Antigen rapid testing was key to ensuring the two-day, 300-person PCMA Convening Leaders 2021 event in Singapore could take place safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. But with additional safety measures came a longer check-in process — attendees needed to wait 20¬–30 minutes in designated holding areas at the event’s venue, Marina Bay Sands, for their rapid test results to be confirmed.
After getting a handle on the antigen rapid testing procedure and observing how it played out at the event, Philip Pang, PCMA’s Singapore-based manager of marketing and events, realized that the holding areas and waiting period needn’t be empty downtime — they could be turned into opportunities to enhance participants’ overall event experience.
“Without any experience around rapid testing” prior to Convening Leaders, Pang said they “leaned heavily” on rapid testing service provider Jaga-Me’s advice. The company “rightly prioritized attendee safety and made sure the safety guidelines were adhered to.” But Pang said that he could see ways to strike a balance between safety and serving the needs of attendees in the future. “We talk about customer centricity at our events,” he said, which in his mind means working within the safety guidelines while seeking “creative solutions around registration and rapid testing.”
Pang said that he asked himself how event organizers might be able to make the waiting experience more comfortable in the future and “flip things around and make the antigen rapid test part of the program — or even better, to become something to look forward to.” With HaiDiLao Hotpot — a restaurant chain that offers diners snacks, drinks, and manicures while they wait to be seated — as his inspiration, Pang brainstormed three forms of attendee engagement that organizers could add to any event that requires rapid testing:
Make the environment welcoming. “Many event professionals are frequent fliers and will be familiar with airport lounges,” Pang said. “What if the waiting areas could look and feel like that? Instead of a line of sterile chairs, have sofas, work pods, drinks, plants, light music, etc., that immediately changes one’s experience of what a waiting area can look like.”
Add entertainment. “There could be an exclusive performance that can only be watched or experienced at the waiting area. I’m thinking instead of merely moving into a separate waiting area, attendees are treated to the tunes of a musician and better still, allowed to select songs like a jukebox,” Pang suggested. “Perhaps the problem now becomes getting attendees to move out of the waiting area once their test results are out!”
Turn the rapid testing process into an educational moment. “It’s a first for many attendees to take the antigen rapid test,” Pang said. “Could we invite them to understand what went behind the test, critique the experience first-hand and how they would improve it, so that their event participants would ultimately benefit?”
Pang sees this as prime time in the participant journey, a way to warm them up for the positive experience that’s just ahead of them — once they get the negative COVID result.
Casey Gale is associate editor at Convene.