advice is just remember how important we are as event makers. So performance spaces and event venues might seem low on the government’s list of priorities right now. But theater event industry is so so crucial. We bring together communities, we amplify voices, we elicit social change. And during the scary, uncertain time, these things more important than ever. We’re creative people, we can find ways to run our event safely, even if they look a little different than what we’re used to. So my advice is just don’t give up on our industry.

 

Savannah:

Great advice. And I feel like you are spot on. Like, we might not think arts as being such a crucial thing that we need in our lives right away. But it is and it’s something like at least for me, I feel it, like missing out on all those different interactions and even going to like street fairs where you have artists and, and local businesses I don’t think we realize it, but it’s so important for our sanity and our mental health and a place to be creative. So it’s definitely very, very important. And it’s awesome that you guys are doing like finding ways to keep it going. Because we definitely need it.

 

Caroline: 

Yeah, I think especially when we’re as isolated as we are right now that sense of community is really important.

 

Savannah:

Yeah, yeah, definitely. So keep it up. And thanks for talking to me today. And that’s all I have for you today.

 

Caroline: 

Great. Thank you

 

 



Video notes and links

Chabot College Performing Arts Center: 

Chabot Theater Arts

About Chabot College

Upcoming events (Theater Arts)

If anyone is interested in live streaming their event with Chabot College, you can email pacinfo@chabotcollege.edu for available dates.

The venue is also looking for volunteer ushers. Anyone who is interested can see more opportunities here

 

Software mentioned: 

IBM – Live streaming and broadcasting tools

Vimeo