How Will COVID19 Change the Way We Stage Meetings?
As we move towards opening up markets and a gradual return to the “New Normal”, it’s important to understand how the shape of events has changed and what we should all be expecting as the new way we do business and design meeting spaces. Meetings and gatherings will be different for sure, and Loungeworks is working hard to understand what that means and how we can support producers and planners moving forward. The industry has come to terms with the fact that more meetings will be hybrid–with smaller groups gathering in a safe manner, in multiple spaces, sharing ideas and content. I am not going to address the technical challenges but instead focus on how COVID19 will impact our meetings spatially and operationally.
Operationally, safe and sanitized will be the guiding principles. Delegates will need to see that everything that can be done is being done to prevent the transmission of germs. Suppliers like ourselves will not only change the way we do almost everything – but we will do it in a way that is visible and reassuring to our clients and their guests. Hand sanitizing stations will be plentiful. Crews will wear masks and gloves. Disinfectant spray will be used liberally and in an obvious way. Inventory will be sanitized and wrapped when it arrives and sanitized again after placement. Supplier and/or venue staff will be on hand to continually wipe down furniture in use. Aisles will be marked for direction of movement. A code of conduct will become part of every event’s opening remarks. It will be a time where being safe and looking like we’re being safe will be equally important.
The new norm, until a vaccine changes things, will be less people with lots more space between attendees. Rounds of 8-10 and classroom seating will be replaced by individual seating pods consisting of a seat and tables for one or 2. The old calculation of 15-20 sq. ft./person will become 100 sq. ft. /person.
Aisles between seats will now be 10’ wide.
And the space it took to accommodate 24 will now only hold 6.
Another way to look at it is that a room that used to hold 250 classroom style now accommodates only 50.
This isn’t all bad news. New spacing opens the doors to thinking about how we can furnish the spaces we meet in differently. Since folding tables and chairs are not going to provide the optimal use of space, soft seating, café-style seating and high table with stools will offer alternatives that capture the imagination and attention of attendees.
As hybrid meetings become the norm, stages that look good on screen will be essential. Stage sets that not only look good but also accommodate brand customization and provide economical and stylistically consistent looking backdrops to mutli-location webcast meetings.
As the shape and form changes, so will costs. Perhaps the biggest question will be regarding F&B guarantees. Will venues continue to comp room rates with much lower occupancy numbers? On the event supplier side, additional on-site staff, handwash stations, added time for sanitizing and packing, quarantine space in warehouses, sanitizing equipment and inventory quarantine time are just a few of the added cost likely to become part of our daily lives.
Whatever the impact, it’s essential that venues, producers and suppliers share the same commitment and rigour to make events safe and together, do everything we can to make their clients believe that safe events are possible and that meetings and events are critical to their ongoing success.