Going the distance: How to plan a tour during a pandemic
I am back from my US tour, and although I am much wearier, I am also a little bit wiser. There was a lot of new learning to do out on the road, with some lessons coming easier than others. I’ve put together some insights that will hopefully help those in the same position to be as prepared as possible.
• You will have to walk a fine line between control and flexibility; fear and understanding; knowledge and the unknown. It will be an ever-shifting situation, and as such you need to be ready to adapt and change as required. Your skills will be tested, and your communication style and your management method will need to be modified to suit the constantly evolving situations that you find on tour. You will often be asked to do and cope with things that are of a contradictory nature. All you can do is look at the bigger picture and make the most informed decisions that you can.
• Before you head out, have a clear action plan in case of a positive test result or symptomatic presentation. Work out the chain of command, and who is responsible for communicating info to each stakeholder. This will remove some of the emotion and fear from the high-stress decision-making process.
It will be an ever-shifting situation, and as such you need to be ready to adapt and change as required
• Using a third-party Covid-compliance provider can also be extremely useful for the implementation of your protocol. It allows a degree of separation between the event organisation and policy compliance. It removes the potential for long-standing personal relationships to come into play. It also allows for people to get on with their main roles, which are often busy enough and will only be made busier by the knock-on effects of Covid. If using a third-party company, ensure that it is one that understands your show/tour’s needs, and one that you can communicate with effectively. You will need to work together to ensure that your policy is implemented effectively and efficiently.
• Your protocol needs to be set and in place across the board. The rules should not change depending on location or local and venue requirements. Your policy should cover the highest of standards. If you lower your requirements, it becomes very hard to revert back. The policy should also apply to everyone: band, management, guests, and crew. Everyone needs to be on board. Continuity really is the key, and the safety provided is for everyone’s benefit.
Questions need to be welcomed, and people need to feel comfortable enough to approach the Covid team with any issues
• Communication is the most important factor in keeping everyone safe. It is not only your content that needs be considered but also the tone. Questions need to be welcomed, and people need to feel comfortable enough to approach the Covid team with any issues, including reporting potential symptoms. However, people need to be in no doubt who is in control, what the policy is and the fact that it must be adhered to. Covid is a divisive topic, but when individuals sign-up to the tour/show they must be made aware that they are agreeing to follow your policy regardless of their individual beliefs.
• Your protocol should cover what happens to individuals who test positive. This will instil confidence in your team that they will be taken care of, be provided with medical assistance and not be left to fend for themselves. If you are not testing regularly, you need people to feel comfortable in reporting symptoms or potential exposure. This is especially relevant to road crew, who are fiercely independent and quite often prefer to take care of themselves. Seeking assistance now can really mean the difference between life and death.
The actions of a few may now be responsible for the continuation of the tour/show, and the health of their co-workers
• You cannot police everyone all of the time. At some point, individuals need to be responsible for themselves, especially outside of the venue. They need to be trusted to follow the protocols but be made aware of the ramifications if they do not. The actions of a few may now be responsible for the continuation of the tour/show, and the health of their co-workers.
• You are responsible for your entire team. This includes any Covid staff that you have with you or that you are working with. They are often approached aggressively and suffer regular abuse. It is a thankless task, and they deserve respect.
The good news is that it is getting better out there. As more people venture out, the knowledge spreads and new and easier methods are discovered and shared. Teams are becoming accustomed to the expectations placed on them and with familiarity comes acceptance. I personally cannot wait to get back on the road next year, and I hope to see you all out there.
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