“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” John F. Kennedy
When in-person events take place in a post-COVID world, we’ll see plenty of social distancing measures and health and safety initiatives enacted. These events will likely feature a virtual component as well for attendees unwilling or unable to travel. The meeting planning industry is flexible and can make the shift necessary to ensure the health and wellness of all. Using John F. Kennedy’s words above as motivation, let’s re-imagine and innovate the attendee experience ensuring face to face meetings resume as safely and as soon as possible.
Without a doubt, significant changes to meeting room set-ups are needed. First step toward envisioning a new meeting experience, is ensuring the hotel space is large enough to accommodate six-foot distancing and directional traffic. Lean on your hotel partners to help navigate changes to space needs. More likely than not, hoteliers are prepared with revised floor plans and capacity charts along with creative solutions. Virtual tours and digital diagramming technology will help you visualize every detail including placement of sanitization stations and directional signage.
In the near-term, face to face meetings will be reserved for small gatherings requiring interaction and applied learning. You can easily accomplish brainstorming using a conference table with seats spaced safely apart or a U-shape with seats staggered appropriately as the photo below illustrates.
If a slightly larger set up is needed, consider the use of rounds spaced adequately apart with seating limited to three.
Don’t be afraid to embrace outdoor space in our quest to socially distance either. We all know outdoor patios and lawns make great venues for receptions and evening dinners but re-purpose its use for meeting space as well. Create small breakout settings under blue skies and tree canopies using expanded classroom set-ups (i.e. 1 chair per 6-foot table) and directional signage. Another option is to incorporate a ballroom with attached patio to further enhance distancing measures.
Be sure to incorporate the ability to stream your sessions virtually to those unable to attend. Recording for on-demand viewing of sessions will most likely be needed as well. Audio visual professionals can help guide placement of equipment and sound maximizing the hybrid experience.
With all meeting room set-ups, assigned seating throughout the event can help limit exposure too. Encourage a sense of well-being and inclusiveness with personal touches. Fresh flowers, soft seating, and name placards are just a few items that can elevate the meeting experience.
Finally, our industry is resilient and strong. Accounting for nearly $1.5 trillion of the world’s GDP, the meetings and events industry will rebound. As a meeting professional, embrace change and utilize technology to your advantage.