This month, we’ve seen the beginning of the slow return of in-person events as COVID-19 case numbers trend downward and more eligible city dwellers get vaccinated.
One of the tech community’s most regular events, Venture Cafe, a weekly gathering at Quorum in the University City Science Center, was one to hedge back into in-person gatherings recently. Last Thursday, Quorum welcomed back visitors for an evening of programing, and guests had the option of attending virtually or in person. It’s the model of hybrid events we except many orgs may adopt in weeks and months to come.
Lynette Moore, the director of Quorum who’s been with the Science Center for five years, told Technical.ly her team had kept their eyes on local case numbers and regulations closely for a few weeks before making the call.
They specifically looked to CDC recommendations and the City of Philadelphia’s lift of the “safer at home” restrictions on June 2. Moore said she’s also been closely watching what other event venues and organizations have been doing, and has had chats with the nearby hotel, The Study, for similar size comparison.
“The trend has been that numbers have been declining steadily the last few weeks, but we’re also in a position that if they climb again, we’ll do more social distancing and other practices,” Moore said.
When it comes to attending in-person events again, Moore said she thinks there’s two camps of people: those who are rearing to get back to normal and those who may have been working from home for 15 months and are still wondering, “Is it safe to go out?” The hybrid model offers both a way to participate, she said.
And as Moore hopes — and believes — they’ll see more people attending the events in person in the coming weeks and months, she recognizes that the virtual event space will be around for a long time. It’s offered them the chance to operate safely throughout the pandemic, invite guests and speakers from around the world and provide some accessibility for folks to attend without having to make it to University City.
— Karin Copeland (@KarinCopeland_) June 3, 2021
Last week’s events prompted guests to RSVP if they intended on coming in person, and out of about 160 guests, 30 came IRL, she said. It was a good number of people to feel like an event while still making room for social distancing. Masks were still required unless you were grabbing a bite or a drink at the happy hour at the first floor lounge, and it was encouraged that folks be fully vaccinated before participating in that aspect.
And while they won’t require vaccinations of their guests, they did provide “I’m vaccinated” stickers for guests who did want to broadcast their status to others if it makes both parties of an interaction feel more comfortable.
“It was exciting to see. When you work at a place like the Science Center, I believe in the science. And I know from Quorum’s perspective of cleaning and sanitizing, we were operating safely,” Moore said. “It was great seeing some of our regulars back, a lot of them were excited and thankful, it was good. We did a lot of calls and planning and thinking of alternatives, and it was nice to see it in action.”
— Venture Cafe Philadelphia (@vencafePHL) June 3, 2021