“The new normal.” Whether we like it or not, this phrase has become a mainstay in our lexicon in recent months. It applies to many facets of life—meetings and events included.
For the time being, events have moved online. But there is value in face-to-face meetings, and planners and venues have been brainstorming how we can return to in-person events—safely.
We’ve been keeping a keen eye on industry trends and case studies, and have rounded up the top insights to meeting safely in this new era.
A new age of tech
Technology will be key in returning to in-person events. IACC (the International Association of Conference Centers) recently published a comprehensive report detailing the steps venues need to take to reopen safely to groups—and technology played a big role. IACC notes that planners and attendees are willing to adapt to and embrace technology more than ever before.
We need to rethink how we incorporate certain tools and find new ways to achieve the same results while maintaining safety. One example: flipcharts and paper pads are a thing of the past. Expect (and encourage) attendees to use their digital devices to take notes and make tools like digital whiteboards available for presenters. We’re already seeing apps that can turn smartphones into mics, eliminating the need to pass a microphone around for Q&A sessions.
Technology will also play an important role in hybrid, multi-location business events, which will incorporate both in-person and virtual attendees. IACC notes that these events will likely be popular not only in the next six months, but long-term, and will create opportunity to “engage digital audiences and increase value.” IACC also developed a multi-location solution with PSAV, IACC MultiPOD, allowing a single event to be staged over multiple locations, anywhere in the world.
The future of F&B
Venues and planners need to rethink food and beverage offerings. Traditional buffets, breakout session snacks and cocktail hours are all aspects of F&B that will need to evolve. According to Hotel Management (HM), individually wrapped muffins, sandwiches and the like will become the norm. But, as HM points out, changes in service will also mean adjusting F&B pricing.
Rethink your space
One section in IACC’s report, Redesigning the Product, focuses on the changes venues will need to make in order to comply with new regulations and appeal to planners and groups. Some things to consider: upgrade lighting and sound, utilize outdoor spaces, and consider room configurations and the flow of attendees in and out of spaces.
Outdoor spaces are particularly appealing to planners and attendees. So if you have outdoor event space available, promote it. Don’t have dedicated outdoor event space? No problem. Areas like parking lots and garages can be converted into meeting or breakout spaces. Pedestal paver systems, tents and other temporary structures can go a long way in transforming a space.
Site (not) unseen
It’s also important to think about a crucial step that comes before the actual meeting: site visits. Kiawah Resort recently posted a blog that details the importance of in-person site visits, noting that seeing a venue first-hand allows planners to really get a sense of what a venue can offer—and presenting your property safely to a meeting planner will demonstrate how you can also care for their event participants when they are there.
But, properties should still be prepared for planners that want to take virtual tours. Meet AC (Atlantic City) has put together a comprehensive, interactive virtual tour that gives a feels-like-you’re-there visual of what the Convention Center and surrounding area have to offer.
Taking steps to ensure the safety of event attendees is only part of the reopening strategy—you have to clearly communicate the protocols you’re implementing to attendees and meeting planners. This communication starts at the site visit and continues through the event.
To continue the conversation about getting back to in-person meetings and events, reach out to Lynn Kaniper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 609.466.9187 ext. 117. You can also download IACC’s Critical Pathway To Reopening Meeting, Conference & Training Spaces report here.