What Will Meetings and Events Look Like as We Recover?
By Ryan Hamilton, Co-Founder, SalesAndCatering.com and Bluebuzzard Technology Group
2020 has been anything but business as usual. As companies continue to adapt to the demands of isolation measures and social distancing mandates amid the coronavirus pandemic, those industries which are notoriously built upon a high-volume, in-person model are, understandably, expected to pivot.
Although the remote landscape represents an integral component of the new normal, the demand for in-person meetings and strategy sessions is sure to remain. According to a study by APCO Worldwide, as more than 300 million Americans find themselves working from home, 83% say they miss attending in-person business meetings and conventions. And 78% say they plan to attend as many, or more when the threat of COVID-19 passes and it is safe. Venue spaces will, undeniably, play a vital role in this evolution, as brands seek out safe spaces.
Do Meetings Really Matter?Meetings are still at the heart of business and account for over $135 billion annually. And according to NorthStar Media Group, "Face-to-face meetings and interactions will be more important and valuable than ever, but they will be different."
Recently, best-selling author and public speaker, David Meerman Scott, shared his belief that the physical event business will bounce back following the pandemic. "Humans crave physical interaction with other humans," he said. "We want to be part of a tribe — that's baked into our neuroscience. Our brains thrive around being around people who are just like us."
Although the work-from-home model may suit the post-pandemic world and help to alleviate the cost of corporate real estate, employees will still crave the opportunity for in-person touchpoints, to inspire collaboration, and maintain team morale and connection.
Let's consider the following statistics:
- On average, an in-person meeting generates about 13.36 ideas versus a virtual meeting, which generates 10.43
- 70% of people admit to browsing social media to pass the time during audio-only conference calls
- 85% of people believe face-to-face meetings contribute to stronger, more meaningful business relationships
- Research shows that face-to-face interactions are 34 times more successful than emails.
- 60% of people regularly misread tone or message when communicating via email or phone
The take-away is rather simple. Although much of the day-to-day work can be achieved across a digital environment, with the help of tech-driven communication tools such as Zoom, Slack, Trello - in-person meetings will remain integral to long-term success.
The question we should be asking is, where will these meetings take place?
The Role of Venues in the New NormalIn a post-pandemic world, most face to face meetings and strategy sessions likely won't take place back in the office; but rather, will be conveniently located at hotels or venue spaces. Industry experts note that following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 'the pent-up demand for meetings and business travel created a spike as soon as people got back to the business at hand." Not only that but if the limitations placed on international travel are sustained for an extended period, we will surely see a shift to domestic travel and 'staycations' in the interim.
In the realm of meetings, this represents an opportunity. As companies free up the segment of their budget that was traditionally dedicated to corporate real-estate costs, they have higher bandwidth to invest in other aspects of their internal operations. Combined with employee desire for a change of scenery, a productive environment, and the opportunity for local travel that keeps them close to home, hotel and venue properties become an appealing destination for meetings. Participants are granted access to more space, pristinely kept amenities (upheld by newly reformed cleaning policies), and a chance to safely reconnect and re-engage with their colleagues face to face.
Meeting Design in a Post-Pandemic WorldFor large-scale company meetings and strategy sessions, we may also see a shift to a hybrid event model. Some participants will attend the event in person, while other attendees can participate virtually. In anticipation of this, hotels and venue spaces should ensure they have the technology required to help clients facilitate an engaging meeting or event for both online and offline audiences simultaneously. Most anticipate that organizers will have processes, dedicated teams, and resources focused on the virtual experiences, much like what they have a production team for the live meetings.
Understandably, both hotels and corporations will need to adhere to reformed health and safety measures when hosting in-person meetings and events. Attendees may be required to remain physically distanced from each other (6ft apart), and temperature checks will likely become part of a standardized screening process. Venue spaces and hotels will also need to put in some enhanced processes to manage their meetings and events:
- One way/guided traffic flow
- Assigned seating
- Limited meeting capacity
- Shift-style meetings (with 'deep-cleans' performed before group change-over)
- Plastic partitions between workspaces and PPE
- Increased use of touchless technology
- Increased sanitation and disinfection
- Contact tracing procedures
- Seated dining or pre-packed meals- no more buffets
Given the newly transformed landscape of in-person meetings, sales teams will need to be detailed and responsive to planning, to ensure clients have complete confidence in the venue's ability to deliver proper and safe environments for attendees. Efficient systems to produce Event Orders that include precautionary steps as part of their setup and service standards will allow salespersons to be accurate and accountable in event expectations by clients.
Ultimately, this period of social distancing has helped to put things into perspective. In the months — or perhaps, years — to come, the modern workplace will strike a balance between a remote landscape required for the new normal, and our continued need for in-person connection and collaboration. Reviewing your sales and catering system options are paramount for successful sales teams to manage not only client relationships but also to document needs and create orders that reflect a true understanding of their local guidelines and client specific needs. Armed with the right technology, venues and planners can prepare for the future by addressing the health and safety of attendees, while discovering valuable ways to revolutionize the experience for all.
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