What Corporate Event Planners Can Do to Host Safer Meetings in 2020


Now that all 50 states have reopened in some capacity, we are starting to (cautiously) settle into our old routines, and it almost feels as if we are returning to normal. What is most reassuring is that the hospitality industry is starting to come back, and we are even seeing some states entering new phases of reopening and allowing for larger social gatherings.

When we surveyed meeting and event planners a few weeks ago, we found that 59% of planners were planning to reschedule events between August and December in 2020, giving us hope that it will be possible to attend an in-person event before the end of the year.

As meeting planners, we need to remain optimistically cautious as we begin resuming our postponed events — we need to remember that we are not out of the woods yet and COVID-19 is still looming. With this in mind, the safety and wellbeing of our staff and attendees is our number one priority when we return to in-person meetings. 

What can we do as planners to host safer meetings? Check out the below for some suggestions. 

  1. Require masks for entry. Communicate with attendees that masks will be required to attend your event. 
  2. Implement no-touch policies. Have a “no handshakes” policy and instead encourage safe social distance greetings.
  3. Stagger registration times. Reduce crowds by designating times when people can come to pick up their badges and event materials.
  4. Use floor decals. Use and place floor decals 6 feet apart where you anticipate lines forming (registration, outside of bathrooms, coffee stations, etc.)
  5. Reinforce with signage. Remind people to social distance using signage, include tips such as wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart, and washing hands frequently.
  6. Limit session sizes. Have attendees pre-register for the sessions they plan on attending and create a cap for how many people will be allowed in.
  7. Get creative with room sets. Work with your venue on the best seating arrangement for your event to encourage social distancing. (goodbye 3 per 6-foot classroom sets!)
  8. Have a virtual/broadcast option. Broadcast or live streaming sessions so people can attend virtually, or provide recordings after the event.
  9. Incorporate fresh air. If possible, open windows in session rooms, or host events outside, like lunches, breaks, or receptions. 
  10. Plan for cleaning. Build time into the schedule for cleaning and sanitizing rooms in between sessions.
  11. Bye, bye buffets. Do boxed or plated meals instead.
  12. Display less food.  Keep smaller amounts of food out during breaks and encourage frequent restocking to help limit the number of people around foods.
  13. Rethink receptions. Instead of passing items for a reception, put together a box of hors d’oeuvres that individuals can grab. Pre-packaged individual portions will help reduce risk.
  14. Add hand sanitizer stations. Have hand sanitizer available, keep them next to food or coffee stations to encourage frequent hand sanitizing. 
  15. Rethink your swag. Use your swag to help encourage sanitizing and social distancing, such as branded masks, masks, touchless door opener/button pusher, sanitizer, Lysol spray, or sanitizing wipes.  
  16. Discourage attendance. Remind attendees in pre-event emails that if they feel unwell, or if they experience symptoms of illness before the event, that they should not attend.
  17. Have a plan. Have a response plan on what to do if an attendee is sick at your event, shows symptoms, or reports illness after your event.

While planning meetings moving forward will require a lot of time, energy, and foresight, attendees will appreciate all the thought that has been put into making sure they can meet safely in person. Here’s to hoping your next meeting is a great success!

More resources for event professionals

Get advice or ask your questions about reopening during our next Social Hour virtual roundtable, Social Hour: Event & Private Dining Menus Post COVID, on Thursday, July 9 at 3:30 pm. Join us by registering here. Shira Spiewak, of hospitality consulting company Dandy Life, will be our special guest and will share her tips about event menus in a post-lockdown world.

If you’ve missed our past roundtables, you can access recordings of Social Hour online. Event professionals can also find more tips for the hospitality industry on our blog; by listening to our Two Chicks, Three Seats podcast; and by joining our Facebook group, Event Manager Community, to connect with peers and discuss the impact of the coronavirus on the events industry.