Few industries have undergone the kind of upheaval that the event industry has recently. COVID-19 has prompted the need to establish completely new safety requirements for events, and understanding the terminology and regulations can be overwhelming. Plus, the constant flux in regulations can make it even tougher to keep up.

We’ve put together a glossary to help you navigate event planning in such a tumultuous environment. It provides the key terms that you’ll need to know when considering event safety, as well as each concept’s implications for your event. Of course, this isn’t everything — don’t forget that local gatherings may be subject to different restrictions based on city and state regulations. For further information, be sure to check out the CDC’s guidance on events and large gatherings.


What it is: The number of people a venue can accommodate.

Why it matters: While a venue’s building code may allow for a certain number of guests in normal times, local COVID-19 regulations may limit that capacity to 25% or less now, based on local infection rates and risk levels. You should be familiar with the capacity limits of your venue, as it will affect the number of tickets you can sell.

Contact tracing

What it is: Determining everyone that an infected person has come into close contact with, so those people can be alerted of the risk and take appropriate measures to protect themselves and others.

Why it matters: Since in-person events can attract large crowds of people, contact tracing may be required if anyone at your event tests positive for COVID-19. The CDC defines close contact as being within six feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more.

Contactless entry

What it is: A way of entering a venue or ticketed event that avoids face-to-face or hand-to-hand contact with another person.

Why it matters: Contactless entry limits the spread of germs, so it can help protect the health of people attending your event. Using QR codes for tickets or other digital solutions can help limit contact during entry to your event.

Contactless payment

What it is: Payment using a credit card, debit card, smartphone, or another device.

Why it matters: Because germs are easily spread by touch, contactless payment helps maintain a safe environment at your event. Along with helping prevent the spread of germs, contactless payment also gives attendees a sense of security when they see that a good effort is being made to protect their health.

Flexible refunds

What it is: Offering whole or partial refunds of ticket prices based on considerations such as the timing of the cancellation or whether the ticket buyer — or event organizer — has experienced unforeseen circumstances.

Why it matters: Flexible refunds are a way of recognizing the challenges of everyday life. Sudden changes in regulations or attitudes can close venues or make people feel uneasy, so flexible refunds help give ticket buyers a sense of security about their purchase. If you’re able to offer flexibility, specify the requirements for a refund upfront so that everyone’s on the same page.

Hand hygiene

What it is: Using hand wipes, sinks, and/or hand sanitizer to keep hands clean.

Why it matters: Because germs and viruses are easily passed by hand contact, give your attendees an easy way to keep their hands clean can go a long way toward maintaining a healthy environment. Keep in mind that while hand sanitizers come in different formulas, the CDC recommends formulas with alcohol concentrations of 60% or higher.


What it is: HEPA stands for “high-efficiency particulate absorbing,” a standard of efficiency for air filters. HEPA filters, other air filters, and good ventilation help keep the air free of certain pollutants and airborne viruses.

Why it matters: Since COVID-19 is an airborne virus, keeping the air free of pollutants and viruses is crucial for an in-person event. You can boost the safety of your event by investing in HEPA filters or considering other options like open-air spaces or spaces with windows and doors that provide sufficient ventilation.

Hybrid events

What it is: These are events that include an online element so attendees can still participate in events that they’re unable to attend in person. The online element is often a livestream of the live event.

Why it matters: Hybrid and virtual events have boomed in the wake of COVID-19 restrictions. By hosting your event fully or partially online, you can expand the potential audience for your event and include participants who may not have been available for an in-person event.


What it is: Streaming an event live online so that it can be enjoyed by people unable to attend in person.

Why it matters: In response to restrictions placed on in-person events, many event organizers incorporated livestreaming into their events to allow for long-distance attendance. Good livestreaming involves more than simply a camera and an internet connection — microphones, audio mixers, and finding the best streaming channel for your event are just a few things you’ll need to consider.


What it is: Personal protective equipment, such as goggles, medical gowns, or disposable gloves, worn to protect against infection.

Why it matters: Offering PPE at your event can help protect the health of those attending. It’s especially important for staff who are monitoring or screening attendees and for other event workers since they’ll come into contact with the largest number of people.


What it is: Loosening or discontinuing restrictions on businesses, gatherings, and other activities in response to improving COVID-19 infection rates.

Why it matters: Cities and states all have different regulations and restrictions. As cases of COVID-19 decline and more people receive the COVID-19 vaccine, most regions are adjusting their restrictions. Knowing your area’s requirements for screening or social distancing helps determine the number of attendees you can accommodate.


What it is: A preliminary checking of attendees and staff for symptoms of illness, often including temperature checks, questionnaires, or other measures that detect COVID-19.

Why it matters: Local regulations may require screening as a prerequisite to any sort of in-person gathering. Screeners may need to be licensed professionals in some settings, but your regular event staff can often take care of it. Be sure to know exactly what’s required in your area.

Social distancing

What it is: Staying at least six feet away from other people.

Why it matters: As an event planner, you’ll have to take distancing requirements into account when setting up your event. This might mean taping out places to stand in line, spacing tables out, or otherwise arranging the venue to encourage distance between attendees.

Staggered entry

What it is: Entering a venue one at a time or in small groups rather than all at once, in order to maintain safe distancing in crowds.

Why it matters: Staggering entries can help maintain safe distancing between your attendees, especially if you’re organizing an indoor event.


What it is: Using licensed professionals to test attendees, event participants, and staff for COVID-19.

Why it matters: Local regulations may require testing or proof of a negative test result for certain events. Additionally, you may wish to consider incorporating testing requirements into your event as a way of communicating to both your attendees and participants that their health is a priority.

Vaccination and vaccine passports

What it is: A certificate that provides evidence that the holder has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Why it matters: Some areas may require that travelers show evidence of vaccination before they can enter. You’ll want to be familiar with any regulations in your region so you can inform your attendees of any requirements. As more people get COVID-19 vaccines, this may become more common.

Ready to start planning your grand reopening? Check out our resources for planning events during the pandemic.

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