We are finally starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel and corporate events are returning in person. With vaccines rolling out and readily available for all who want them, we’ve seen coworkers reunite in offices, conferences popping up, cities like Las Vegas reopening concert announcements, and travel buzzing again. In many ways, it feels like a renaissance in the events industry.
In this article, we’ll walk you through our best tips for corporate events to return to in-person safely. The transition back to in-person is complicated. There are many unknowns, but you can successfully navigate to in-person corporate events with the right tools.
Be Flexible and Have Several Backup Plans
While we are seeing positive trends, the pandemic isn’t over yet. Be flexible and have backup plans in the case capacity limits change, or restrictions tighten. Consider the number of cases in your community, travel exposures, where your event is taking place, how long the event is, and what your venue is like. Keep up to date on the CDC guidelines and local restrictions to ensure your guests are safe.
Events should always have a backup plan, but it’s important to have several in today’s world. Plan what you will do should a guest become sick, if you need to add social distancing to your event, or in the worse case go virtual. Hopefully, you will never need these plans, but if it turns out you do, you’ll be glad you were prepared.
Understand Your Audience
Not everyone is ready to gather in person again. For corporate events poll your audience to see if they are ready to be in person again. In your survey ask if they would prefer to attend in person or virtually. Determine if your attendees will feel comfortable in crowded areas, if they are willing to travel and how far. These important questions will help you determine the format of your corporate event. They will give you the ability to plan an event your audience is comfortable attending. It is recommended that events still offer a virtual event component too, allowing any guests who are at a higher risk or just not comfortable yet a way to still attend.
Find a Great Event Management System
An all-encompassing solution will make planning during these challenging times much easier and will help your return your corporate event to in-person safely.
When you are researching event management systems make sure they have the following elements:
- All-In-One – Having everything in one place will make your life much easier and alleviate stress
- COVID Safety – make sure your management system has a way to track covid safety such as daily health screenings
- Learning Management (for both in-person and online) – as mentioned above you need to be flexible planning and meet attendees where they are, this will require an LMS that is capable of in-person and virtual learning
- Works Globally – Many countries have firewalls or blocks on certain software, before purchasing your event management system make sure it works in all the countries you will need it in.
- Allows for Integrations with your other planning software and tools – This will make for seamless planning and reduce headaches of trying to manually re-enter data
Choose Your Venue Carefully
COVID-19 has presented many new challenges when it comes to finding a venue. Be sure that you understand max capacities in cases you need to social distance. Ask your venue what their covid policies are, what they do to clean between events, and how they are keeping their guests safe. A very important consideration is the contract. Read contracts carefully and make sure to understand the cancellation policies and Force Majeure provisions.
Focus on Event Safety
Corporate Event safety will be of the utmost importance during the return to in person. As a planner, it’s your responsibility to keep your attendees safe. Consider the following for a safe event.
On-Site Health Checks
Health checks will be the new norm for the foreseeable future. Most corporate events are doing this through their event management systems and having their guests check-in daily via a health app survey. The app prompts people to answer questions regarding their health status such as reporting their temperature if they have felt sick recently, and screens for other common COVID-19 symptoms. After attendees fill the survey out they are then given a daily health check pass to show at event check-in.
Recently our CEO, Mark Catuogno attended WEC Las Vegas, below is an example of the health screening they provided to ensure guest safety. Once the screening was completed attendees would receive this pass denoting they were cleared for entry.
It is up to you to determine how and if you want to enforce a mask policy at your event. If your event is outside, you may feel safer to forgo mandatory masks, but you may feel more comfortable having a policy if your event is inside. The CDC recently announced it is safe for vaccinated people to no longer wear masks, and some events are using the honor system while others like the NFL draft are requiring proof of vaccination. Whatever you decide to do, this policy must be communicated well in advance to all attendees.
Below is an example from WEC Las Vegas which indicated their policies and mask requirements. This helped attendees understand exactly what was expected of them.
Cleaning will need to be at the helm of your event safety plan. Ensuring protocols are in place and communicated to your event staff will help you keep your event safe. Make sure the staff knows what is expected and what products to use not every cleaning product will eliminate this pathogen. Frequently wipe down high-touch surfaces and disinfect at least every night.
Communication is Key at Corporate Events
We’ve touched on this several times throughout the article, but it’s an important one. Communication will play a paramount role in keeping your event safe. Educate guests before they even arrive. Do this by having event safety protocols on your website, email out what to expect and how you and your vendors, including hotel accommodations are keeping your attendees safe in email campaigns. This will reassure guests you are doing all that you can to keep them safe.
If you set the expectations upfront and well ahead of your event you will have a much better onsite experience when everyone arrives.
Reinforce pre-event communications once guests are onsite. Make sure to have signage that encourages safe practices like social distancing, good hygiene, and your mask policy. Also include common symptoms and reiterate what a guest should do if they experience them. Make sure there are also plenty of hand sanitizing stations and encourage frequent hand washing.
Corporate Events Onsite Catering
When it comes to safe catering Hilton’s Event Ready Playbook is the gold standard. We recommend you read the playbook and check frequently for updates. Some of the key takeaways are to ensure your catering one-way traffic direction for buffets or coffee stations, queuing such as decals on floors to help people know where they should stand, physical distancing, and sanitizing stations. Make sure there is also plenty of space between tables and a clearly defined directional flow for all attendees.
Below is a floorplan example from Hilton’s playbook that shows how their floorplan for a reception or lunch. You can see they have carefully thought out directions, how the room circulation is, and added plenty of space to keep their guests safe.
Want to learn more about Hilton and how they keep their guests safe and are leading the charge in event safety? Check out our recent episode of Keeping Up with Events featuring Zena Phillips, CMP, CPCE, Senior Director, Catering & Events – Americas at Hilton.
Go Contactless When You Can
If at all possible, reduce contact points for your attendees and staff. With advances in technology, there are many ways to make this possible. Through the use of smart badges and event apps, guests can quickly scan into an event without touching anything. Event apps can also include a program and maps reducing the need for papers. Contactless pay systems will allow guests to make purchases without using cards or exchanging money, helping to reduce any transmission.
Conclusion: Corporate Events: How to Successfully Return to In-Person Events
- Communication will play a key role in keeping your guests and staff safe. Over-communicate and make sure your safety policies and expectations are clear
- Consider Health-Screenings the new normal for the foreseeable future. Ensure your guests are checking in daily to report their health. This can prevent someone who is sick from ever entering your event.
- A great event management system will help you navigate the return to in-person and have everything you need in one place
- Be flexible, have several backup plans, and be prepared to meet guests where they are comfortable.
- Always adhere to the CDC and local guidelines when it comes to event policies
Are you ready to return your corporate events to in-person? Contact us now to begin the process!