While meetings and events are currently on hold, they will return, though they’ll look different than they did before. For some time at least, we will welcome an era of safe and distanced meetings.
Whenever those meetings do occur in person again, the public will be worried about personal space and traditional networking as it previously existed, standing and chatting in close quarters. It is up to meeting planners and organizers to achieve the goals of human connection and congregation without making delegates feel uncomfortable.
In order to help allay those fears, we’ve prepared a list of precautions and steps that can be taken to ensure safer, distanced meetings.
In short, people aren’t going to be sure where and how to stand amongst each other, and it will feel awkward. We suggest putting markers on a conference floor or lines to suggest appropriate distances are an easy way to guide attendees as to where to stand.
On the Netflix show “Love is Blind,” couples get engaged within 2 weeks of chatting behind a wall separating them in pods. Joy is possible amidst physical distance. Incorporate these pod-type ideas for fun spatial planning. Think phone booths, think tracks for “walking-meetings” in the context of an event. For a Canadian audience, set up opposing penalty boxes for people to enter in, sanitize and chat six feet apart, by plexiglass.
Make the distance a gimmick; disguise it with a safety barrier.
It may sound invasive and uncomfortable, but it will quickly become part of our new normal. There is not a public event in China going forward where there won’t be temperature checks at the door. Delegates want the peace of mind to know that everyone in a room is healthy. Staff up with lots of hand sanitizer to be distributed to attendees and available throughout your venue in dispensers.
At the end of the day, it will take time for people to be comfortable in massive crowds. Reduce your maximum attendance; it will reduce revenue but also potential costs. Use big conference halls to give everyone the room they need. For round tables that you used to hold 8 or 10 people at, serve 4. And don’t keep those conference hall chairs so close together!
When food and drink are distributed at an event, the goal should be reducing the number of hands who touch it before, after and during. Suggestion: While we will return to these effective and affordable methods, in the meantime, we say bye-bye buffet while COVID remains a threat.
We’re not suggesting your servers need to wear masks and hazmat suits, but they should be all temperature checked, and wearing gloves. The audience expectation will be sanitation at the utmost level.
Sometimes, it’s the little things. , Doors have become a point of friction and nervousness for people. So in an era where people are Lysol-wiping their door handles ten times a day and asking Amazon delivery drivers for no-contact delivery, make sure that there is staff to open doors into the venue and/or automatic doors. The same applies to phone chargers and charging stations – make these settings more private and or cleaned after each use.
Long gone are the days of lineups an aisle long to grab the same microphone to ask a speaker questions. Let audiences contribute their questions to a speaker or presenter using social media, or an embedded app like Slido. Guests can be physically present and participatory without necessarily being in super close quarters with presenters and each other.
Don’t give out programs on paper. Keep them digital. This applies to sponsor handouts or activations. Stick to online document and agenda sharing only.
Have someone on staff take notes on every session of the conference. No need to distribute workbooks or have people writing on site.