Andavo Meetings & Incentives (AMI) is a division of Christopherson Business Travel. Their experienced team offers full-service meeting and event planning and corporate incentive trip planning. They also provide expertise on individual event components such as sourcing or contract negotiations. We are pleased to introduce them as our guest writer today, sharing tips for planning and hosting safe corporate meetings and events.
Corporate Meeting Safety and Guidelines
It has now been a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began and video conference fatigue has certainly kicked in for many organizations and their team members. Virtual events are a great way to stay connected during this time, but it’s clear that we all want to get back to connecting in person. One question we regularly receive is: “when can we host in-person corporate events again while being COVID-safe?” While there’s no magical date we can give, we know that nothing replaces the value of an in-person meeting.
Once your organization feels comfortable with meeting and are able to gather for an in-person corporate event, what do you do? How do you plan a safe meeting? Although we may not be able to tell you the “when,” we can certainly help you with the “how.” Understanding the corporate event industry in this new world is more important than ever so that attendees feel safe, excited, and protected.
Here are six important things to consider when planning and hosting a safe, in-person corporate meeting or event:
Attendees will need to feel comfortable with traveling and meeting again, so start by communicating why your company is planning this in-person event and the significance of being together. Keep in mind that some attendees may not feel comfortable traveling or gathering yet, so provide communication about other participation options available to them. Such options could be:
- a hybrid event that includes a virtual component
- on-demand recordings
- another in-person meeting at a later time.
Whatever options you provide, it’s important to keep your attendees informed about every step you and your company are taking to keep them safe and get them excited about seeing people. Keep in mind that the “COVID climate” changes rapidly and with vaccines now being rolled out, the discomfort of today may not be an issue by your event date.
2. Destination and Venue Selection
When determining the location or destination, be sure to learn the government guidelines that are in place for the location you’re considering. For example, is there a capacity limit on the number of people that can meet in one room? However, keep in mind that if you are you sourcing for a year or more into the future, such requirements will likely change.
If you decide a particular destination is right for your group in the current environment, how do you find the right hotel or venue to host the event? There are more front-end considerations now than ever before, such as how hotels handle safety protocols and guest communication. Every brand, hotel, and property have a different set of procedures. You may find sneeze guards at the front desk of one hotel, while another may require a completely virtual check-in through their app. All these details depend on the destination, hotel, brand, technology, and amount of money that has been invested in the hotel.
Distance from the airport to the venue or hotel has always been a consideration in corporate event planning, but now, more forethought is being given to how attendees will get to/from the airport while also being COVID-safe. Can Uber or Lyft be used? What about a group transfer or private rental cars?
It’s important to evaluate your transportation selection in advance to work through any potential challenges and determine additional measures that may help attendees feel safer. It’s going to take some time before group transportation looks like group transportation as we previously knew it.
If you’re scheduling group transfers, make sure you know how many attendees will be in each vehicle as this will impact your budget. You should also know and communicate the transportation company’s health and safety protocols, i.e. Are vehicles cleaned between transfers? Are rows or seats blocked off on larger vehicles for social distancing? Are masks and sanitizer available for anyone entering or departing the bus?
Airports can be another area of concern. While airlines have done a great job communicating their safety measures, there’s not been as much communication about or from airports. Communicating to your attendees what they can expect at airports and providing information on additional ways to be safe while in transit are a great way to minimize concerns. Such recommendations include minimizing the amount of time spent in airports (i.e. not arriving too early), wiping down a seat before sitting in the waiting area, and bringing your own refreshments, sanitizer, and wipes to use along the way.
4. Hotel/Venue Public Spaces
Once you select your hotel or venue, be sure to get a list or outline of their safety measures as they currently stand, as well as another copy seven days prior to your arrival, in case those protocols have changed. Review upon receipt so that you have time to request any enhancements to those health and safety measures.
Some basic hotel/venue features and practices to look for are:
- touchless options where possible (hotel check-in, doorways, bathroom sinks, soap, housekeeping upon request, etc.)
- obvious in-room changes (empty honor bar, sanitized TV remotes, etc.)
- doing visible and regular sanitizing of public areas.
Communicate all hotel/venue safety protocols to attendees in advance.
5. Meetings and Group Meals
While bringing people together is incredibly valuable and productive, you don’t want it to be a situation for concern. The following important points should be considered prior to signing any hotel contract:
- Does the venue have proper ventilation and the appropriate amount of space to be socially distanced based on current local guidelines?
- Does the space have windows and doors that open for air flow?
- Does the meeting space offer multiple access points to allow for one way in and one way out?
- Can you host your food and beverage functions outside with an indoor back-up for inclement weather?
Understanding the venue’s safety protocols for food & beverage are important because self-service stations, buffets, and meals in general will all look different. Grab-and-go options for food will be commonplace, so understanding how the catering team can make that exciting and high-quality is important to know in advance. You want your business meetings to be successful while being COVID-safe.
6. Testing & CDC Guidelines
COVID testing of attendees may alleviate concerns, but determining when and how often can be challenging. Several new technologies have been launched (with more options coming soon) to make this readily available and affordable for all. These testing options can be self-administered or facilitated by a professional on site. There are also options for contact tracing and temperature checks.
CDC guidelines are always changing so it’s best to simply be prepared for change. Dedicating on-site travel staff to act as “Pandemic Compliance Advisors” can provide comfort and assurance that your meeting is maintaining current guidelines and protecting HIPAA laws.
Having a solid plan for what you’ll do if someone tests positive is critical to the overall success of your meeting. There are many variables, obstacles and financial obligations that should be considered for such a situation. Whatever plan you outline, it is essential that those details be communicated to attendees in advance so they know what to expect.
No one knows for sure what 2021 and beyond will bring, but we do feel we’re coming out of the “COVID tunnel” and we are optimistic about returning to in-person meetings. Now is definitely the time to start planning. With so many new considerations and requirements for corporate meetings and events, doing comprehensive due-diligence upfront and over-communicating to attendees is crucial.