Guides For Reopening Planning

Last week I had a post on Arts Hacker featuring the Event Safety Alliance’s (ESA)  Reopening Guide for live event venues. You may have already seen the guide being passed around by a lot of people. Given the times, I feel like distribution hasn’t reached the point of over-saturation. When I start seeing it more frequently than ads for the presidential campaign, I’ll know it is time to stop.

In my Arts Hacker post, I focused on the idea of legal duty of care. I had been on a webinar with Steven Adleman, a lawyer who serves as Vice President of ESA, and he addressed the concerns many people had regarding their liability if people were exposed to Covid-19 while at their event.

In addressing that, he said firstly, that if someone is social enough to attend a live event, they probably interacted with others so much that it would be difficult to prove your event was the source of their illness.

None of which excuses you from sanitizing the hell out of everything in sight and implementing diligent operating practices.

Which bring us to the ESA Reopening Guide’s statement about a duty of care. I suspect Adleman wrote it because much the same content appeared in the webinar he conducted. I quoted it in my ArtsHacker post, but feel it is significant enough to repeat here:

“As a matter of common law, everyone has a duty to behave reasonably under their own circumstances.  Consequently, there is no such thing as ‘best’ practices.  There are only practices that are reasonable for this venue, this event, this crowd, this time and place, during this pandemic.  Because few operational bright lines would make sense, The Event Safety Alliance Reopening Guide is designed to help event professionals think through their own circumstances.  In the order than one plans an event, the Reopening Guide looks closely at the health and safety risks involved in reopening public spaces, then proposes risk mitigation measures that are likely to be reasonable under the circumstances of the smaller events and venues that will reopen first.”

Even though it just appeared last week, I wrote and submitted my Arts Hacker post around May 15. In the interim, the Performing Arts Center Consortium (PACC) released their own reopening guide. It is a little nicer than the ESA guide, especially in regard to the color coded charts outlining what should be done in different phases of reopening.

I am not going to even pretend to hide my annoyance at the existence of these two guidebooks released around the same time.

It would really have been great if the ESA and PACC guides had been combined. Lest you think they were separate efforts developed independently of each other, the PACC board of advisors is listed as contributors to the ESA guide, together, in the exact same order as they appear in the PACC guide. There is no excuse that they were unaware of the separate efforts.

In the past, I would just shrug at similar duplicative efforts by competing groups. But during these times when half the day is spent trying to figure out how our organizations and/or individual practices might manifest in the next normals and the other half of the day is spent trying to understand how to keep employees/co-workers/family/friends safe in the face of uncertainty about the threat the virus poses, the need to be aware of and expend effort to track down two sources of advice contributes to the problem, not the solution.



Meeting Your Legal Duty Of Care In Post-Covid Reopening

At Least You Can Put Your Feet Up On The Seat In Front Of You

There has been a lot of conversation among my peers about how to revamp our venue seating charts to comply with social distancing. Some people were seating in every other row with 3-4 seats between every single person, the latter part which seemed crazy to me.

At my venue, we worked up a plan that skipped every other row and had four seats open and four seats blocked so that families could be seated together. We found a way to set our ticketing system so that if you bought two of four open seats, it would immediately block the adjacent open seats so strangers couldn’t buy the seats next to you.

I figured it would be a month or two before any state got to the point of allowing live performance events to occur.

To my surprise, someone already put this general model into action. I was reading a piece in San Francisco Classical Voice because it extensively quotes Adaptistration author Drew McManus when I came across this bit of information:

In fact, the first test of a live-concert in the U.S. was to have taken place May 18, with a socially-distanced performance by country singer Travis McCready at TempleLive in Fort Smith, Arkansas. However, on May 12 the state’s Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, announced the state’s health department would be issuing a cease-and-desist order for the concert due to the extension of the state’s coronavirus lockdown measures.

Had the concert proceeded, it would have taken place in a hall with a capacity of 1,100 reduced to 229. The audience would have had their temperatures taken when they arrived, been directed to their seats along one-way walkways, with a limit of 10 people in the bathroom at any one time. Seating would be in “pods,” defined as “small gatherings restricted to friends and relatives comfortable with sitting together.” Each group, between two and 12 in number, would be seated together while the rest of the audience sat six feet from one another other. In addition, the concert’s Ticketmaster page said TempleLive planned to sanitize the venue using fog sprayers and would require masks to be worn by the audience and staff. The three-member band would maintain social distancing onstage but had not planned to wear masks.

Even with these limitations, the concert was sold out. Would it have been a preview of coming attractions?

Other than feeling allowing up to twelve people who didn’t regularly live in close quarters to sit together might be problematic to efforts to control the spread, I sort of wish the concert could have happened so we could start to get some tips on traffic control through the different spaces.

Since I am clearly wrong in my assumption no one would be trying to do it yet, has anyone heard of any other instances where someone has actually executed a post-Covid revised seating plan?

Update: Thanks to reader Rachel Condie who pointed out that the concert in Ft. Smith did happen after the venue challenged the governor’s order as inconsistent with the standards applied to churches. A New York Times article provides the details of their audience flow process.

Data Driven In Word, Not Deed

Interesting article on Harvard Business Review site titled Is Your Business Masquerading as Data-Driven?

Now you probably feel that when are stumbling blind through an environment everyone says is without precedent, no existing data will aid in productive decision making. I suggest this is actually the perfect time to both scrutinize the data you do have on hand very closely to provide you with insights you may have been overlooking for years and to create processes and procedures to more effectively collect and analyze data moving forward.

I have written about data driven decision making before, as has Drew McManus. In most of these posts we both focused on the influence of Highest Paid Person’s Opinion (HiPPO) which often overrides data informed decisions and focuses on simple numbers absent of context and analysis.

The Harvard Business Review takes a different approach focusing more on employees vs. supervisors/board members. In both scenarios, people are acting in a manner that is not conducive to a company wide culture of data.

These organizations are “masquerading” as data-driven, meaning they have the data, technologies, and even the expertise, but their culture and processes are not aligned with those elements to produce the best outcomes. For example, data might be a part of every decision made, but employees may be making decisions first, then looking for data to back them up.

Factors like these explain the disconnect between investment levels and the disappointing results some companies report seeing. Businesses have more data than ever, but a culture rooted in top-down decision making and traditional tools like weekly reports and preconfigured dashboards means they cannot take full advantage of it.

Among the factors the authors say contribute to this situation are:

“Your Employees are Making Decisions Based on the Tyranny of Averages” – this encompasses modeling the average of all cases as the optimal approach rather than making note of significant differences. For example, if you determined in 2013 there was no need to ensure your website looks good on phones because the average ticket buyer uses a desktop computer, not only would you have created a barrier for younger users, you are creating a situation that will reinforce desktop users as an average user because phone users will have no interest visiting the webpage. Given the demographics of people using phones to navigate the web have broadened since 2013, your online purchases would probably have dropped even as the average remained steady.

Everyone Has Their Own Version of the Truth When employees argue that “my truth is better than your truth,” it’s a sign you’re masquerading as data-driven. Each team may be acting on data, but if they have different information, they are bound to disagree and some may even be misled…Getting stakeholders to agree on which data is important establishes a common source of truth to guide decisions and strategy.

More broadly, data should be available uniformly throughout an organization so all teams have access to the same information. The goal is outcomes, not ownership, and this may require a cultural shift that loosens the grip on data among senior managers.

Decisions Precede Data – this is the aforementioned scenario where you make a decision and then seek the data that confirms you are correct.

Employees Have Misguided Incentives – For many organizations this could be a focus on an ingrained subscription model or on optimizing the experience for high level donors which disincentivizes flex/single/group sales or cultivating young professional social groups or significantly changing the way people experience the organization. The way some museums in Philadelphia are using guest docents or with the same cultural background as the artifacts on display immediately comes to mind.

Marquee Messaging For Morale

A number of theaters around the country have started posting messages on their marquees to bolster the morale of their community. Here at my venue, we were trying to think of a message to post on our marquee so my marketing director did some research and gathered these images. I identified the ones I know or could figure out. I apologize for not knowing every place. I offer this as a bit of inspiration for other places that might want to do something similar.

I wanted to figure out messaging that was more tailored to our community. We discovered that Little Richard, who had been born here in Macon, had said “I love Macon. I love it better than anywhere I’ve ever been in my life,” so we came up with the following images. We had the images up on Friday, May 1 and then Little Richard died a week later which made the whole thing a little bittersweet for us.

The third screen about picking up the beat was something we developed in consultation with the local convention and visitors bureau.

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