Hosting meetings and events in a post-COVID-19 world will require major adjusting — especially on the part of planners and venues. It’ll take a combined effort in order to restart the industry and begin hosting in-person functions again. Venues can focus on a few key areas in order to provide the requirements for safe meetings and events: health and safety protocols, social distancing arrangements, and safe food and beverage.

How social distancing may change future in-person meetings

This is still a topic under discussion within the industry, but social distancing will likely affect future meetings in many ways – one of the most notable being room and seating configuration. Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA) recently posted a discussion about how to manage social distancing at future events, and a few of the participants had suggestions for how they plan to tackle this challenge when it comes to room setup.

Kelsey Schmidt, Senior Manager of event panning at Law School Admission Council, says her team is planning to keep tables six feet apart and create 12-foot aisles. They’ve also considered putting tape marks on the carpet to indicate how far apart people standing in line should be from each other.

Jennifer Stewart of International Association of Chiefs of Police shared her team’s brainstorming ideas for educational session rooms and theater-style seating. She’s hopeful that by October, they will be able to set up small groups of chairs near one another while still accommodating the social distancing recommendations. For example, setting up columns of two chairs each with six-foot aisles in between, and having increased distance between chair rows – which is essentially theater setup with an increased number of aisles. 

For registration lines, hotels could follow models of what grocery stores are doing, with taped lines on the floor to demarcate six-foot distances. Brainstorm possible event room layouts and design a way for people to get to their seats while maintaining the distance limit. 

Most importantly, when it comes to hosting safe meetings and events at your hotel or venue, be sure to stay in touch with all local, state and federal guidelines.

Event food and beverage during times of social distancing

When it comes to F&B at events, self-service buffets likely won’t be a viable option for a while. Seated dining could be an alternative option, if there are available staff members trained in sanitation and food-handling measures. These extra steps and layers of caution could tack on added costs to F&B, so it’s in venues’ best interest to offer cost-effective solutions for food and beverage at events. One option could be pre-packed meals that attendees pick up from fridges or multiple locations, or have the boxed meals already placed at their seats at the event.

For any on-campus events, Harvard University’s guidelines limit them to ten people and urge the use of a room or event space large enough to prevent crowding for the expected attendance. The guidelines around food and beverage recommend staggering stations and serving food in individual units like bagged lunches, individual water bottles, etc. Avoid serving foods where multiple hands will touch the food, like bowls of chips. Provide serving utensils if needed or arrange for food to be served by staff who are trained in safe food handling.

Bo Peabody, co-owner of Mezze Restaurant Group, outlined a few precautions for restaurants during this time that can also be applied to food and beverage spaces for meetings and events. He suggests going beyond spacing out tables and taking advantage of any outdoor space if you have it available. Provide an open-air environment if possible, or make sure the room has airflow – open windows or keep a door cracked open so people don’t feel confined and the room gets fresh air.

Remember, hotels and venues play a key role in the recovery of the industry, which will likely look very different once meetings and events pick back up. Be sure you stay ready so you can deliver safe experiences for everyone involved.

Original Source: Cvent