A Series of Fortunate Events: How This Organization Pulled Off Four Live Gatherings Safely

With physical interactions seeming few and far between this year, four women joined forces to prove live events can prevail. Here's how they pulled off a powerful way to connect—sans human contact.

Social distancing was executed on stage with a 24-foot space, which ensured spacing of panelists throughout panel discussions. Local talent shared excitement about the opportunity to perform to a live audience again.
Social distancing was executed on stage with a 24-foot space, which ensured spacing of panelists throughout panel discussions. Local talent shared excitement about the opportunity to perform to a live audience again.
Photo: Sara Kerens

NEW YORK—As the saying goes, sometimes you don't realize what you have until it's gone. With the hit of the global pandemic, many industries find themselves at a standstill and all are reminiscing on the time when business was booming—packed restaurants, no-hassle haircuts, and (most importantly to our peers) live events. As connection falls further into the virtual sphere, physical interactions become increasingly more meaningful, and in its rarity, more important—which is exactly why four New York-based female event professionals teamed up to create Served Up and bring back that feeling of connection to New Yorkers via a series of live events.

Served Up prioritized health and safety with symptomatic watch practices, extensive site planning, and a dedicated health officer. In addition, a 2-ounce personal hand sanitizer was provided to all attendees upon entry.Served Up prioritized health and safety with symptomatic watch practices, extensive site planning, and a dedicated health officer. In addition, a 2-ounce personal hand sanitizer was provided to all attendees upon entry.Photo: Sara Kerens"As we settled into the new normal, people were craving ways to safely connect and were seeking public moments of normalcy. That’s when Served Up was born," said founder Jess Doren. "We didn’t want to just produce a concert that provided positivity in the moment; we wanted to create a platform that inspired individuality, communication, and empathy for each other."

After debuting in New York City on Sept. 30, the socially distanced outdoor series continued each Wednesday through Oct. 21, serving 800 attendees across five weeks. Each evening, the event centered around a powerful new topic—from Intertwined and Project Pride to Women for Women and R/evolution. The mix of speakers sparked conversations on human growth, connection, and empathy, all while supporting local businesses.

Outside of its meaningful mission and messaging, Served Up prioritized attendees' health and safety, making the experience entirely contactless. "It's important, as experience creators, to set the standard for our community to weave into their everyday lives," noted Doren. Mobile ticketing, QR codes, and zero hand-to-hand services were utilized to minimize touchpoints—even donations to local performers were executed via Venmo. Additionally, proper health protocols were in place with 24-hour health questionnaires for attendees and staff, an on-site COVID safety officer and 360 cleaning crew, temperature checks, and socially distanced pod seating. 

The series' floor plan was designed for social distancing with seated pods measured at 8 feet to 10 feet, each accommodating two to four people. Each circle was separated by 6 feet of distance with a 12-foot channel through the middle for safe movement of staff, servers, and attendees.The series' floor plan was designed for social distancing with seated pods measured at 8 feet to 10 feet, each accommodating two to four people. Each circle was separated by 6 feet of distance with a 12-foot channel through the middle for safe movement of staff, servers, and attendees.Photo: Ryan Muir

Attendees scanned a QR code that was on a printed menu at their table. Through ToastTab they were able to order various items from the Served Up marketplace. To eliminate lines, runners would receive the order BOH and execute the delivery by way of tray delivery service.Attendees scanned a QR code that was on a printed menu at their table. Through ToastTab they were able to order various items from the Served Up marketplace. To eliminate lines, runners would receive the order BOH and execute the delivery by way of tray delivery service.Photo: Sara KerensDoren added that when planning a community event, the goal was to "look within and support local." Attendees enjoyed local bites and sips, live entertainment, and opportunities to shop in Served Up's digital marketplace, which was curated by local small businesses. Venue selection played a role as well, with the event taking place at the outdoor waterfront of Culture Labs LIC, a nonprofit supporting local artists and the community.

"We decided that this was our time to band together and lift each other up through a new venture," said Doren. "Our dream was to create a new stage for this ‘new normal,’ focused on building community, giving a platform to empowering voices, and celebrating the arts in a safe, socially distanced setting—and we did."

VENDORS: Spayce Inc (custom fabrication and on-site cleaning crew), Oxygen Event Works (AV), AFR Event Furnishings (furnishing rentals), C2 Imaging LLC (graphics and printing), MAYB TMRW (merchandise and staff uniforms), Green Goo (individual hand sanitizer) ParaDocs (COVID safety officers) 

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