The past year has brought new opportunities and innovation to the events field through virtual meetings, but many people are looking forward to meeting in-person once again. While we are all eager to jump back into planning in-person events, it’s also important to pause for a moment, both to contemplate the realities our prospective event attendees are facing, and to consider what we should heed as we return to our “new normal.”
Below are four guideposts to consider as your team prepares to return to in-person events:
- Know Your Group: Not everyone will feel comfortable meeting in person. And even when individuals are ready, their organizations may still have restrictions on travel or face more limited travel budgets in the short term. A brief survey asking potential attendees about these items can help determine when your next in-person meeting should take place and assist in decision making about contracting guest rooms, identifying meeting space, and determining food and beverage minimums.
- Be Flexible: Many events were moved and rebooked to the fall of 2021 and spring of 2022. When sending your request for proposals (RFP), remember to include multiple dates and city options so that hotels can more easily accommodate the growing number of rebooked events all competing for time and space.
- Explore In-Person Gathering Protocols: Hotels may still have occupancy limitations. Each state, county, and city has different regulations. As you are preparing your RFP, be sure to request information about venue capacity limitations and social distancing requirements in the event their restrictions exceed local government requirements. These occupancy limitations may place a maximum number of attendees allowed and reduce the number of separate groups allowed in a property at one time and/or the amount of meeting space that is available for booking.
- Visit New Cities: Consider hosting your event in smaller cities, which may have greater availability than larger cities. For example, if you are sending an RFP to Chicago, Orlando, and Denver expand your list to include options such as Indianapolis, Tampa, and Colorado Springs. The benefits of selecting a smaller city include:
- Availability: With lower demand than larger cities, smaller cities may have the date options and space you need.
- Cost: Guest room rates and food/ beverage pricing are both less expensive.
- Services: A smaller city’s convention visitors bureau may be able to provide amenities and services such as airport transfers, destination experiences, and significant discounts or a financial credit toward local vendors which enhance the overall guest experience.
The pandemic has shown us how adaptable we can be when planning meetings, conferences, and other gatherings. As we transition to holding in-person events, we encourage you to maintain that versatility when considering the new circumstances. Being mindful of these new norms are the first steps to ensuring that your attendees are staying safe at your event — and having fun while they do it!