Your meeting is in October and the thought of holding your conference right now is daunting, right? I hear you. There are so many factors to consider:
Will anyone come to the conference?
How will I set up my room considering Social Distancing guidelines?
I can’t stomach the thought of recreating my exhibit hall floor plan for the fourth time!
What are the guidelines of the city, state, of the hotel? Do I need to follow those? Can I write my own?
What are the policies of the corporate traveler coming to my event?
What are my own new damn policies?
Can I market my conference right now, is that insensitive?
Who is even going to read my email or Instagram post about a meeting?
What the heck is a virtual meeting?
How will you keep people safe?
If I host the meeting how will I feed these people? Will it be a fasting conference
Should I consider a wellness theme and just starve my attendees? That way, no one will eat and I won’t have to deal with the buffet or no buffet issue.
I know it sounds silly, but thoughts are rapid right now and we are all in uncharted territory. There are so many concerns to have when thinking about your conference and its overwhelming. It’s also confusing because this is new to everyone. We are in uncharted territory. No one has ever done this before. This, is a positive thing. You don’t have anything to compare it too so all you can do is your best and pay attention to other meetings ahead of you.
Once meetings start happening again, we will be learning from each meeting. Right now, everyone is posting “how to host a Covid friendly meeting” which I find interesting because no one really knows how to do that, just yet. There are no “expert Covid Meeting planners” yet… We will start understanding truly what meetings will look like when someone rips the Band-Aid off and hosts a meeting.
We need to study those meetings carefully. We need to survey those planners, hotels and attendees. What worked, what didn’t? And we need to follow up 14 days later to see if anyone got the Vid. If not, then we need to celebrate that and share the info with all. The first twenty meetings or so that happen will be white papers for all of us and we need to pay attention. With each meeting we will grow and learn with each one and get better for the next meeting. We need to be nimble and open to a myriad of new ideas.
We have to put our thoughts aside about masks, and tests and treatments, and look at the big picture for our industry—what can we do to learn, and share information? For now, below are some steps we can take to prepare for our upcoming meetings:
Ask The Hotel: what are your safety and sanitation plans? All hotels are launching their safety and sanitation plans. . If they haven’t launched, they are writing them right now and will launch soon. Wynn and Encore came out with a very comprehensive plan and you can get many ideas that can shape how you host your meeting. This should give you a guidelines of how to start for your own program.
Survey Your Attendees: as of now, will you attend? What is your corporate policy of your attendees? Is there anything preventing them from coming? If they do attend, what do they need to see to make them feel safe and get the most out of the conference?
Look Into A Virtual Meeting Component: You don’t have to do the whole event virtually, but you may want to make your key not and breakouts available virtually to guests that can’t attend due to health, travel or company policy restrictions. Organizations like PCMA have great Covid resources online and even a Virtual Meeting Certification program. I have helped a couple clients establish a virtual meeting component and am happy to share the details. Contact me anytime.
Look at your meeting as it is, right now, how can you modify it? Every conference has a unique DNA and designing a meeting that is right for your attendees and Covid safe is going to look different for each conference. I have been compiling a list of feedback from different planners, convention centers and hotels with data points that outline actions planners are taking for their meetings. This will change again and again and again. However, for now, if you want me to send you the list, contact me, I will send you everything I have. There are thoughts about how to set up a room: 3 per 60” round, and 5 per 72” round table, theater style 1 chair for every 6 feet, plated meals or hotel controlled buffets, masks for all who want them and individual hand sanitizers. There are many many more datapoints to share, just email me and I will send, no questions asked.
What has Covid brought to the table that might enhance your content? Has Covid created hot topics in your industry? Or a different way of doing business? Or a new breakout for a new way of thinking? Embrace that idea. It’s so much better to Feature it instead of Fear it. How can you incorporate it into your meeting and how it changed or is changing the shape of your business to where it’s relevant and interesting content for your attendees? This is so new and everyone wants to learn best practices, why not at your meeting?
Whatever you decide to do, just remember to be flexible and nimble. Everyone is learning how to take shape in the new meetings world and be open to ideas. I understand that looking at holding your meeting in this new way is daunting, but you can do it. Don’t just cancel or move your meeting because you don’t want to fuss with the changes. We have to pivot to the new style of meetings as it will be here to stay. If you don’t rip the Band-Aid off and do it now, you’ll have to develop new ways of doing your meeting later.
For Hotel Links to sanitation plans, data points on what other meeting planners are doing to prepare for their upcoming meetings or just want to talk:
Happy to share everything I have gathered. I am here for you.