Singapore Polling Day: Lessons for event planners

Observations from the country's recent general elections could serve as a prelude, even as authorities prepare to roll out official guidelines for the MICE industry later this month

SINGAPORE – Taking the recent General Elections on July 10 as a case study, M&C Asia outlines lessons to avoid and possibly, indications of protocols to come for events planners awaiting official guidelines.

Health and safety precautions
At polling locations across Singapore, several health and safety stations were established to ensure voting procedures were conducted in a safe manner. While everyone was fully masked, at the polling station I attended, health and safety screenings were all conducted manually — with a station for temperature checks and a separate station for identity checks. While necessary, this process was tedious and could have been improved with the implementation of technology like thermal scanning systems.

To streamline the registration process at events, planners would do well to set budget aside for ‘smart’ tech solutions that make necessary health and safety screenings as efficient as possible. Ample hand sanitiser (and PPE for frontline staff) is also important, so ensure you have enough to go around. 


Social distancing
After safety checks, voters reached a third station – split into two sections, each with four presiding officers in order to adhere to current law that restricts gatherings to five people. Here, voters presented identity cards in order to receive their ballot papers. However, the next step wasn’t immediately clear.

While arrows were marked out on the floor, these were not accompanied with written directions or signage. This meant that after receiving my ballot card, I assumed the voting booths would be my next and final stop – wrong! I was stopped and told to join another queue meant for voting. Distancing protocol was also not properly communicated on the day, with many voters definitely not adhering to the one-metre rule. 

These could have been avoided if there were more presiding officers or safe distancing ambassadors to guide the flow of people. Communication between officer across various stations was also poor; a ‘runner’ or simple walkie-talkie system could have aided crowd flow to avoid bottlenecks.  

Key lessons for events planners? Staggered and timed entry, as well as separate entry/exit points will help to manage social distancing. Communication between staff and attendees is vital — ensure attendees are well-informed before arrival, and place friendly reminders around the venue. A safe distancing mascot, like Spot the robot dog, could also be a consideration for larger events. 

Crowd management
While not mandatory, the government strongly encouraged voters to head down to their respective polling stations within allocated two-hour time slots to reduce clusters and crowding. Elderly persons above 65, were allocated early slots from 8am to 12 noon.

Despite these measures, younger demographics still made their way to poll in the morning, the Elections Department (ELD) noting voters faced “longer than usual queues”, with long lines seen snaking across several stations by early afternoon. ELD also had a live page giving estimated queue status to help voters better manage their time on voting day.

More than a few voters posted their frustration on social media after having to queue for hours. The entire election process was supposed to end at 8pm, however, due to extensive delays, this was extended to 10pm. For similar large-scale events, planners should anticipate delays and prepare contingency plans.  

The measures in place on polling day can also serve a prelude to what MICE and event planners can expect from incoming national guidelines. The Industry Resilience Roadmap (IRR), a public-private partnership between SACEOS, STB and ESG, is set to release a comprehensive guide to the reopening of events in Singapore later this month.