What Do Meetings Look Like Post COVID?
Have you hosted an in-person event since COVID started? We have! They look different than pre COVID meetings. Mostly there is a lot of hand sanitizer at every point of entry possible. Here are the six things you can expect to see or need to review before your in-person meeting post COVID.
- Crescents of Three
The days of sponsors asking you to squeeze twelve people at a 72' round are no more. Crescents of three are now a valid set up option when working with your catering contact. I recently toured with a large hotel chain that walked us through their demo event set up space. Classroom six foot tables now have one chair at them vs. three and theater style seating is set six feet apart. You can upgrade this option by bringing in nicer chairs and side tables for people to put their drink, mask, hand sanitizer and laptop. One event even brought in greenery to help dress up the space.
New layout options now pose a question of venue or room capacity. A ballroom that could hold 400 in rounds of ten probably is more likely to have a max capacity of 100 to 150 based on your layout. Most venues have been open to putting smaller events in larger rooms based on space availability without charging room fees, but it is also good to talk to your leadership to see what max capacity should be from the organization side. Even if you can get a ballroom that holds 1200 people most don't want to be around a larger number than 150 based on the venue (indoor vs. outdoor is also a common question) and set up. Get a feel from your members on who is allowed to travel and who would rather attend virtually to understand the capacity you should look for at venues.
- No Self-Serve Stations
Coffee stations have gotten a makeover with full service attendants to help you put your cup of joe or hot tea together. Buffets are also not available for most hotels at this time unless the items are individually wrapped like breakfast tacos, fruit cups, chips or yogurt. A unique buffet option offered to me recently was for the server to build the plate behind a glass partition where the attendee could point out the items they wanted and the server then handed them the plate at the end of the line.
- Letters of Intent
One hotel chain is not making clients sign contracts, but instead having them fill out letters of intent. There is no minimum spend requirement and the hotel is requesting a guarantee for the group ten days in advance with an update three days before the meeting to allow for staffing and food sourcing. This is a great option for events right now. Uncertainty of in-person events is still strong. Some of our organizations aren't planning to hold large in person events until late 2021 or early 2022 while others are looking for larger spaces or outdoor spaces to accommodate comfort levels of attendees.
- Updated Force Majeure and COVID Waivers
Hotel force majeure clauses have been overhauled to exclude COVID. There has been flexibility with restrictions by local or state government if venues are being forced to limit their capacity to 50% or 25%. Note that the numbers most venues are working off of are pre COVID fire marshal limits and not the comfort level of your attendees. If capacity is decreased it will not always impede on your event capacity, but your attendees might not show up if the total capacity is larger than their comfort level. COVID waivers are something that your organization will need to look into. Getting legal involved here and requirements for attendees is something to discuss before hosting your next event.
- Friendly Staff
It is apparent that hotel staff from the front desk to the banquet captain are happy to see people on property. COVID has impacted the hospitality industry drastically. The banquet staff we had for an event recently was friendly and professional. They were quick to make sure we had what we needed and willing to go above and beyond to make our meeting exceptional. All staff are wearing masks and banquet staff will wear gloves as well.
No one is certain right now of what the next month or quarter will look like since vaccines are rolling out slowly. I hope you find this post helpful for events and planning. COVID's impact on in-person events will be felt for the foreseeable future. It will be interesting to see which of these items continue in a year or are now the new normal and standard.